TidBITS#1296/02-Nov-2015

Apple yet again narrowly avoided pundit-predicted doom in its final fiscal quarter of 2015, wrapping up another record-breaking year for the company. The fourth-generation Apple TV is now available, and “Take Control of Apple TV” author Josh Centers has answers to all your questions! Apple has flooded the market with new products this year, but Take Control has been keeping up, and we have a roundup of our latest titles that provide the technical assistance you need. Back in the entertainment world, one of the main problems with digital movie downloads is how they’re locked into a single service. However, Disney has found a way to break its movies out of the usual walled gardens, as Josh explains. Finally, Glenn Fleishman joins us to discuss Wi-Fi Calling in iOS 9 and how to take advantage of it. Notable software releases this week include Parallels Desktop 11.0.2, ScreenFlow 5.0.3, OmniFocus 2.3, and OS X Server 5.0.15.
 
Articles
 

This issue of TidBITS sponsored in part by:
Help support TidBITS by supporting our sponsors!

Apple Wraps up a Record-Breaking Year in Q4 2015

  by Josh Centers: josh@tidbits.com, @jcenters, Michael E. Cohen: mcohen@tidbits.com, @lymond
  3 comments

Reporting on Apple’s Q4 2015 financial results, CEO Tim Cook jubilantly announced “a very strong finish to a record-breaking year,” citing net profits of $11.1 billion ($1.96 per diluted share) on revenues of $51.5 billion. The company’s revenues are up more than 10 percent compared to the year-ago quarter (see “Apple Posts Record Profits for Q4 2014,” 20 October 2014). Apple also posted higher gross margins (39.9 percent compared to 38 percent a year ago, largely as the result of lower component costs). For the full 2015 fiscal year, Apple reported revenues of $234 billion, a 28 percent increase over the previous year’s take.

It now seems clear that the end of mobile phone subsidies hasn’t hurt iPhone sales at all (see “Comparing U.S. iPhone Plan Costs in a Contract-Free World,” 11 September 2015). Apple sold 48 million iPhones in Q4, with a year-over-year revenue increase of 36 percent. The newly instituted Apple iPhone Upgrade program has so far had “negligible impact” on revenues, according to Apple CFO Luca Maestri, but Tim Cook said that both Apple’s program and those offered by carriers do have a positive effect in the market because such programs effectively create more price points for the iPhone product line, which in turn helps boost sales.

Apparently, the iPhone 6s is doing some damage to Samsung, Google, and other Android smartphone makers, as Cook reported that 30 percent of iPhone buyers in Q4 were converts from Android, a new record.

On the other hand, and surprising no one, the iPad continued its slow decline, with a year-over-year drop of 20 percent in both units sold and revenue. We’ll have to wait until next quarter to see if the upcoming iPad Pro will turn the tide (see “iPad Pro with Smart Keyboard and Apple Pencil Announced,” 9 September 2015). iPad sales could also be boosted by enterprise sales: Apple cited its ongoing partnership with IBM and its new partnership with Cisco as possible drivers for future iPad sales growth. Despite the decline in sales, the iPad product line still commands 73 percent of the market for tablets costing more than $200.

Apple’s revenue across all world segments was up, with a breathtaking rise in Greater China from $6.29 billion to $12.51 billion year over year. iPhones, in particular, are popular in that region, with sales increasing by 120 percent.

The Mac is hanging in there, chalking up a modest 3 percent increase in revenue year-over-year. On the other hand, in light of the 11 percent overall contraction in the PC market, the Mac is doing great, and it brought in more revenue than the iPad once again.


The Services category is seeing the benefits from Apple Pay, growing 10 percent over the past year and bringing in over $5 billion for the quarter. Apple Music likely wasn’t a factor here, since the first wave of three-month Apple Music trials didn’t end until 30 September 2015, 4 days after the end of Q4. However, Apple claims that the service has 6.5 million paying subscribers, which isn’t bad given its many problems (Apple Music competitor Spotify boasts over 20 million subscribers). Subscribers are certain to increase shortly, as Apple Music, along with iBooks and iTunes Movies, is being rolled out in China this quarter and is coming to the new Apple TV 4 this week.

