tvOS 13: New features and everything we know

Apple plans to update its operating system for Apple TV to create a more personalized experience for users. This year's version, tvOS13, due out this fall, adds support for multiple users and Apple Music, among other changes.

The new tvOS 13 interface

The new tvOS 13 interface

Here's a quick look at the major changes Apple has planned for your Apple TV with the upcoming tvOS 13 release and when you can expect the update.

What is tvOS?

Just at the Mac has macOS and the iPhone has iOS, your Apple TV has an operating system all its own. That would be tvOS, and while it usually doesn't receive the fanfare awarded to Apple's software, tvOS gets yearly updates. The latest version, tvOS 13, got a sneak preview during this year's Worldwide Developer Conference.

What's new with tvOS 13?

Some tvOS improvements for 2019 have already hit. Apple has updated the TV app that runs on its settop box. (You'll also find TV on iOS devices and, soon, macOS Catalina.) The TV app is where you can find and watch TV programs. Recent updates have fine-tuned the app to support Apple's push into subscription services, including Apple Channels, which provides a simplified way to subscribe to streaming channels like HBO, Showtime and others.

The TV app is presumably where Apple offer its TV+ original programming, too. Check out our guide to all the announced and rumored Apple TV Plus Shows and Movies for more.

MORE: Apple TV Plus: All the Shows and Movies So Far

But there's more to tvOS than the TV app. Here are other major changes coming to tvOS 13.

Multiuser support: The current version of tvOS displays thumbnails of shows you're currently watching in its Watch Next interface, but if there are multiple people in your household, that can create a jumble of shows you're not particularly interested. (As the parent of an 8-year-old, my favorite shows are lost amid thumbnails of every Barbie movie ever created, for example.) The updated tvOS will now support multiple users, so the Watch Next screen will be personalized with the shows each user watches and likes. Recommendations will be geared toward individual users, too.

To switch between users, you'll access a new tvOS Control Center that looks like it will slide up from the side of the screen. From there you'll toggle between users.

Apple Music integration: Apple is adding its subscription music service to its settop TV box, but this isn't just a glorified radio. In the updated tvOS, you'll be able to listen to Apple Music's collection of songs as well as watch videos, but you'll also be also to see on-screen lyrics for songs that will be synced up to the music.

Apple Arcade integration: Apple didn't dwell too much on Apple Arcade during its WWDC presentation, but the gaming service will be offered through the Apple TV later when it launches this fall. (You'll also be able to use Apple Arcade on your Mac or iOS device — again, Apple is keen to get you to use more of its services.) Through Apple Arcade, a single subscription lets up to six people play more than 100 new and exclusive games.

Apple Arcade will be front and center in tvOS 13

Apple Arcade will be front and center in tvOS 13

So far, most of what we know about Apple Arcade on the AppleTV boils down to the service's icon on the new tvOS interface. It's the big red joystick wedged between the Apple Music and Photos apps. Speaking of gaming...

More support for gaming controls: I'll be honest — I really don't use my Apple TV to game, even though the settop box has offered that functionality for years. Perhaps added support for popular gaming controls will change that. tvOS is adding support for the Xbox 1S controller as well as the PlayStation DualShock 4 controller. (That latter device got the biggest cheer from the crowd at Apple's annual developer conference, where tvOS's changes were unveiled.)

Full-screen trailers: Expect a new look for tvOS that will include full-screen trailers on the OS's main screen. From the brief glimpse Apple provided, it looks a lot like a similar feature Netflix offers in its app.

New screensavers: The screensavers sometimes feel like the most compelling part of the Apple TV interface, and Apple's adding more for this year's update. They'll include underwater footage shot in 4K by BBC's Natural History Unit.

When will tvOS 13 arrive?

Just like iOS 13, macOS Catalina and watchOS 6 — boy, that's a lot of OSes — tvOS 13 is headed for a fall release, probably about the same time Apple holds a press event to show off its new iPhones. Developers already have a build of tvOS, and in July, the rest of us will be able to download a public beta onto our Apple TVs.

Philip Michaels

Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.