Apple’s tvOS isn’t its most popular operating system, but if you have an Apple TV, you definitely care about what each major new version brings.
With tvOS 13 (and subsequent point releases) we got a lot of big features like interface changes, Xbox and PlayStation controller support, multiple users, and Control Center. By comparison, the features coming in tvOS 14 are minor, but sometimes the little things makes all the difference. Here’s what you can expect when tvOS 14 launches this fall.
4K YouTube videos
It is amazing that it has taken this long. No matter what video you watch on the YouTube app on your Apple TV 4K, it will only play back at a maximum of 1080p with no HDR.
With tvOS 14, the “latest YouTube videos” will play in full 4K. It’s not clear if this is because Apple finally decided to license the VP9 codec or if it only applies to videos that YouTube encodes in the new AV1 video format, but either way, it looks like the latest 4K YouTube stuff will actually play in 4K.
With tvOS 13, you could shrink a video down to a little picture-in-picture square, but only within the TV app. The tvOS 14 update breaks it out to work all over the system. You can use PiP to watch a show while running a workout app, for example.
While tvOS itself has had support for multiple users since tvOS 13, it was always a real pain to switch from one user to the next.
That’s fixed in tvOS 14, which lets you switch users via Control Center and have the new player’s settings and progress loaded, while the first player’s saves to the cloud.
Speaking of game controllers, Apple has added support for the Xbox Elite version 2 and Xbox Adaptive game controller, in addition to the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 controllers it already supports.
AirPlay in 4K from Photos app
When using AirPlay to send photos or videos to your Apple TV 4K from your iPhone (running iOS 14) or iPad (running iPadOS 14), you’ll see them at full quality.
For many people, their 4K TV is the best screen in the house, and is much higher resolution than their iPhone or iPad display. This will make AirPlay to the TV the best way to look at photos and videos them.
In the updated control center, Apple has a Home View feature that can show HomeKit compatible cameras and more. It’s not quite the full Home app you have on your phone, but it’s a way you can see connected cameras and other devices right on your TV, as well as trigger scenes.
Our sister site TechHive has more details on some of the changes to HomeKit on the way.
You can already connect AirPods to your Apple TV and listen privately. With tvOS 14, you’ll be able to connect two sets at the same time, so you and a friend can listen without disturbing anyone else.
It’s a feature Apple implemented on iOS and iPadOS last year, and it makes a lot of sense in the living room, too.
If your Apple TV hardware can run tvOS 13, it can run tvOS 14. That means Apple TV HD (originally called 4th generation Apple TV) or Apple TV 4K (5th generation).
If your Apple TV was released before 2015, it runs an older Apple TV software rather than tvOS, and won’t get tvOS 14.
Apple will almost certainly release tvOS 14 this fall, along with iOS 14, iPadOS 14, and macOS Big Sur. In the past, the release has usually come in September, but the COVID-19 global pandemic may have affected development schedules somewhat.
When the update comes, just open the Settings app on your Apple TV. Then navigate to System, then Software Update.
How to get the tvOS 14 beta
Apple has currently released a developer beta for tvOS 14. If you’re a registered developer, you can go to developer.apple.com/download/ to get a beta profile, which must then be installed on your Apple TV hardware through Xcode on a Mac.
Apple runs a public beta program for tvOS as well. You can register for it by going to beta.apple.com, signing in with the same Apple ID you use on your Apple TV, and accepting all the terms and conditions. Once you do that, you’ll need to enable beta updates on your Apple TV.
On your Apple TV, launch the Settings app and select System, then Software Updates. You should see an option for Get Public Beta Updates. Enable that, then when a new beta is available, choose Update Software. The public beta test is expected to begin in July.