Apple announced during the call that American Express users around the world will soon get access to Apple Pay, first in Australia and Canada, and followed by Hong Kong, Singapore, and Spain in 2016. Cook also said that Starbucks will soon support Apple Pay.

Apple continues to be cagey about Apple Watch sales, though year-over-year revenues in the Other Products category, which includes Apple TV, Apple Watch, Beats, iPod, and accessories, were up a whopping 61 percent. This figure does not include sales of the fourth-generation Apple TV model, as Q4 ended a month before pre-orders for the new set-top box began. However, Cook said that the new Apple TV had a “huge first day” of preorders. Even though no numbers were given regarding the Apple Watch, Cook did say that sales of the device were up and had exceeded expectations. While Other Products remains Apple’s smallest revenue category, it still brought in $3 billion in Q4, which would be a pretty good business on its own.

For anyone worried that Apple is doomed and will keel over at any moment now, fear not. Apple has added an additional $3.5 billion to its Smaug-sized cash hoard since Q3 2015, bringing its total stockpile to $206.4 billion. At this point, Cook couldn’t run Apple into the ground if he tried — though in fact, he’s doing quite the opposite.

Read and post comments about this article | Tweet this article


Take Control Books Catch Up with Apple Releases

  by Adam C. Engst: ace@tidbits.com, @adamengst

Keeping up with Apple’s release season gets harder every year, as the company flexes its muscles and pushes out ever more updates in quick succession. Fortunately, we at Take Control are accustomed to the pace and enjoy figuring out what to make of Apple’s latest. This year brought iOS 9, OS X 10.11 El Capitan, iCloud, watchOS 2, and tvOS, along with important changes in El Capitan’s bundled Mail and Photos apps. We’re still working on updates to a pile of books, including “Apple Watch: A Take Control Crash Course,” “Take Control of OS X Server,” and “Take Control of Apple TV,” but more interesting for now are the books we’ve already published.

Take Control of iCloud, Fourth Edition -- In the latest edition of this perennial best-seller, Joe Kissell helps you take control of the many tentacles of iCloud: photos, music, documents, keychains, contacts, calendars, file sharing, screen sharing, Family Sharing, iOS backups, and more. Notable new content covers iCloud Photo Library, iCloud Music Library, and navigating the latest ins and outs of iCloud Drive. Hundreds of other small changes keep pace with Apple’s constant fiddling, so that the book continues to provide comprehensive documentation of how iCloud works today, making it an essential part of your reference library.

Take Control of Your Digital Photos on a Mac, Second Edition -- Apple’s replacement of iPhoto and Aperture with Photos necessitated a massive rewrite of this book by digital photography expert Jeff Carlson. Jeff now helps you choose between Photos, Lightroom, and Photoshop Elements, before explaining how to develop a custom workflow for importing, evaluating, keywording, and tagging photos so they sort into logical groups. He also helps you pick and use an online service that allows you to view and edit your photos from any mobile device, providing details for iCloud Photo Library, Google Photos, Lightroom mobile, and Mylio. Don’t miss the photo of Tim Cook personally demonstrating the iPad mini to Jeff!

Take Control of Upgrading to El Capitan -- If you’re still hesitating about upgrading to El Capitan, Joe Kissell helps you install El Capitan on your Mac easily, based on his experience with countless test installs. You’ll find essential advice on hardware and software compatibility, problem prevention, prepping your drive, and picking the best installation method. Joe provides full installation directions, plus advice on over a dozen things to do immediately after installation.

El Capitan: A Take Control Crash Course -- If you’re already running El Capitan, former Macworld editor Scholle McFarland jump-starts your El Capitan experience with a detailed “What’s New” list and helps you take control of changes in the Finder and new features in apps like Safari and Notes. You’ll learn the latest techniques for working with Spotlight, iCloud Drive, Dictation/Speech, and more. Don’t miss the essential chapters on user accounts and troubleshooting in this Crash Course!

