tvOS 18: 6 Apple TV 4K updates we want to see at WWDC 2024

Apple TV 4K with Severance on the TV screen
(Image credit: Apple)

With WWDC 2024 happening on June 10, I'm once again prompted to take a cold, hard look at my Apple TV 4K (2022) streamer and imagine how it could be made better with the introduction of tvOS 18.

Recent rumors from reliable sources such as Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman indicate that new Apple TV 4K hardware is unlikely to arrive soon. And while there’s always the possibility Apple will surprise us at WWDC 2024, we’re mostly left to speculate on ways the best streaming device might be improved through updates, like the great ones Apple added in tvOS 17.2.

Those changes mostly involved a new sidebar navigation panel that lets you add tabs to quickly access streaming services you’re subscribed to. Within the panel are Profiles, which can be used to customize the Apple TV 4K experience for multiple household members by listing recently watched programs and providing personalized recommendations. There’s also a Store tab to rent and buy movies and shows, and improved search, with options other than Siri added.

Subsequent updates since tvOS 17.2 have been much smaller, leaving the field wide open for tvOS 18. Here are some of the changes we’d like to see in the next major tvOS version:

1. AI-enhanced Siri search 

Much of the pre-WWDC buzz involves an AI-enhanced version of Siri threading its way through the Apple ecosystem. AI has the potential to improve the software running the best iPhones and best Mac computers in many ways, but it also holds possibilities for tvOS. The new search options added in tvOS 17.2 included an onscreen menu-based voice search menu that bypassed Siri altogether – a feature Apple likely implemented to give people who prefer not to deal with Siri a different search option. But what if Siri were made smarter and more conversational?

Normally, Siri-aided search on the Apple TV 4K is basic – say “Martin Scorcese” and you will get a list of movies by the director to navigate and click through. But an AI-enhanced Siri could allow for more granular, free-wheeling search sessions such as: “Sci-fi movies… from the 1970s… with an ecological disaster theme.” The possibilities here are intriguing – we've seen similar tech with Tivo's excellent voice control, but Apple could probably take it another step further by adding a conversational aspect from Siri.

The Apple TV 4K 2022 with its remote on a grey background

(Image credit: Apple)

2. AI-enhanced subtitles 

Movies and TV shows with subtitles have enjoyed greater acceptance over the past few years owing to mega-hits such as Parasite and Squid Game – and people use them for English language shows too, whether they're hard of hearing or not. t’s been many years since I’ve watched Trainspotting, but I recall struggling to make out some of the characters’ thick Scottish accents even when they're speaking the same language as me. But not all movies and TV shows have subtitles embedded, and that’s another area where AI could make itself useful in tvOS. Streaming has made international TV shows and movies readily available to everyone, so if AI could analyze the speech and create subtitles in real time, that'd be massively helpful… and it could mean subtitles are available in more languages, via live translation. 

3. Cloud gaming app support 

Earlier this year, Apple opened up its App Store to third-party cloud gaming services, allowing for apps such as Xbox to be used on iPhones and iPads. About time! The next step, and one we hope to see in tvOS 18, is for a big push on cloud gaming. Smart TVs from brands like Samsung and LG have made huge strides in making the best TVs powerful gaming platforms, with apps for Xbox, GeForce Now, Amazon, Luna, Utomik, and other services readily available. With its extended support for Bluetooth gaming controllers of all kinds, the Apple TV 4K is ready to step things up as a cloud gaming platform to keep pace with smart TVs – we'd love to see the games within cloud apps treated as well as movies within streaming apps are, with quick access from the menus.

HomePod 2 on shelf in a home

HomePod 2 can already be used with Apple TV, but it could be better. (Image credit: Future)

4.  Extended HomePod support 

We’ve rattled on about this topic in earlier tvOS wishlists, but Apple has yet to realize the full home theater potential of the Apple TV 4K, specifically by failing to implement a HomePod 2 and HomePod mini surround-sound option. Apple’s HomePod 2 wireless speakers support Dolby Atmos, and a pair of them can be linked to the Apple TV 4K as an AirPlay 2 audio output. That’s great if you’re looking for a better sound quality option than your TV’s built-in speakers, or an alternative to the best soundbars.

But what if the Apple TV 4K could wirelessly link with an additional pair of HomePod 2 speakers located at the rear of the viewing area? That would provide a much better immersive audio experience, both for watching movies and listening to music in Dolby Atmos from the best music streaming services such as Apple Music. As an Apple TV 4K upgrade, it seems like a no-brainer, and it’s one we hope to see implemented in tvOS 18.

5. Improved onscreen keyboard 

The Apple TV 4K’s onscreen keyboard is one of its most unloved features, and for good reason. Extending horizontally across nearly the TV’s full-screen width, you need to scroll back and forth on it to enter text, and the process can be tedious.

There are options with some tvOS apps to use your iPhone to enter text instead of using the onscreen keyboard, but the support is not universal and not everyone with an Apple TV 4K owns an iPhone. You can also use Siri to dictate, but that can be hit and miss – though that too may change if Siri gains AI smarts in tvOS 18.

Apple needs to update its onscreen keyboard to make it more user-friendly. Hint: look at what Roku is doing to get an example of how to make onscreen text entry less laborious and time-consuming.

Samsung Relumino shown on and off on image of flowers

Samsung's Relumino Mode works to enhance images for low-vision viewers. (Image credit: Samsung)

6. More accessibility features 

The Apple TV 4K offers several accessibility features such as Siri voice control, audio description capability, and 15-times image magnification. And while those features are all great, Apple could be doing more to make its streaming box a model for accessibility.

Recent Samsung Smart TVs provide a Relumino Mode feature that can dynamically accentuate the edges of objects and boost contrast and color to make images easier for low-vision users to see. That is just one example of how TV makers are pushing the accessibility envelope. As the manufacturer of the most premium – and pricey – streaming box on the market, Apple with its vast research and development resources could be doing the same.

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Al Griffin
Senior Editor Home Entertainment, US

Al Griffin has been writing about and reviewing A/V tech since the days LaserDiscs roamed the earth, and was previously the editor of Sound & Vision magazine. 

When not reviewing the latest and greatest gear or watching movies at home, he can usually be found out and about on a bike.