tvOS App Store Expands Top Charts Categories for Better App Discovery

tvOS App Store Expands Top Charts Categories for Better App Discovery

Apple recently updated it’s tvOS App Store app to include a full list of app categories within it’s "Top Charts" tab, providing an additional means for Apple TV owners to discover new and interesting tvOS apps. Similar to the iOS Top Charts, the tvOS version now includes a full set of primary categories such as "Books", "Utilities", "Productivity", and more (see full list of category topics below).

Up until recently, customers wishing to browse through the tvOS App Store were limited to a small number of categories, each showcasing only a handful of apps. In fact, the only way for users to find additional apps was to explicitly type an application name directly into the tvOS search menu! Fortunately, the recent update to the Top Charts tab means Apple TV owners will now be able to more easily peruse a much wider variety of tvOS apps currently available to the platform.

A Welcome Addition, but App Discovery Remains A Work-In-Progress

Although the expansion to the Top Charts categories is a much welcome addition to the tvOS App Store, it’s functionality as a search mechanism is limited to displaying only the most popular apps with the most downloads. Unfortunately (and to the chagrin of many tvOS developers), this means there is a good chance recently released apps, or niche apps with inherently smaller downloads will effectively be hidden from view on the tvOS app store. This is because, for reasons unknown, Apple continues to limit browsing capabilities on the tvOS App Store (via the central Categories tab) to only a few topics, each showing but a select handful of featured apps. It’s astounding how, one year past it’s release, tvOS still remains without a means for users to freely browse all the apps available in any app category, just as they can as on their iOS devices! Hopefully, a future update will similarly expand the App Store’s main Categories tab to include a full selection of app topics through which users can browse.

For your reference, here is the complete list of tvOS App Store Categories (currently available in Top Charts and Purchased tabs only).

All Categories,
Books
Business
Catalogs
Education
Entertainment
Finance
Food & Drink
Games
Health & Fitness
Lifestyle
Magazines & Newspapers
Medical
Music
Navigation
News
Photo & Video
Productivity
Reference
Shopping
Social Networking
Sports
Travel
Utilities
Weather


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Sponsored by Surround Speaker Check app for tvOS and the new Apple TV. Is your Apple TV ready for surround sound? Search for "Surround Speaker Check" today in the new Apple TV App Store!

tvOS 10 Lays the Groundwork for Next Wave of Apple TV Apps

tvOS 10 Lays the Groundwork for Next Wave of Apple TV Apps

While the recent release of tvOS 10 contains much-welcome features like improved Siri support and the new "Dark Mode" appearance setting, perhaps the most exciting changes lie "beneath-the-surface" in the form of expanded developer access to the software frameworks running the Apple TV. Support for back-end frameworks such as notifications, photos, and homekit means a flood of new and innovative Apple TV apps are sure to be right around the corner!

You’ve Got Messages!

Digging through tvOS 10 this week, I noticed a new "Notifications" tab nestled in the Settings app. Clicking on the new tab does not reveal any new info, although it’s appearance does indicate Apple expects developers to be put this feature to use in short order. For those of you unaware, Notifications is part of a new tvOS framework called "UserNotifications" which allows an app to support the "delivery and handling of local and remote notifications." Including support for Notifications means your favorite apps could soon be capable of posting personalized reminders and alerts directly to your tv screen! As someone who enjoys cranking the surround sound during a good action flick, I would certainly appreciate the option of being able to receive an on-screen alert letting me know my iPhone is ringing!

Support for Notifications means your favorite apps could soon be capable of posting personalized reminders and alerts directly to your tv screen!

Photos Galore

The Photos framework now included with tvOS 10 provides "direct access to the photo and video assets managed by the Photos app, including the iCloud Photo Library." For tvOS, I imagine this means we can look forward to a variety of apps designed for viewing, sharing, and perhaps even editing our photos and videos directly on the Apple TV!

Siri, Dims the Lights!

