tvOS 15 for Apple TV is out now, adds spatial audio through AirPods

tvOS 15 for Apple TV is out now, adds spatial audio through AirPods
(Image credit: Apple)

The last few days haven't been all about the iPhone 13 – the Apple TV 4K has been updated too. With its new tvOS 15 operating system – which is available now – the streaming box of tricks gains some significant new skills, like spatial audio support for AirPods, the ability to pair with HomePod Mini speakers, easy switching to AirPods for private listening, and more.

First up, spatial audio support. Apple's audio tech – which makes the audio sound three-dimensional – is now supported through Apple's AirPods Pro and AirPods Max headphones. It also supports dynamic head tracking, so if you move your head, the audio will adjust accordingly for a more realistic experience – turn your back on the screen, and it'll sound like it's coming from behind you, for example (though why you would do that is beyond us).

This works with 5.1, 7.1 and Dolby Atmos audio sources. You can also use the 'spatialise stereo' feature to upscale stereo to near spatial audio three-dimensionality. Spatial audio only works with video at the moment, not gaming, and the streaming app must support it (the Apple TV app, Disney+, HBO Max, iTunes, and Netflix currently do).

tvOS 15 makes it easier to listen through your AirPods, too. It'll detect when your headphones are nearby and show an on-screen notification that enables you to pair them and start listening.

You can now pair one or two HomePod Mini speakers to your Apple TV 4K, and take the TV's audio (including audio from connected HDMI devices like game consoles) through HDMI eARC and beam it wirelessly to HomePod Mini.

There are also new screensavers, a new video player UI, and Siri on HomePod can now do more with voice controls (like start playing content) instead of just powering the Apple TV on or off or adjusting volume.

tvOS apps will be able to use Face ID on a user's iPhone or iPad to log in and authenticate payments, there are some HomeKit camera enhancements, and you can unlock smart locks with your Apple Watch or iPhone with the Apple TV acting as the hub.

SharePlay – which lets you group watch – is delayed, as is Dolby Atmos and lossless support directly on HomePod when it's not connected to the Apple TV.

The update is available now, but some features are exclusive to the Apple TV 4K, not the more affordable Apple TV HD.


See what's next: Apple AirPods 3: price, design, release date, leaks and news

Apple spatial audio: what is it? How do you get it?

Read our Apple TV 4K (20201) review

Joe Svetlik

Joe has been writing about tech for 17 years, first on staff at T3 magazine, then in a freelance capacity for Stuff, The Sunday Times Travel Magazine, Men's Health, GQ, The Mirror, Trusted Reviews, TechRadar and many more (including What Hi-Fi?). His specialities include all things mobile, headphones and speakers that he can't justifying spending money on.