May 15 Update: A new channel, Shudder, appeared in the Apple Channels section. We've update this story accordingly.
Available now, you can download iOS 12.3 by opening the Settings app, tapping General, tapping Software Update and following on-screen prompts. I had trouble getting my phone to find the update at first, but once I took the device off Wi-Fi, and tried again, my iPhone saw the update.
While iOS 12.3 doesn't deliver Apple TV Plus, the original content Apple is planning for later this year, it refreshes the look of Apple's TV app and delivers Apple Channels, where you can subscribe to channels such as HBO and Showtime, and not need to go download the apps from those networks.
Apple's new TV app is also rolling out via an update to tvOS (also numerated 12.3) on the company's Apple TV set top boxes. To update your Apple TV, you open the Settings app, tap System, tap Software Updates and follow the on-screen instructions. The TV app update adds the aforementioned Kids section at the top of the screen.
In the release documentation, Apple notes that Apple Channels subscriptions can be shared with "up to six family members, with no new apps, accounts, or passwords needed." Channels are found in the middle of the Watch Now section.
Apple Channels Selection
The available channels, at the time of publishing are:
- HBO (7 days free, then $14.99 per month)
- Showtime (7 days free, then $10.99 per month)
- Starz (7 days free, then $8.99 per month)
- Cinemax (7 days free, then $9.99 per month)
- Epix (7 days free, then $5.99 per month)
- Smithsonian Channel Plus (7 days free, then $4.99 per month)
- PBS Living (7 days free, then $2.99 per month)
- Acorn TV (7 days free, then $5.99 per month)
- Sundance Now (7 days free, then $6.99 per month)
- Lifetime Movie Club (7 days free, then $3.99 per month)
- Shudder (7 days free, then $5.99 per month)
- Urban Movie Channel (7 days free, then $4.99 per month)
- Tastemade (7 days free, then $2.99 per month)
- Curiosity Stream (7 days free, then $2.99 per month)
- MTV Hits (7 days free, then $5.99 per month)
- Comedy Central Now (7 days free, then $3.99 per month)
The TV app is also Apple's latest home for selling and renting movies. Parents, desperate for family friendly content, will be elated to see a Kids section that serves up editorially selected titles, a practice that continues Apple's push of being the content curators which we first saw in Apple Music.
iOS 12.3 also adds support for AirPlay 2-enabled TVs, so those without Apple TV boxes can share content, including videos, photos and music from their iOS devices. Apple's also making it easier to keep watching shows, adding "one tap playback automatically plays your chosen TV show or movie on the last screen you used based on time and location."
As always, Apple's promising a privacy-first experience, and notes that all of the work for its "intelligent suggestions" that recommend shows based on your experience take place"on-device so your personal information stays private," and doesn't get mixed into your TV, as Smart TVs have a bad reputation for collecting user data.
Other new features include the Apple TV app gaining the ability to find nearby devices that will support it, and a patch that fixes "an issue that could prevent Apple TV Remote from pausing video, controlling video, or changing volume on supported receivers."
iOS 12.3 isn't all about the TV, though. In the News app, you'll get the ability to "follow a magazine from the Apple News+ catalog browsing view." Over in Apple Music, expect more frequent updates ("multiple times a day") to the suggestions for music you'll want to hear, "based on themes like genres, artists, and moods you love"