With 2017 looking to finally see big gains in home automation, Apple’s homekit framework for tvOS 10 means you’ll be able to use your Siri remote to do everything from dimming the lights, to adjusting your thermostat, to locking your doors and arming the security system - all from the comfort of your living room couch!

"We believe the future of tv is apps!" —Apple CEO Tim Cook, 2015

With tvOS 10, Apple is giving developers much greater access to the underpinnings which power the Apple TV, helping fulfill Tim Cook's 2015 prophesy regarding how people will use and interact with the largest screen in the house.


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Sponsored by Surround Speaker Check app for tvOS and the new Apple TV. Is your Apple TV ready for surround sound? Search for "Surround Speaker Check" today in the new Apple TV App Store!

Complete List of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” iTunes Bonus Content

Complete List of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” iTunes Bonus Content

With Star Wars: The Force Awakens now available on iTunes and the Apple TV, I'm sure many potential buyers are wondering what sort of bonus content they can expect to receive should they purchase a digital copy of the movie through Apple. Fortunately, those Star Wars fans still sitting on the iTunes fence will be happy to learn the movie’s iTunes Extras package includes nearly two hours worth of documentary footage, bonus clips and deleted scenes! Here is a complete list of the extra video content you can expect to receive when purchasing Star Wars: The Force Awakens [affiliate link] through Apple iTunes:

Extras

Secrets of The Force Awakens: A Cinematic Journey

Discover the complete story behind the making of The Force Awakens, revealed through in-depth footage and exclusive interviews with the actors and filmmakers in the feature-length documentary.

The Story Awakens: The Table Read

Cast members, familiar and new, reflect on the memorable day they all first came together to read the movie's script.

Crafting Creatures

Watch movie magic as the filmmakers bring a cast of new creatures to life.

Building BB-8

See how the filmmakers brought the newest droid to the screen, charting an instant fan favorite in the Star Wars universe.

Blueprint Of A Battle: The Snow Fight

Go deeper into the epic, climactic light saber battle between Rey and Kylo Ren.

ILM: The Visual Magic of the Force

An insider’s look into the remarkable digital artistry of the movie's visual effects.

John Williams: The Seventh Symphony

The legendary composer share personal insights into his work on "Star Wars" and "The Force Awakens."

Force for Change

Heroes come in a shapes and sizes. See how the "Star Wars: Force for Change" initiative has united Star Wars fans all over the globe in using the Force to help others.

Deleted Scenes

Finn And The Villager

As Stormtroopers take over the village, Finn encounters a fleeing resident.

Jakku Message

General Leia Organa receives grim news from the Resistance fighters.

X-wings Prepare for Light Speed

Poe leaves the Resistance fleet on a rescue mission to Takodona.

Kylo Searches the Falcon

Kylo Ren boards Hans Solo's abandoned spaceship and senses a presence.

Snow Speeder Chase

Rey and Finn attempt to elude capture in a stolen snow speeder.

Finn Will Be Fine

An anxious Rey watches as the doctor examines the wounded, unconscious Finn.

Tunnel Standoff

Han Solo, Chewbacca and Finn struggle to escape from Maz Kanata’s Castle as the first order forces attack.


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Sponsored by Surround Speaker Check app for tvOS and the new Apple TV. Is your Apple TV ready for surround sound? Search for "Surround Speaker Check" today in the new Apple TV App Store!

My Top 3 Siri Commands for Apple TV (Plus One We Really Need!)

My Top 3 Siri Commands for Apple TV (Plus One We Really Need!)

Back in late September, I received an early production model of the upcoming 4th gen Apple TV to test while developing my first app for tvOS, "Surround Speaker Check." This is the first of several posts where I share my experiences involved with integrating the Apple TV into our living room for the past half-year, and what you might expect if you too make Apple TV the central entertainment hub for your home.

After six months of heavy use, there's little doubt that one of the more popular features of the 4th-gen Apple TV is the voice-command capabilities made possible with the new Siri Remote. Here's a list of the top three most frequently-used Siri commands in our family's living room.

1. "What did he/she say??"