Troubleshooting Your Mac: A Joe On Tech Guide -- Much as Apple would like to pretend that Macs never have any problems (or at least very few, to crib a line from my favorite Dr. Seuss book, “I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew”), they can still suffer from significant issues. In this essential reference from Joe Kissell (based on his earlier book “Take Control of Troubleshooting Your Mac”), you’ll learn 17 basic troubleshooting procedures and how to solve 21 common problems, along with an easy-to-follow process for troubleshooting novel problems. Whether your Mac won’t turn on, experiences crashes or kernel panics repeatedly, won’t print, or can’t connect to the Internet, this book can help. It’s for all Macs running 10.9 Mavericks, 10.10 Yosemite, or 10.11 El Capitan.

Take Control of Apple Mail, Third Edition -- Sure, you use Apple Mail, but are you using it effectively? Another of Joe’s areas of expertise is Mail, and in the latest edition of this helpful book, he explains what’s new with Mail in El Capitan and iOS 9, and how to best set up your Gmail, iCloud, IMAP, and Exchange accounts. Joe also helps you take Mail to the next level with plug-ins and automation, shares his award-winning email management strategy, explains how to customize Mail, and provides solutions to common email problems.

Photos for Mac: A Take Control Crash Course -- Although less changed than Mail, Photos 1.1 in El Capitan sports important new geotagging and editing extension features. Former Macworld lead editor Jason Snell has updated his Crash Course to match, so you can make a smooth transition to Photos. You’ll find help with importing iPhoto and Aperture photo libraries, iCloud Photo Library, organizing and editing photos, syncing photos to iOS devices, sharing photos online, making slideshows, creating projects such as cards and calendars, and more.

iOS 9: A Take Control Crash Course -- Upgrading with iOS is generally easier than with OS X, but figuring out what’s new can be nearly impossible. In this Crash Course by TidBITS Managing Editor Josh Centers, you’ll get a close look at iOS 9’s new capabilities on the iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch. Topics include how those with recent iPads can use the new Split Screen, Slide Over, and Picture in Picture multitasking views; how to use Mail’s new features; how iOS 9 helps you save battery power; the trick to finding the hidden iCloud Drive app; the iPad’s new Trackpad mode; and much more. There’s also plenty of coverage of important iOS features that haven’t changed much.

A Practical Guide to Networking, Privacy & Security in iOS 9 -- No iOS device is an island, and when it comes to networking (and associated privacy and security topics), Glenn Fleishman is here to provide details about Wi-Fi Calling, Apple’s new two-factor authentication, and Safari ad blocking, among much else. Glenn also explains how your private details — who you are, what sites you visit, and where you physically go — are shared with Apple and others, and how to restrict or block that sharing. On the security side, he walks you through scenarios from securing your data in transit to connecting to a secure Wi-Fi network to dealing with a lost iPhone.

Read and post comments about this article | Tweet this article


Watch Disney Movies on Any Device with Disney Movies Anywhere

  by Josh Centers: josh@tidbits.com, @jcenters
  3 comments

These days, watching a movie on a disc seems old-fashioned, but digital downloads have a huge drawback: thanks to DRM, your movies are often locked into a single service. So if you buy a movie on Amazon, you can’t watch it on your Apple TV. Likewise, if you buy a movie from iTunes, you can’t watch it on anything but an Apple device.

Five of the six major Hollywood studios (along with a number of smaller movie studios, TV studios, and partners throughout the rest of the industry) tried to work around this by forming the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem and creating the UltraViolet digital locker system. In theory, you can register a movie with UltraViolet and watch it on any device. In practice, it’s awful, and frankly, I’ve never gotten it to work. Worse, Apple, Amazon, and Google didn’t choose to join the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem (DECE), so UltraViolet isn’t well integrated into those companies’ systems. On iOS, you (theoretically) access UltraViolet content via the Movies by Flixster app, an app that was originally designed to view theatrical showtimes, with a video player tacked on later. It’s a mess.

Disney went its own way, as it often does. Last year, the company launched Disney Movies Anywhere, its digital locker alternative to UltraViolet. At first, the service wasn’t interesting, because it integrated only with iTunes. But recently, Disney Movies Anywhere added support for Amazon Video, VUDU, Google Play, and Microsoft Movies & TV.

