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Apple ships tvOS 17 with FaceTime and Apple Fitness Plus changes

Apple's new tvOS 17 has dropped — here are many of the new features contained within.

It's a well-documented fact that tvOS doesn't get the same robust yearly updates as iOS or macOS — but this year has changed that. Apple has overhauled significant parts of the Apple TV's operating system with tvOS 17, adding a breadth of new features to the set-top box.

FaceTime, Continuity Camera, Reactions

With the advent of tvOS 17, those running a second-generation Apple TV 4K or newer updated to tvOS 17 will be able to use FaceTime. This is done via Continuity Camera, which allows users to use an iPhone or an iPad as a dedicated webcam for the Apple TV.

With this update, Apple has brought full Continuity Camera API support to the Apple TV, enabling video integration into apps. Popular video conferencing platforms Cisco WebEx and Zoom have promised to hit the set-top box by year's end.

Apple TV now includes a new feature called Reactions. These are video effects that can be activated through hand gestures. Although Apple hasn't disclosed a complete list of supported gestures, we triggered a thumbs-up bubble by simply giving a solo thumbs-up. Additionally, two thumbs up led to full-screen fireworks appearing behind us.

Control Center

Control Center has received significant updates as well. In the top-right corner of the Home Screen, there is a persistent display that shows various system information. This display shows the current time, any connected AirPods, if music is playing, and which profile is currently active. To open it, simply hold down on the TV button.

Available controls include the power button, Wi-Fi access, Do Not Disturb mode to mute notifications, Spotlight search, and AirPlay output options.

There are new options for managing gaming controllers, accessibility settings, and restrictions. A new sleep mode can turn your TV off after 15 minutes, 30 minutes, 1 hour, or two hours.

Apple Fitness Plus

Apple Fitness Plus gets some notable changes in tvOS 17, too.

Now, users can prioritize between the trainer's motivational instructions or the background music while working out. This feature is called Audio Focus and can be accessed through the in-video audio menu. Users can select their preferred focus to enhance their training session.

Additionally, the update introduces Stacks, which are groups of workouts that can be completed in succession without interruption. This eliminates the need to search for and start a new workout session after completing one.

Other changes to tvOS 17

Now, Apple TV users have the option to add a VPN directly to their device. By using third-party apps, your data on Apple TV can be masked, providing better privacy and security. Additionally, a VPN can help you adjust the "location" of your Apple TV, which can be useful in bypassing location-based blackouts on sports events.

If you often misplace your remote, you now have the option to use your iPhone to locate it. Accessing the Remote app through Control Center in iOS 17 allows you to track down the lost remote if it is close. While you can't activate any audio, the Bluetooth signal will help you get closer to it.