With our grade-school daughter's bedroom right down the hall, my wife and I rarely have the luxury of cranking up the volume of our home theater system in the later evening hours. This command has made our late night TV or movie-watching experience much more enjoyable by taking the work out of deciphering soft-spoken dialogue.

2. "Skip ahead 2 minutes."

Video podcasts from iTunes have long-ago replaced the cable news shows I used to watch during breakfast. This command is useful for skipping through commercial breaks when I only have limited viewing time available. We sometimes also use this one to skip through slow-rolling credits in the beginning of a movie.

3. "What is today's forecast?"

Back when we had cable TV, one of our most-accessed channels was the "Weather Channel". Sure, iPhone weather apps have long-since negated the need for turning to the TV specifically to check the weather, but if you're already riding the couch, this command gives you an even quicker way to access to the latest weather data (which, coincidentally, is also currently provided to Apple TV by the Weather Channel network). (See last week's post for a comprehensive look at the Apple TV's built-in weather app!)

What's Missing

Overall, our household has had an overwhelmingly positive experience with the new Apple TV. A minor frustration with the voice command feature, however, is the inability to use Siri to perform broader searches for content within 3rd-party apps such as Netflix. For example, if you say "Show me action movies in Netflix", Siri will display a list of iTunes Store movies which are also "available in Netflix", but will not present a way to directly access the Netflix title. Not exactly the streamlined search result I was expecting... I'm hoping a future update will allow Siri to return more app-specific media results when explicitly asked by the user. Fortunately, last month's feature-rich tvOS 9.2 update demonstrates how Apple is rapidly addressing user complaints, adding more features, and working hard to make Apple TV the premier entertainment hub for your living room.


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Sponsored by Surround Speaker Check app for tvOS and the new Apple TV. Is your Apple TV ready for surround sound? Search for "Surround Speaker Check" today in the new Apple TV App Store!

Discover the Hidden tvOS Weather App for Apple TV!



Although the Apple TV App Store is packed with plenty of weather apps, perhaps the best weather app for your needs might actually be hiding right in plain sight! Many Apple TV users may not be aware that tvOS provides a quick and easy means to check the weather forecast by simply picking up the Siri Remote and asking! However, unlike most weather apps which typically display a plethora of on-screen weather-related info all at once, Siri’s response to weather inquiries are directly related to the questions being asked. Here are a few examples of some simple commands you can use to get Siri to reveal her inner weather forecasting abilities:

“What is the current temperature?”

This one seems pretty obvious, though if you don’t have “Siri and Dictation” enabled in Settings (/General/Privacy/Location Services), you’ll need add location specifics such as the city and state. i.e. “What is the temperature in Boston, Massachusetts?” Additionally, this means you can also check the weather for any city in the world simply by asking!

“What is the weather forecast for this week”?

Asking for the long-range forecast results in a familiar-looking weather strip complete with precipitation graphics and the high and low temperatures to be expected on each day (see above image). This info-graphic is pretty similar to what you’d see in your typical iPhone iOS weather app.

“Do I need sunglasses?”

Siri is smart enough to respond to inquiries based on weather-specific attire. And depending on what you ask and how you phrase your question, she may even add in some of her trademark wit and humor. For example, when asked “Is it cold outside”, Siri responded with “28°F is cold by my standards. I can’t say whether people in Essex find it so.”

“What is the wind chill?”

Using the Siri Remote, you can tap into the same weather data accessible by just about any weather app (minus the spam links and advertising). Additional weather-related Siri commands include; “What time is sunset?” “Is it windy outside?” “What is the humidity?”

Get the big (screen) picture!

Although Siri will respond to just about any weather-related question, the most efficient way to handle multiple weather-related inquiries will be to access the tvOS weather app’s full-screen display. Here’s how: Once you’ve got the tvOS weather app results onscreen using any one of the above Siri commands, simply swipe upwards on the trackpad to reveal a full screen display of all other available weather forecast information!


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Sponsored by Surround Speaker Check app for tvOS and the new Apple TV. Is your Apple TV ready for surround sound? Search for "Surround Speaker Check" today in the new Apple TV App Store!