Apple quietly released new software for the Apple TV at the same time as iOS 7 was released. With the release of new iPhones, and a new operating system for all iOS devices, most of the changes flew in under the radar, but there are some pretty cool things that were updated and everyone should know about them. There were some technical updates, which were minor, but I want to talk about the two major feature updates.
The first major update is called “AirPlay from iCloud”. When I first read about what this is, it was a little confusing to me, but once you understand its implications, it’s pretty huge. Basically what happens is you can start AirPlaying from your iOS device to Apple TV, and if it is a movie, TV show, or something else that was purchased on iTunes with your account, then it actually starts playing from iCloud, instead of directly from your device. At first glance, this seems like a battery saver, but not a huge change, especially since if you are logged in to your same iTunes account on your Apple TV, you could already just play the same video directly from iCloud.
Here’s the cool part though. It doesn’t have to be your Apple TV for this to work. What this means is when you go over to a friends house and you want to watch a movie that you have purchased on your own account, and they don’t have the same movie, you can start AirPlay from your phone, and it authenticates with your Apple ID from your phone, but then starts streaming from the cloud. This means you can watch any movie, TV show, or any other iTunes store purchases on any Apple TV, no matter where you are, as long as you have your phone with you. And it doesn’t have to be downloaded to your phone, which saves tons of space!
The other major feature update goes hand-in-hand with an iOS 7 feature called “iBeacons”. We will be going in to more detail about iBeacons in a future blog, but the short way of describing it is that it is a way for two bluetooth devices to tell how far away they are from each other, and you can make them talk to each other in specific ways once they get close enough to each other. That might sound a little confusing, but let me explain how Apple integrated it in to the Apple TV and iOS 7, and perhaps it will make a little more sense.
If you’ve ever bought a brand new Apple TV, you know that while it is very easy to set up, sometimes it’s a little time consuming to get it to connect to your wifi network, or set up your Apple ID on there, because you have to scroll through the alphabet one letter at a time with the remote that comes with the Apple TV. Well if you have an Apple TV with the latest software update on it, and a phone, iPod, or iPad running iOS 7, then this setup just got a whole lot easier. When you set up an Apple TV with the new software for the first time, it will tell you that if you have any of these other devices, and if they have your wifi network and Apple ID already set up on them, all you have to do is set your iOS device on the Apple TV. After a few seconds, you will be prompted to accept the transfer of that information. Click ok on your iOS device, and you are done.
The Apple TV pairs with your iOS device, because it knows that it’s sitting right on top of it, and grabs the wifi network information, including network name and password, and also grabs the Apple ID username and password from your device, so that you’re up and running, ready to start watching all of your iTunes purchases.
One more small technical update that is also nice is that you now have the option to have Apple TV update itself in the future. This means this is the last time you will have to manually tell your Apple TV to update. Any future improvements will be downloaded and installed when you aren’t even using it, and will be ready for you the next time you use it after that.
These updates have largely gone unnoticed due to all the major announcements that Apple did right around the same time, but I think they are very cool updates, especially since they are free for 2nd and 3rd generation Apple TV owners. For anyone who does not own one, it’s getting harder and harder to resist the $99 for all of these features.