In plain English, this means that you can buy “The Lion King” from iTunes on your Apple TV, and then watch it on your Amazon Fire TV or Xbox. It’s a great system, and how the world of digital video should work.

To get started, sign up for free at www.disneymoviesanywhere.com or sign in with your Disney account. (You may already have a Disney account without realizing it. For instance, if you have an account with Disney-owned ESPN, that doubles as your Disney login. The Magic Kingdom is vast and sprawling these days.)

Once you’re logged in, you can connect your various video-service accounts to Disney. Click the gear in the upper-right and then click Connect Accounts on the left. Select the checkbox by a service, like iTunes or Amazon Video, log into that account, and you’re done! Once your accounts are linked, it just works. You buy a movie on one service and it shows up in your collection on another.


You can later disconnect accounts, but note that you can switch accounts with the same provider only once every 180 days. And the movies already registered with a provider will remain registered.

Disney often offers free movies when you link accounts. I got “The Incredibles” for free when I connected my iTunes account, and the company is currently giving away “Monsters Inc.” to new users.

When you think of Disney, you probably think of films for kids, but Disney also owns Marvel Studios and the Star Wars franchise, so Disney Movies Anywhere works with movies like “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” and most of the Star Wars movies. The exception is the original “Star Wars (Episode IV: A New Hope),” which is still owned by Fox.

Disney also offers Disney Movie Awards. You earn points by buying and registering Disney movies, and you can use those points toward free movies, toys, and other knick-knacks. You probably won’t get much out of it unless you’re a Disney fanatic or have a Disney-addicted child, but it’s a nice perk.

You can watch movies and manage your account on your iPhone or iPad with the Disney Anywhere app, but you don’t really need it, since your Disney movies should be available to stream in the built-in Videos app. (Or you can sync them to your device via iTunes, like any other iTunes Store movie.)

The only problem with Disney Movies Anywhere is that it doesn’t work with more movies! In an ideal world, the DECE companies would adopt the technically more successful Disney Movies Anywhere in favor of UltraViolet, although that may be a political non-starter. The other alternative is that the players behind UltraViolet could convince Apple, Amazon, and Google to get on board, but since that hasn’t happened already, it seems unlikely.

Read and post comments about this article | Tweet this article


Turn on Wi-Fi Calling in iOS 9

  by Glenn Fleishman: glenn@glennf.com, @glennf
  13 comments

Making phone calls over Wi-Fi isn’t anything new — except to many iPhone users. Several years ago, T-Mobile pioneered a hybrid Wi-Fi/cellular calling option in a push to supplement its relatively small cellular network footprint. With home routers that optimized voice calls and special handsets, T-Mobile subscribers could shift usage of what were then expensive cellphone minutes to unlimited Wi-Fi calling.

Over the years, more carriers came on board, but Apple didn’t add support for making calls over Wi-Fi on an iPhone until iOS 8, and initially only for T-Mobile. Sprint flipped its switches later in iOS 8’s release cycle, and AT&T enabled it only after iOS 9 was released. Verizon just filed paperwork to offer the feature as well. (AT&T claims T-Mobile and Sprint violate the law by offering Wi-Fi Calling without providing adequate support for accessibility services.)

Again, this isn’t new to people who have had used it for years. But for the vast number of iPhone users who have experienced only AT&T’s and Verizon’s networks, the details are worth understanding.

While the iPhone 6, 6 Plus, 6s, and 6s Plus are supported by all three network operators that allow Wi-Fi Calling, check with your carrier about minimum iOS version and older iPhones.

Unified Phone Calling via any Network -- Wi-Fi Calling is a particular sub-class of Voice over IP (VoIP) and Internet telephony. While services like Vonage offered a “real” (public switched telephone network or PSTN) phone number starting many years ago, and Skype and other mobile apps enabled voice connections that are phone calls for all intents and purposes for the last few years, Wi-Fi Calling ties directly into the existing cellular telephone infrastructure. (This is true in both iOS and other mobile platforms, including Android.)

