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The Apple TV Is About To Get Much Better

Apple is quickly making up for the device’s software shortcomings.

The Apple TV Is About To Get Much Better
[Photo: courtesy of Apple]

When the new Apple TV was unveiled last September, it represented a massive leap for the company’s digital media player set-top box, which previously had not seen a significant upgrade since 2012. While the box itself looked basically the same, only thicker, it packed more powerful internals and a game-changing remote called Siri Remote that, yes, brought Siri to the Apple TV, but also made navigation much faster by introducing a touch pad as the primary means of moving around the OS. And speaking of that OS…

The fourth-generation Apple TV ditched the old, closed OS for a completely new OS called tvOS, which is based off iOS. tvOS allows for not just more baked-in features, including Siri search, but opened up the Apple TV platform to developers, allowing them to create apps and games for the Apple TV.

Yet despite its promise, tvOS seemed unfinished, as if it were rushed out to meet a sales deadline. Both developers and users complained about a lack of basic features in the OS along with software bugs. The criticisms of Apple’s software have not been limited to the Apple TV alone as of late, either. As Walt Mossberg penned in an op-ed recently, complexity, feature gaps, and bugs have crept into Apple’s software across devices.

Then of course last month Apple TV had a really bad day with ESPN president John Skipper revealing Apple was frustrated over its inability to form programming deals with major content providers for the device’s reportedly delayed streaming television service. That was followed by news that key Apple TV designer Ben Keighran had left the company.

Yet things are beginning to look up for the new Apple TV. At the end of January, Apple CEO Tim Cook announced that Apple had just had its "best quarter by far for Apple TV sales," noting that there were already over 3,600 third-party Apple TV apps available.

Now the company has released the third beta of tvOS 9.2, the next update to the Apple TV, and it looks like it will address many of the shortcomings users had complained about in the software, notes MacRumors. For starters, tvOS 9.2 will add Siri dictation support to the Apple TV. Many have been frustrated that while you could ask Siri queries or tell Siri to perform actions like opening certain apps, a basic function of Siri on iOS–-the ability to dictate words and have them typed on screen for you–-had been left out of tvOS. As of tvOS 9.2, that feature has now been added, and it will make entering service login names, passwords, and other text much easier on the device, especially considering that not many are fans of its horizontal on-screen keyboard.

Another major feature that tvOS 9.2 will introduce is Siri App Store search. Currently you can ask Siri to find TV shows and movies, but not apps. With tvOS 9.2 you’ll be able to use Siri to search for apps or app categories by voice.

But Apple isn’t stopping there. tvOS 9.2 will also bring folder support to the Apple TV so users can nest similar apps together into folders just like they can in iOS. This should help reduce the clutter and scrolling needed to navigate your installed apps on the Apple TV home screen. tvOS 9.2 will also bring back Bluetooth keyboard support to the Apple TV so users can type text into fields using a physical keyboard. Additionally it includes support for iCloud Photo Library and Live Photos, has a new redesigned interface for the App Switcher, and brings Apple’s MapKit framework to the Apple TV so developers can start using embedded Apple Maps in their app, which should enable a whole new type of navigation apps in the tvOS App Store.

With all the improvements tvOS 9.2 will bring, it looks like the Apple TV will have a very good day when the free software update is released to the public sometime in March.

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