Hardware A white Apple HomePod speaker on a white sheep

Published on January 25th, 2018 | by Brad Gibson


tvOS public beta 11.3 bridges HomePod with Apple TV via Airplay 2

Apple released the first public beta of tvOS 11.3 Thursday with support for AirPlay 2, paving the way for the Apple TV to use the soon-to-be-released HomePod not only as a speaker but potentially as an intelligent assistant through Siri and opening up a whole range of possibilities to control the streaming media device.

The tvOS public beta introduces support for AirPlay 2, allowing fourth and fifth-generation Apple TV users to be added to the Home app as part of a HomeKit setup. Users can then play music wirelessly to a single HomePod controlled by an iOS device running iOS 11.3.

HomePod, which will be shipping starting February 9th and goes on sale Friday for US$349, will not initially have multi-room audio support. It is expected this capability will be available once iOS 11.3 and tvOS 11.3 are finished and released to the general public in the spring of this year.

After installation of the public beta, the set-up asks on-screen for information to add an Apple TV to the HomeKit setup. Users are asked to identify where a single or multiple Apple TVs units are located (see screen image below). Using an iOS device running iOS 11.3 as a controller, a song can be played on a HomePod or other device supporting AirPlay 2.

Where is Apple TV screenshotThe first public beta of tvOS 11.3 asks Apple TV users to identify the location of their Apple TV devices to stream music to the HomePod smart speaker, which supports AirPlay 2.

Other new features of the public beta include support for frame rate matching, previously required for the Apple TV 4K, enhancements to Match Content support, and automatic mode switching for AirPlay video sessions.

Details of Apple TV/HomePod compatibility sketchy, but the hope is…

The current abilities of the public beta are limited and basically allow only the playing and pausing of music. Documentation with tvOS 11.3 was void of great detail when released Thursday leaving few facts as to what Apple plans to do to link the two devices together. Apple’s public relations department did not reply to repeated emails and phone messages requesting background and comment for this story over a two-day period.

Despite the lack of initial detail, the hope is that future support would include the ability to stream audio of video content to the one or more HomePods as well as Siri support as an intelligent assistant through Apple TV. In addition to controlling not only HomeKit-enabled devices, programmers who have spoken to BESTAppleTV.com say the ability to select and search programming through the Apple TV TV app as well as, for instance, verbally requesting programming be played and rewound are all possible features that could be added.

The tvOS 11.3 public beta can be obtained by going to the Settings app on Apple TV, navigating to ‘System’, then to ’Software Updates’, followed by toggling on ‘Get Public Beta Updates’. The Apple TV can also be set up to receive updates automatically by turning on the ‘Automatically Update’ selection on the same screen.

The release comes just two days after the release of tvOS 11.2.5. When used with iOS 11.2.5 on the iPhone and iPad, content playing on tvOS 11.2.5 appears as a Now Playing option in the Control Center.

Apple first announced AirPlay 2 at the Worldwide Developers Conference last September. The wireless standard builds on the original AirPlay with multi-room audio, HomeKit integration and other system-level improvements that allow users to listen to and control content throughout their house.

Third-party speaker manufacturers, including Sonos, have announced compatibility support for AirPlay 2, though none have released products that support the standard. Sonos announced it’s intentions last October.

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About the Author

Brad is co-founder and editor-in-chief of BESTAppleTV.com. He has been a technology reporter since the late 1980s having previously worked for MacUser, MacFormat, and iCreate magazines, as well as MacNN.com, MacObserver.com, MacCentral.com, MacMinute.com, and Macworld.com. 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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