The idea is that instead of having separate phone numbers and apps and choosing from which to originate calls, your iPhone handles all incoming and outgoing calls for a single number through its Phone app and related settings. With some cellular carriers, Wi-Fi Calling can relay from other devices so you can even place calls from a Wi-Fi-only iPad or iPod touch. You don’t need to know whether a particular call is using Wi-Fi Calling or the cellular network — it’s seamless and should only give you better performance, not worse.

When T-Mobile introduced its flavor of Wi-Fi Calling way back in 2007, it was trying to leverage what was then a very slender spectrum profile. Years earlier, to compete with carriers that had higher-speed networks and more coverage, T-Mobile had partnered with Starbucks and other locations to put Wi-Fi access in thousands of spots.

T-Mobile also lacked sufficient spectrum licenses to provide a consistent experience in homes and offices. Wi-Fi Calling was a good bridge. With a then-special Wi-Fi router that prioritized voice data using the relatively slow 802.11g standard, T-Mobile could let people make and receive calls at home, at work, and at Wi-Fi hotspots. They also didn’t count the calls against minutes used. (Carriers later started offering tiny cellular base stations — femtocells — that plugged into a Wi-Fi network and used licensed frequencies operated by the carriers, but that approach never caught fire because of the cost to consumers and poor quality.)

This goal continues to drive modern Wi-Fi Calling: carriers can’t always provide a great calling experience inside a home or office, and with so many customers, it’s guaranteed that a decent percentage will live and work outside strong coverage areas. My family once stayed in a house on Mount Desert Island in Maine that had no cell service at all but nonetheless boasted 8 Mbps/1 Mbps ADSL Internet service, even though we were deep in the woods. I have many friends who can barely make calls in their houses today, including one in the heart of a major residential neighborhood in Seattle.

Wi-Fi Calling thus leverages an alternate path to the same network. Since 2G cell standards emerged, mobile calls are all digital, anyway. As standards have progressed, the calls work more and more like any other data — though still tagged for priority through what’s often called quality of service (QoS).

(In a separate effort to improve mobile calling, all U.S. carriers are also moving towards Voice over LTE (VoLTE), in which voice calls use 4G LTE data networks to dramatically improve dynamic range, clarity, and consistency. Newer LTE phones support VoLTE, but carriers are still rolling out support city by city, and VoLTE between different carriers still doesn’t exist. When you get a VoLTE-to-VoLTE call, though, it’s almost shocking how much better it sounds — like talking on a good Skype connection!)

You don’t have to use Wi-Fi Calling, especially if you have a typical service plan that allows unlimited voice calls in the United States (and sometimes within and to other countries) and you never suffer from poor reception. However, if you have sketchy connectivity, or travel a lot, Wi-Fi Calling is a big advantage for ensuring that you can always make and receive clear calls.

This is especially true outside America’s boundaries with some carriers. T-Mobile charges nothing for incoming calls over Wi-Fi Calling, wherever you are, and counts minutes for calls placed to U.S. numbers, whether on U.S.-based Wi-Fi or elsewhere in the world, against plan minutes, which can be unlimited; Sprint is the same. AT&T, by contrast, is so far limiting calls to be received and placed when a customer is in the United States, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. However, this seems likely to change.

Manage Wi-Fi Calling -- Turning on Wi-Fi Calling is a low-stress operation. Here’s the procedure for AT&T; it varies only a little for other carriers:


  1. In Settings > Phone > Wi-Fi Calling, enable Wi-Fi Calling on This Phone.

  2. You’re prompted with a long explanatory message labeled Enable Wi-Fi Calling? Tap Enable.

  3. You get an AT&T-specific welcome screen. Tap Continue.

  4. You’re presented with extensive information about 911 emergency calling. While AT&T tries to switch to cellular for 911 calls to identify your whereabouts, it can’t always and needs a street address as a fallback location. Tap to continue.

  5. Enter your street address and tap to continue.

  6. Tap Verify Address if the address shown — as corrected by AT&T to match its location database — is accurate.


  7. Finally, tap OK.

Wi-Fi Calling can take a few minutes to activate. When it’s ready, the text “Wi-Fi” appears in the status bar, between the carrier name and the Wi-Fi signal strength waves.


