Apple TV gets big update with debut of tvOS 17

Mike Wheatley

Apple is rolling out the latest tvOS update to compatible devices, following the launch of iOS 17 and iPadOS17 on iPhones and iPads earlier this week.


The tvOS 17 operating system brings lots of exciting new features pertaining to the user interface, picture and sound on Apple TV 4K devices. What’s more, it’s landing on all versions of the Apple TV box since 2015, meaning every generation of Apple TV 4K and also the now-discontinued Apple TV HD box. That said, not every new feature will be made available on some of the older hardware.

First up are the picture and sound features, which include an update to support Dolby Vision 8.1. This enables Dolby Vision content to play in HDR10 when connected to displays that don’t support Dolby’s HDR standard. For Samsung TV owners especially, this is a great update, as that company still only adheres to the HDR10+ standard on all of its sets.

In terms of sound quality, the updates here are only likely to impact those Apple TV owners who also use AirPods. For instance, there is a new, shared Spatial Audio capability that makes it possible to use the immersive sound system across two pairs of AirPods, as long as they’re compatible with the feature. That means it will only work with the AirPods Pro, AirPods Pro 2, AirPods 3 and AirPods Max, Apple said. Users should note, however, that using this feature disables the dynamic head-tracking audio that is also a feature of the AirPods.

There’s also a new Adaptive Audio and Conversation Awareness feature that’s unique to the AirPods Pro 2 earbuds. With this, users can automatically switch between full ANC and transparency mode. It can also lower the media volume in the event it detects the user is talking to someone, so they aren’t forced to lower the volume to ensure they can hear the other person speaking.

The last audio upgrade is exclusive to the HomePod 2. It’s a Dialogue Enhancer mode that uses the second-generation HomePod as a kind of centre channel, helping to separate speech from the sound effects.

Moving on to the UI, and Apple said it has revamped the control centre with a more iOS-like design. Users will find that they now have easier access to the power, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth options, as well as the search function, audio output controls, and a more seamless way to switch between user profiles.

At last, Apple’s FaceTime is coming to Apple TV, though an iPhone or iPad is required to take advantage of it. It allows users to start a call directly from the Apple TV, or begin a call on the iPhone or iPad and then transfer it to the Apple TV via a new handoff feature. It means FaceTime is now available on the big screen.

Other new features include new screensavers, third-party VPN support, a “find my remote” feature and an update to Apple Fitness+.

Apple said tvOS 17 will roll out to users automatically via an over-the-air update, but if it hasn’t arrived yet they can navigate to the settings menu, click on the “system” tab and then choose “software updates” and download it manually.