Apple tvOS right now

The launch of Apple tvOS has created a new opportunity for media and service companies, this time on the (Apple) big screen. Right now there are few apps offering the rich experience of mobile and tablet.

Here are the reduced key takeaways for those venturing into the new promised land:

  1. 1st generation apps are always too safe. Stand-out experiences stay on home screens
  2. The processor sets a new standard for the possibilities of motion design
  3. Popular tvOS games will set the path for new interaction patterns
  4. Media partners are working with Apple on the full-fat Siri API to expose endpoints anywhere
  5. Twitter owned auth service Digits works with tvOS to login users using a simple PIN
  6. Use tvOS to ‘stress test’ features before distributing across products

More detail below…


1st generation apps are always too safe. Stand-out experiences stay on home screens.

In 2008 Apple launched the App Store. Developers had worked too closely to the HIG and for the first year the majority of apps were built on the design and interaction patterns defined in this document.

The apps that got attention and became ‘home screen’ apps were those that started to challenge these rules and create a unique experience.

Today we can see exactly the same with tvOS. App creators have a huge opportunity to launch a ‘stand-out’ experience that generates interest and creates loyalty.

The processor sets a new standard for the possibilities of motion design.

Apple have two strong differentiators with their hardware over competitors streaming boxes or traditional TV units. The remote and the processor. The speed and agility of applying visual transitions and effects is outstanding. Live blur and parallax were fundamental to the design framework of iOS7 and they too have found their way into tvOS.

It won’t stop with live blur. Harnessing the processor capabilities will allow app creators to create a rich experience and pave the way for motion language and rules that legacy set top boxes never fully achieve.

Popular tvOS games will set the path for new interaction patterns.

The gyroscope built into the new remote makes the device great for fun gaming. It is doubtful we will see serious video gaming publishers porting their titles as the fidelity of controls needed are not there. Much like the Nintendo Wii the successful titles in the app store are those providing fun, playful interactions and very family friendly.

Some of the multitouch patterns and interaction design in these games will find their way into other apps as over time. Keep playing with the apps (although you might quickly rack up a nice little bill)

Media partners are working with Apple on the full-fat Siri API to expose endpoints anywhere.

Currently Apple have not opened the Siri tvOS API to all developers. They are working with exclusive partners behind the scenes to integrate apps and end points so users can use ‘Hey Siri…’ to expose content across the entire unit.

If you’re part of big media or service company you should be concentrating on search outside of your app.

Twitter owned auth service Digits works with tvOS to login users using a simple PIN.

Signing in and setting up apps is boring. It becomes infuriating on the Apple TV with just a remote and a huge set of input fields to complete. Fortunately the groundwork to improving this experience has been done. Digits is a service from Twitter that completes authorisation using your phone. A six digit code is displayed on the TV that you type in on your phone.

Where possible we want to remove or reduce the need for complex character input. Authorisation, account settings, experience preferences and handover can all be managed by a phone or tablet. The first time use must feel simple, frictionless and journey as quickly as possible to the content.

Using a partner app on native can also achieve auth — but the development overheads are increased.

Use tvOS to ‘stress test’ features before distributing across products.

This is the same strategy as Spotify, have an idea, launch quick, test, iterate. Smart TVs, traditional TV boxes and streaming boxes are all running at a slower release cycle.

Use tvOS to build fast, with the best hardware and gain automatic updates and detailed analytics.

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