You can return to the same setting location to disable Wi-Fi Calling. I had to do this when my home Internet connection went wonky just before I switched ISPs. (Once I got my new ISP’s connection working properly, I re-enabled Wi-Fi Calling.) You may need to do the same if you find yourself on a Wi-Fi network with inconsistent service that causes phone calls to drop or suffer poor quality. You can also update your emergency address later on, should it change.


Beyond the iPhone, T-Mobile and Sprint let you relay Wi-Fi Calling from other devices; T-Mobile requires iOS 9.0 or later, while Sprint requires iOS 9.1 or later. That means you can place calls using an iPad, iPod touch, a Mac running OS X 10.11 El Capitan, or an Apple Watch with watchOS 2. The iPhone doesn’t have to be within range or even powered on, Apple says, except for calls originated from the Apple Watch. (This is an extension of a Continuity feature that allows placing and receiving cell-based calls via an iPhone, but works in only the specific carrier and OS combinations described.)

On your iPhone in Settings > Phone > Calls on Other Devices, you can choose whether to allow any relayed calling or not, and which devices. The Apple Watch can already place calls just by being paired with an iPhone. On the Mac, you use FaceTime to place audio calls by clicking the phone icon, just as if you were making a cellular call relayed through an iPhone.


(A note on 911 emergency calling: 911 calls are routed over Wi-Fi only when a cellular connection can’t be made. The hierarchy, according to AT&T, is first cellular, then Wi-Fi plus your location information derived from Apple’s Wi-Fi location database, and lastly Wi-Fi plus your registered address — even if you’re not at that address, it’s the best information available. That may not sound ideal, but think of it this way: without Wi-Fi Calling, the 911 call would be entirely impossible to make.)

The End of Voice as a Separate Thing -- Wi-Fi Calling is a particularly old-school service, taking what began life as a switched-network, circuit-based hardware routing system (the PSTN) and dropping what is effectively a PSTN simulation into the Internet. It has taken a long time to arrive, especially given that we’ve had Skype-like equivalents for so many years, but it’s nonetheless welcome since Internet telephony remains fragmented and flaky.

I switched to making most office calls using Skype’s PSTN offering long ago. That service has only gotten better over time, and when integrated with Google Voice for forwarding, I seldom know from where a call originates. The call rings all over, and I pick it up wherever is convenient — on my Mac using a headset or an iPhone, via Skype or FaceTime or the Phone app.

The future of Internet telephony is the disappearance of voice as a separate service to think about. Wi-Fi Calling is an odd step in that direction, but it dissolves more of the boundaries between voice and data.

More about iOS Networking, Privacy, and Security -- If you’re looking for more detailed information and step-by-step instructions for a wide variety of activities related to this topic, take a gander at my latest book, “A Practical Guide to Networking, Privacy & Security in iOS 9,” which the fine folks at Take Control have available for sale for $15.

The 177-page book covers Wi-Fi and Bluetooth configuration and troubleshooting, working effectively on cellular networks (including avoiding overage fees), configuring your iOS device for the greatest amount of privacy protection, working with content-blocking Safari extensions, and managing security settings from everything ranging from VPN clients to Find My iPhone.

Read and post comments about this article | Tweet this article


The New Apple TV: TidBITS Answers Your Questions

  by Josh Centers: josh@tidbits.com, @jcenters
  18 comments

The fourth-generation Apple TV is now available for purchase and pre-orders have arrived in homes. Apple was kind enough to send me one before they went on sale, so I’m happy to answer your Apple TV questions (and yes, a new version of “Take Control of Apple TV” is in the works; anyone who buys a copy now will get it for free). If I’ve missed anything you want to know about, ask in the comments.

What’s new with the Apple TV? Should I buy one?

It’s much faster than the third-generation model, being powered by a dual-core A8 instead of the single-core A5. It also comes with the Siri Remote, which features a glass trackpad, volume buttons, and — as you’d expect from the name — Siri support.


