What we learnt from developing for Apple TV


4 minute read
Pablo Carrillo

Pablo Carrillo

Technical Delivery Manager

Mobile Technology

You may know Apple TV as that Apple product that was around in 2007 that really never took off. However, the Apple TV of then is a very different story to now.

I was lucky enough to be there in person at the recent Apple Tech Talk in London (thanks to Apple’s raffle draw – cheers guys!) where Apple TV was discussed in length. If you’re interested in hearing all the details, these Tech Talks were recorded and are available online as of today.

The main difference between the Apple TV that you probably remember and the 4th Generation Apple TV  is that it’s own App Store and SDK. Not only does this vastly improve the usability of Apple TV by allowing audiences to easily connect to streaming services such as; Netflix, and Now TV.  It means you can now access a huge variety of applications.

Good examples of apps that work well with Apple TV are things like fitness apps or activities that have multiple users like Quizzes or Karaoke. Now you can work out more easily in your living room without having to awkwardly move your iPhone around with you (or have it strapped to your arm) and can have multiple friends singing along using the Smule karaoke app. It also means developers like us can create their own apps to run on the platform.

When the Apple Watch was released, we started developing for it straight away. Not only did we want to ensure we were up to date developing for the latest software, we were intrigued as to what the Apple watch might mean for location-related apps.  So we had some fun making the world’s first cat viewing app which was, *cough*, among the first EVER round of apps to be available for Apple Watch. *cough*   

When it was announced that developers could create apps for Apple TV, we thought it only right to carry on the legacy and make ‘Cat Viewer’ the Apple TV version. So when I was back in Bristol I started developing. Below are some observations I made while developing for Apple TV.

  • If you are an iOS developer, you will feel right at home developing for Apple TV as it uses the UIKit with just a few additions to make it easier to use the remote. One of the most significant changes is the Focus-Driven interfaces to move along in the UI.
  • Using the Apple TV simulator to test your app is just as easy as using the normal iOS simulator (you might want to make sure you have a high resolution screen for testing.) You can even have a project with several shared pieces of code between iOS and Apple TV; having two different targets for the different interfaces.
  • The Apple TV is not just a bigger iOS device. It is intended to be used in the living room and shared by everyone in your household so you need to think about how to deal with the various different users and accommodate that with strict requirements about data storage. The Apple TV is intended to always be connected to the internet and use iCloud to store all the user data (you can only store locally 500KB).
  • There are bigger restrictions regarding app size.  Apps for Apple TV can only be 200MB (as a first minimal download). After that you need to use On-Demand Resources to get up to 20GB of content. This is especially important for rich multimedia apps.
  • Good multimedia playback is essential to the experience of an Apple TV app.

This has just been a bit fun for us to learn, and hopefully, help you if you’re thinking of developing for Apple TV. We don’t have any plans to officially release ‘Cat Viewer’ for Apple TV. If you’re deeply disappointed by this news and was looking forward to having 24-hour cats populating your TV screens, then feel free to email us with your concerns and maybe we’ll consider releasing it. Until then, we put together this little demonstrator video below showing the app. You can also find out more on our Github. 

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