Apple tvOS 15 — new features, compatible devices and more

tvOS 15
(Image credit: Apple)

tvOS 15 is arriving on the heels of the new Apple TV 4K launch. While tvOS 15 did not get a spotlight at WWDC 2021, Apple mentioned a few new Apple TV features — like spatial audio through AirPods — and released a beta to developers following the presentation.

The Apple TV software also went unmentioned during Apple's September product event, though the company let slip one important piece of information — the full version comes out next Monday (Sept. 20) after a summer-long beta program.

tvOS is the operating system that runs the Apple TV and a new version is usually released every year in the fall. Last year's tvOS 14 brought some new features to the Apple TV, including multi-user support and audio sharing, but didn't represent a huge change.

Rumors circulated that tvOS 15 would introduce a major design change in the navigation, but the expected unveiling at WWDC 2021didn't happen. Apple's developer info about the new tvOS indicates there is a redesigned playback interface, which we're eager to see. 

Here's everything we know so far about tvOS 15. 

tvOS 15 release date

At WWDC 2021 in June, Apple released the developer beta even though the software update didn't garner the attention of iOS 15, watchOS 8 or macOS 12 Monterey — all shown off in June, too. After a tvOS 15 public beta debuted soon after, we've gone several months without any additional info.

That's changing on Monday, September 20, when tvOS 15 becomes available at the same time as Apple's iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch updates.

tvOS 15 features

While WWDC didn't include a section for tvOS 15, Apple did reveal some of the tvOS new features coming our way this fall.

SharePlay: The feature allows people on FaceTime calls to create watch parties and view movies or shows in sync with friends. Start a FaceTime call with friends, then create a watch party via compatible streaming services (including Disney Plus and HBO Max). Then, you can AirPlay the show or movie to your Apple TV. Note that SharePlay is being delayed until a later update this year.

Spatial audio: The theater-like surround sound experience comes to the Apple TV 4K when paired with AirPods Pro or AirPods Max. 

HomePod Mini integration: Now, you can ask Siri through a HomePod Mini to play movies or shows on the Apple TV. The HomePod mini can also be connected to the Apple TV like a soundbar. You can also check your security camera feeds and control other smart home features through the Apple TV with a HomePod Mini.

Apple TV app: Two new content rows are coming to the Apple TV app. The first is "Shared With You," which comprises content recommended to you by friends and family. The second is "For All of You," a row that houses content built for group viewing, such as a family's movie night. The suggestions can also be curated based on who's watching.

tvOS 15 beta

Apple made the tvOS 15 beta available to developers on June 7, following WWDC 2021. A public beta followed in July, ahead of the full release this month.

tvOS 15 design changes

Apple's note to developers on "What's new in tvOS" mentions two major updates. The first involves FaceID; in tvOS 15, people can use Face ID or Touch ID on their iPhone or iPad to authorize purchases and sign in to your tvOS app.

The second is a "redesigned playback interface." We hope to get more info soon on what the redesign brings. 

The tvOS navigation and playback interface haven't changed in a long time. Earlier this year, a rumor circulated that tvOS 15 represented a "major update" with a redesign of the navigation. Israeli blog The Verifier (which has a spotty track record) reported that tvOS 15 would have a new design, along with parental controls, kids mode and Screen Time. The Verifier also claimed that Apple is working on a program guide for live channels. 

For now, though, the only confirmed redesign is the mysterious new playback interface and the Apple TV app's two new content rows. 

tvOS 15 supported devices

tvOS 15 is expected to be compatible with all of the devices running tv OS 14, which are the Apple TV 4K (2021), the first-gen Apple TV 4K (2017) and the Apple TV HD. 

Kelly Woo
Streaming Editor

Kelly is the streaming channel editor for Tom’s Guide, so basically, she watches TV for a living. Previously, she was a freelance entertainment writer for Yahoo, Vulture, TV Guide and other outlets. When she’s not watching TV and movies for work, she’s watching them for fun, seeing live music, writing songs, knitting and gardening.

  • ar6cth
    We may have a peek into a new interface in the Computers app. Settings now rise from the bottom instead of dropping from the top when playing a movie or TV ep from a networked device. Audio settings are now what appears to be a bar graph instead of, you know, the word "Audio." I guess that's good because, after all, our screens are just getting smaller, and there's simply no room for 5 characters to make the interface crystal clear.

    Really want that app, after I watch one tv ep, to cue up the next ep (instead of the one unplayed ep every time.) It shouldn't be easier to stream a show using Netflix than from a networked iTunes library.