tvOS: First Impressions

Brian GilhamEssays

Finally. I’ve been excited by the prospect of creating apps for the Apple TV since 2012. After three years of rumours and hints from Apple execs, it’s finally here. After downloading all the things, I fired up Xcode 7.1 and started poking around tvOS.

Hey, everyone has to start somewhere right?

Some quick first impressions:

  • There’s two ways to build a tvOS app. A full UIKit-backed app or an app built using JavaScript and TVML. TVML sounds pretty similar to how current Apple TV apps work — XML templates provided by a server. Interesting that they’ve left that as an option.
  • The simulator is huge. It simulates a 1080p display and, near as I can see, there’s no way to test it at a smaller resolution. I can see the entire window on my Thunderbolt Display, but my 13-inch Retina Macbook Pro requires bumping it down to 50% scale to be useable.
  • You interact with the simulator using a simulated remote. You can’t just click around like you would in the iPhone simulator. After some reflection, I’m glad developers are forced to interact with tvOS apps the same way their users will.
  • Local storage is not an option. I tweeted about this pretty quick yesterday. Apps are limited to 200mb — anything beyond that will have to be fetched dynamically. Apple’s On-Demand Resources, introduced at WWDC, were created for this very reason, I suspect.
  • Lots of iOS frameworks didn’t make the cut. I was most surprised by the exclusion of HomeKit. You can see the full list here.

All told, I’m extremely excited. There’s lots to learn and lots to share. More to come as I dig in.