Apple's tvOS 15 update now available on Apple TVs

Mike Wheatley

Apple’s set-top box has received a long-awaited update with the launch of tvOS 15. With it, the Apple TV 4K box gains a bunch of new skills, notably spatial audio support for AirPods, easy switching to AirPods for private listening and the ability to pair the TV with HomePod Mini speakers.


The spatial audio support for AirPods is probably the most impactful new feature. Spatial Audio is a feature that first demoed on iOS devices such as the iPhone. It’s Apple’s proprietary 3D surround sound format that provides a more realistic theatre-like listening experience for users. Apple is combining it with the Dynamic Head Tracking technology on its AirPods Pro and AirPods Max earbuds to add even more realism by dynamically adjusting the sound as the user turns their head. It means the location of the sound stays relative to the screen as the user moves around.

Apple said Spatial Audio works with Dolby Atmos, 5.1 and 7.1 channel sound sources, but it’s only available for video content from certain apps, such as Apple TV, Disney+, HBO Max, iTunes and Netflix, but not video games at this time.

Not only will AirPods users have a more realistic experience, but they also have a much easier time of getting set up. As soon as the AirPods are detected within range of the TV, an on-screen notification will show up asking if you want to pair them and start listening privately.

Sticking with audio, it’s now possible to pair one or two HomePod Mini speakers with the Apple TV 4K, so sound from the TV and also connected HDMI devices like games consoles can be beamed wirelessly to them.

Other features available in the update include new screensavers, a new video player user interface and more voice capabilities for Siri on HomePod, so it can now start and stop playing content. Previously, it Siri was limited to just powering the Apple TV on or off and adjusting the volume.

On the security side, a new enhancement makes it possible to use FaceID on your iPhone or iPad to login to a tvOS app and authenticate payments for items and services purchased with the Apple TV. It’s also now possible to unlock smart locks using an iPhone or Apple watch, with the Apple TV acting as a kind of smart home hub.

The tvOS 15 interface adds new “Share with You” and “For all of You” rows to the list of main menus. Share with You features recommendations from your friends that also take into account your own preferences. Meanwhile For all of You recommends content that the entire family might enjoy watching together, Apple said.

A couple of things that were expected to be included in tvOS 15 did not make the final cut as hoped. SharePlay, a promised feature that lets Apple TV users group watch movies and shows with their friends, is delayed. The same goes Dolby Atmos and lossless support directly on HomePod when it’s not connected to the Apple TV. These features are still believed to be on the roadmap, but it’s not clear when they’ll arrive.

Apple said tvOS 15 is available now and that Apple TV 4K and Apple TV HD boxes will be automatically updated.