Published on September 17th, 2018 | by Brad Gibson


From Atmos to aerials, here’s your tvOS 12 feature roundup

Now with the golden master release of tvOS 12, we can finally see the entire feature set we’ve been anticipating for months. Here’s a rundown of some of the 20-plus new features you can now expect once you upgrade…


So much has been said about the addition of Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos support on tvOS 12 that there’s little else to be said until we start getting more video content from the Apple Store. Apple is slowly adding to iTunes Dolby Atmos-supported content as well, and iTunes libraries will be upgraded for free on all 4K-supported titles. As the only standalone set-top box to support both standards, its capabilities we’ll slowly be able to take advantage of, depending on the capabilities of your television.


If there are two features that every user will probably be able to take advantage of even if they don’t have a 4K TV, it’s the next two. The zero sign-on feature automatically uses your location and local Wi-Fi network, authenticating with a pay TV subscription or TV provider login for many third-party apps like CNN, AMC, HBO, and Showtime.  Testing it out, it worked perfectly and sped up the sign-in process to the point that it’s no longer a hassle. Zero sign-on will begin with the cable company Charter Communications later this year and will expand to other providers over time.


AutoFill will allow users – and now guests – to use saved passwords to various apps and services on Apple TV. If an iOS device is within a few feet of a Siri remote, stored passwords will be accessible for sign-in after confirming the device using a prompted pairing code, and that also applies for guests who can use their sign-on on someone else’s Apple TV. I tried out this feature using a guest account, and believe me when I say it’s slick.


Any Apple TV user will also see the Apple TV remote added to their Control Center automatically, no longer requiring configuration. The app on iOS devices will allow for total control of an Apple device without needing the Siri remote.


A new HomeKit Category for TV remotes is now part of tvOS 12 allowing third-party remotes like those from Control 4, Crestron, and Savant to work with fourth and fifth-generation Apple TVs including the ability to access Siri and search. At launch, Logitech’s Harmony remotes are not supported, but the hope is that due to their popularity they will be soon.


Swappable screensavers are also now available along with ‘Aerial’ screensavers of daytime and nighttime videos taken on board the International Space Station in 4K, high-definition. A text overlay on screensavers now identifies the location of the image. The new ISS images are what they should be…beautiful.

aerial_screensaver_with_locationInternational Space Station images in 4K are now live in tvOS 12 as screensavers with descriptions.


A few changes in the Music app…Under the ‘Radio’ tab, ‘Featured Stations’ has been added as a category. Networks currently being featured include CBS Radio, Bloomberg News, ESPN, and others.


There are a couple of small improvements to Siri in tvOS 12. It now can help find your devices, such as your iPhone. Simply ask Siri, “Where’s my iPhone” and similar to the Find My iPhone app, it will set off a sound to find the device nearby.


There are various small, but in some cases, important changes in the Settings app.

4K TV owners will see a ‘Check Cable’ option in the ‘Video and Audio’ section. With so many different types of 4K HDMI cables, this feature will run a check on your TV to make sure it’s working properly. According to its description, it will also monitor the connection in case something would ever change.

A new section under ‘Airplay’ called ‘Allow Access’ gives users control of who has entry, especially through HomePod. Also in ‘AirPlay’, the ‘Room’ selection has been moved to the bottom of the screen.

Titles in the ‘TV’ section of Settings under ‘Notifications’ have changed slightly to make them more understandable.

in ‘Music’, gone is the ability to turn off ‘Repeat Music’. You can still repeat music, but the toggle switch has been removed.


There are a few niggly things that are annoying in the new tvOS…After you update the OS, it moves Apple’s ten standard apps – everything from Settings, to the App Store, to the Podcasts – back to the top of the Home page. This is somewhat frustrating after you’ve manually moved everything around to fit your liking.

Apple talked a lot last year about improvements to Siri giving users the ability to ask more complex questions on things like food, sports, celebrities. Simply put, it’s not working and the time this story was filed. The hope is this improve functionality will arrive soon.

You would also think at the launch of tvOS 12 App would have landed more deals with broadcasters – especially sports broadcasters – to add more support for programming in the TV App. Not so. NBCSN, Fox Sports, regional sports networks are nowhere to be found. Disappointing.


tvOS 12 can be downloaded manually by going to the ‘Settings’ app on Apple TV, navigating to ‘System’, then to ‘Software Updates’. The Apple TV can also be set up to receive updates automatically by turning on the ‘Automatically Update’ selection on the same screen.

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About the Author

Brad is co-founder and editor-in-chief of He has been a technology reporter since the late 1980s having previously worked for MacUser, MacFormat, and iCreate magazines, as well as,,,, and He hosted and produced the MacFormat This Week podcast for three years. He was also a reporter, editor, and producer for the AOL, the BBC, Associated Press, and United Press International.

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