Apple TV 4K to Add Dolby Atmos

Among the many headlines coming out of Apple’s recent 2018 Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) was word that the next generation Apple TV 4K will be the first streaming player to support both Dolby Vision high dynamic range (HDR) images and Dolby Atmos immersive surround sound. The player also supports Dolby Surround 5.1 and Dolby Digital Plus 7.1 sound but has yet to embrace the DTS audio formats.

The upgrades are part of the new tvOS 12 operating system Apple plans to roll out in the fall. Looking beyond the hardware, Apple promised that iTunes will be “home to the largest collection of Dolby Atmos supported movies” when the new Apple TV 4K becomes available this fall and said movies purchased on iTunes or through Movies Anywhere partners will be automatically upgraded to Atmos. When the Apple TV 4K first came out, movies stored in the user’s iTunes library were automatically upgraded to 4K HDR versions of the titles.

While the addition of Dolby Atmos is welcome news, Apple TV 4K is not the first streaming player to support the format. The 4K version of Amazon Fire TV also supports Atmos sound but it’s limited to HDR10 high dynamic range processing on the video side.

Dolby Atmos sound debuted in movie theaters in 2012 with the animated Disney feature film Brave and has since been included a number of movies available for streaming through Vudu. Among them: Edge of Tomorrow, The Man from U.N.C.L.E, Valerian and the City of 1,000 Planets, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, The Great Wall, Star Trek Beyond, Oblivion, Wonder Woman, and a couple dozen others. Netflix and Amazon also offer a limited selection of 4K titles with Dolby Atmos audio.

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Other announcements at the WWDC include an expansion of live sports and live news feeds in the Apple TV app and a partnership with Charter Spectrum cable in the U.S. Through a new Spectrum TV app, Charter Spectrum subscribers will have access to live channels and tens of thousands of on-demand programs. The Spectrum TV app will be available for the iPhone and iPad and include Siri integration.

Apple says subscribers to cable, satellite, telecom, and online streaming services will find it easier to access apps they subscribe to through their live TV plans because log-in credentials will only have to be entered once.

The tvOS12 update also replaces single sign-on with zero sign-on for some cable customers. Subscription cable channels will be detected and authenticated automatically for Charter Spectrum subscribers initially, with other providers to follow. This will save a lot of time and hassle when setting up a new Apple TV.

To further simplify setup, the new Apple TV will use AutoFill to access information saved on an iPhone, iPad, or Mac computer, reducing typing.

More remote control options are becoming available, too. The Apple TV remote control will be added to the control center on iPads and iPhones for quick access, and some TV remotes will be able to control the Apple TV. Home control systems such as Control 4, Crestron, and Savant will also be able to control Apple TV and use Siri for voice search and control.

Apple announced a seemingly small yet compelling update. When the Apple TV goes idle, the default screensavers show beautiful aerials of locations from around the world. The views are so stunning that my family has watched them over and over again while trying to figure out the location. With the new update, users will be able to tap the remote to get that information and have the option of switching to a different location.

At the WWDC keynote, Apple previewed a new group of screensavers from NASA featuring breathtaking footage taken from the International Space Station, and announced updates for iPhones/iPads, Mac computers, and Apple Watch. One update that might extend to Apple TV is the ability to customize Siri voice commands. For example, a “Watch a movie” command would turn on the TV, turn down the lights, and open the Netflix app.

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