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Apple TV gets FaceTime integration and Spatial Audio

Today, during the keynote for its Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) 2021, Apple announced updates to its Apple TV devices. Chief among the new features is SharePlay, a live content-sharing feature from the new iOS 15 FaceTime app, and the availability of Spatial Audio for more Apple TV content when using AirPods Pro or AirPods Max.

While Apple didn’t announce a new version of tvOS, the software that runs the Apple TV streaming media device, it detailed several new enhancements coming to both the Apple TV itself as well as the Apple TV app, which is also available on third-party devices like smart TVs.

Apple TV enhancements WWDC 2021

With SharePlay, people who are using FaceTime on their other Apple devices can choose to create instant watch parties by selecting movies or TV shows to watch with friends. You can watch on your iPhone, iPad, or Mac, but it’s far better to watch on the biggest screen, so SharePlay sessions can be sent to an Apple TV 4K.

Apple TV For All of You

Within the Apple TV app, you’ll be able to see content that has been shared by your friends and family in a new row called Shared With You. The Apple TV app will also start to create curated content recommendations for everyone in the family (assuming each person has their own Apple TV profile), in a row called For All Of You, which should make for family-friendly suggestions.

Apple has been touting its Spatial Audio feature for a while now, but it has been restricted to select movies from the Apple TV+ streaming service, and it only worked on the iPhone when wearing AirPods Pro or AirPods Max. Now, that same theater-like sound experience will work with this content when using the Apple TV 4K — simply pair the AirPods Pro or Max to your Apple TV to get it going.

If you have a Siri-enabled device like a HomePod mini, you’ll be able to ask Siri to start movies or TV shows on your Apple TV. Apple also reminded WWDC attendees that you can now connect the HomePod mini to your Apple TV for a wireless sound option that can, in some cases, replace a soundbar. With the second-gen Apple TV 4K, that extends to listening to audio from your TV, Blu-ray player, or game console.

Apple TV multi-camera view

Finally, thanks to improvements in Apple HomeKit, the Apple TV will now be able to give you a better sense of what’s happening in and around your home with multiple HomeKit camera feeds on-screen at once, and a package detection feature dedicated to identifying when a package has been left on your front doorstep (or wherever you normally receive deliveries).

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Simon Cohen
Contributing Editor, A/V
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