Apple TV accessory makers can now use App Launch, Wi-Fi configuration, VoiceOver and other iOS features on tvOS
tvOS 10 updates have included new user features like smarter Siri, HomeKit support, dark mode, and the new TV app with Single Sign-on so far. With tvOS 10.0.1, first released back in October as a minor bug fix and security improvement, Apple quietly included support for a handful of new features to improve accessories. The features, which include App Launch, new accessibility features and more, aren’t documented publicly, but specs were recently made available to accessory makers in Apple’s Made-for-iPhone/iPad/Apple TV licensing program.
Many of the new features for Apple TV accessories bring tvOS in line with previous versions of iOS so the Apple TV can behave more like iPhones and iPads.
tvOS 10.0.1 introduced support for App Launch, the ability for accessories to prompt users to launch or install companion apps just like on iOS. For example, MFi gaming controllers usually have companion apps that catalog compatible software and handle upgrading controller firmware.
When initially pairing an MFi gaming controller to Apple TV, tvOS could prompt the user to launch or install the companion app automatically. Apps or games that work with dedicated hardware could also benefit from App Launch without the user having to manually find the correct companion app.
Wi-Fi Accessory Configuration is also supported as of tvOS 10.0.1. This feature lets users share existing Wi-Fi settings with wireless accessories without having to manually select the right network and enter credentials. Some wireless accessories like smart thermostats and smoke detectors already take advantage of this feature on iOS.
tvOS 10 brought developers the ability to support app notifications and icon badging like on iOS, and accessory makers can also now use alerts with tvOS. In 10.0.1, Device Notifications can relay device state changes to tvOS— including device name, current language, time/date— to a connected accessory like on iOS.
There is also support for new accessibility features on tvOS with 10.0.1 including VoiceOver and Assistive Touch. VoiceOver support, for example, means Apple TV accessories can work with Apple’s built-in audio interface when users can’t see what’s visually presented on screen. This can be used for switch-type input accessories paired used to control Apple’s accessibility features.
While quietly supported with 10.0.1 that rolled out to users back in October, these new features have recently been documented in Apple’s MFi documentation that companies follow to have products approved by Apple and guarantee compatibility. It could take time for accessory makers to implement support for the features and have them approved through the MFi process before you start seeing products that take advantage of the new 10.0.1 features.
Overall, the changes documented for Apple TV accessories should create a better user experience for customers when companies adopt the features in MFi hardware and potentially expand the ecosystem of supported hardware.