Readers like you help support XDA Developers. When you make a purchase using links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Read More.

Quick Links

While iOS 17 and watchOS 10 are certainly more exciting and popular among the masses, we can't ignore tvOS 17 and the value it brings to iDevice users. After all, the Apple TV is arguably the best media streaming device for those on iOS. After using tvOS 17 for around three months, it has become evident to me that Apple is still innovating in this space and trying to push the platform forward.

New features, additions, and changes

FaceTime app

FaceTime on tvOS interface, featuring center stage, portrait, reactions, and a plus button

One of the biggest changes introduced in tvOS 17 is the dedicated FaceTime app. Prior to this release, users could rely on AirPlay to mirror a video call, but it was neither convenient nor well-optimized. Now, I can finally call my friends from the biggest screen in my house without having to go through the hassle of setup.

But how does this feature work, considering that the Apple TV doesn't pack a camera? The process is simple: tvOS relies on the camera of a nearby iPhone or iPad. Since I always leave my iPad Air 5 on my desk right next to the TV, I never have to think about the pairing process. I just launch FaceTime, approve the pop-up on iPadOS 17, and get the call started. As a result, this addition has really made it easy to stay connected to my loved ones on the larger display.

Apple Music Sing upgrades

Mahmoud Itani and another person appearing on the TV screen next to Apple Music lyrics with special effects applied

Another change that relies on your iDevice's camera is Apple Music Sing integration. So now, when my friends are over for some karaoke, we can see ourselves (and how ridiculous we look) right next to the animated lyrics. Furthermore, the service can detect subjects and replace the background with special effects, which make the experience even more immersive and fun.

What I really love about this change is that it allows me and others to see each other through the screen while we're reading the lyrics. Not only does this make the service more social, but it also contributes to the giggles that accompany it.

Continuity Camera API

Continuity Camera banner on FaceTime for tvOS mentioning the permission notification on iOS

Both of the aforementioned additions are powered by a new Continuity Camera API. The good news is that it's available for third-party developers who want to make supported apps that rely on an iDevice's camera for a live video feed. So, in the near future, you may be able to reliably utilize video conferencing apps on your Apple TV, such as Zoom and Google Meet. And worry not, supported tvOS apps can't access your iDevice's camera without you manually approving the request every single time.

I can't comment on how this API has impacted my Apple TV usage since I'm unaware of any public third-party apps that have adopted it. However, based on my experience using FaceTime and Apple Music Sing with this integration for the past three months, I'm optimistic about Apple TV's future. This integration removes one of the main hardware barriers that prevented tvOS users from making the most of their devices. Third-party devs will likely come up with all sorts of creative ideas to integrate the API into their games and services, making Apple TV more fun at house parties and similar social gatherings.

Smart profile switching

control apple tv with phone feature

Another change worth highlighting is smart profile switching. As you may know, you can control your Apple TV using your iPhone. So now, when you wake up Apple TV through iOS, tvOS will automatically switch to your Apple TV profile. This spares you the need to manually select the correct user. While it may sound like a minor addition, it certainly saves people time and makes their lives easier.

This feature hasn't impacted me at all since I live alone. However, I can tell how helpful it'll be for groups that share a single Apple TV unit.


Apart from the features and changes mentioned above, tvOS 17 also introduces some smaller updates across the system, including the following:

  • Apple TV now packs more screensavers and supports Memories created by the Photos app.
  • HomePod 2 users can enjoy a new Enhance Dialogue feature that prioritizes voices over music and other sound effects in movies and shows.
  • tvOS now supports Dolby Vision 8.1 content, providing users with a more cinematic visual experience.
  • Users can now install and use third-party VPN apps on their Apple TVs, which could theoretically unlock geo-restricted movies and shows.
  • The Control Center has been redesigned to include more essential toggle, along with the time.
  • Users can locate a lost Siri Remote using their iPhones.

Final thoughts on the tvOS 17 experience

FaceTime app icon on tvOS

tvOS is a mature operating system, considering its nature and use cases. So, while this update may seem minor when you compare it to other Apple operating system updates, I actually think it's pretty innovative. No other smart TV platform I'm aware of has something similar to Continuity Camera baked in. And the best part is that it's available to all developers instead of being limited to a couple of Apple apps. I definitely have been using FaceTime more since the update, and the enhanced Apple Music Sing feature acts as a cool party trick for when non-tech-savvy people come over to my place.

tvOS 17 release date and compatibility

tvOS 17 has been available for beta testers since June. It'll launch to the public as a stable release on Sept. 18 at around 1:00 p.m. ET. To receive the update, you must have an Apple TV HD or Apple TV 4K model.

Beyond tvOS 17.0

tvOS 17.0 pretty much introduces all the major additions Apple announced during WWDC23. So, at this point, there's not much to look forward to in terms of minor 17.x updates. Understandably, the next exciting Apple TV introduction may not arrive before tvOS 18 beta 1 releases next June. Until then, we'll have to enjoy the current set of features that we've got alongside the smaller updates across other Apple operating systems.