On the software side, the new Apple TV is powered by a new operating system, tvOS, which is more closely aligned with iOS than the previous Apple TV software. Along with tvOS comes an App Store, app switching, Siri support, and notifications.

If you own a second-generation Apple TV, the upgrade to the new model is a no-brainer, since Apple stopped supporting the second-generation model long ago.

If you’re a third-generation Apple TV user who feels that the current model is a bit long in the tooth, and you have the money to spare, the new Apple TV is an easy purchase. If you moved away from Apple TV, but want a box on which to play iTunes content, it’s also a good buy.

However, if you’re mostly happy with your third-generation Apple TV, there’s no harm in waiting a bit to give Apple a chance to work out any kinks. And if you depend on optical audio (TOSLINK) to route audio from your Apple TV to your sound system, you’ll want to hold off for now.

Why? What happened to the TOSLINK port?

It’s gone, unfortunately, which is perplexing, given how much thicker the new model is than the old one (35 mm versus 23 mm). Presumably, Apple expects everyone to have upgraded their audio receivers to HDMI-compatible models, but many home theater enthusiasts — including me — still have older receivers that do not support HDMI.

One solution is to route your audio from your TV to your receiver, instead of connecting the Apple TV directly to the receiver. But if this isn’t an option for you, a device like the ViewHD HDMI Audio Extractor should do the job.

Does the new Apple TV support 4K resolutions?

No, it maxes out at 1080p. But 4K TVs are still sort of rare, and 4K content even more so, so I doubt most users will miss it. Bear in mind that many viewers have a hard time even distinguishing 720p from 1080p unless they have large televisions or sit close to the screen. The jump to 4K will likely be even harder to notice unless TV sizes make a massive jump, like they did when the industry moved from standard-definition CRTs to high-definition flatscreens.

How much does the new Apple TV cost?

It’s $149 for the 32 GB model and $199 for the 64 GB model.

There are two Apple TV models? Which should I buy?

That’s an excellent question! Apple recommends the 32 GB model for users who plan to primarily stream media and play a few apps and games, and the 64 GB model for those who expect to use a lot of apps and games.

But that’s a simplistic answer. Apps and games can be as large as 200 MB on initial download, and then take up to an additional 2 GB after installation. Developers can also access up to 20 GB of resources in iCloud.

The trick is that the Apple TV, at least in theory, should manage your space for you so you never run out. Apps will discard unused content automatically (like the tutorial level in a video game) and download new content as needed. In theory, when the Apple TV runs low on space, it’ll jettison older content in favor of the new, and redownload content as needed. Dave Tach at Polygon has written an excellent technical explanation.

What this means is that if you have a fast Internet connection with no data cap, 32 GB should be sufficient. But if you have limits on your Internet bandwidth, the 64 GB model might be the better investment. That’s a guess — until we see how apps use bandwidth, we won’t know if it’s really much of an issue.

What happens to the previous Apple TV?

It sticks around at $69, but we don’t anticipate much in the way of new updates. There may be an update to enable Apple Music, but we’re not holding our breath.

Where can I buy an Apple TV?

Apple’s Web store is probably the best place, and physical Apple Stores should have them in stock. Other retailers, like Best Buy and B&H, will also carry the new Apple TV.

If you were planning to buy one from Amazon, we have bad news: Amazon won’t carry it (see “Amazon to Stop Selling Apple TV and Google’s Chromecast,” 2 October 2015). Amazon is dropping both Apple’s and Google’s streaming boxes due to “customer confusion.” That is, Amazon is worried about customers being confused that a video-streaming device might not support Amazon Prime Video.

If I lose or break my Siri Remote, can I buy a replacement?

Yes, but it’ll cost you: $79 from Apple. Ouch!

Is there anything else I should buy with my new Apple TV?

You’ll need a male-to-male HDMI cable if you don’t already have one. Apple will happily sell you one for $19, but you can get a better cable for less from the likes of Amazon or Monoprice. Be sure to measure the distance between your TV’s HDMI port and where you plan to place your Apple TV to make sure you buy a cable of the right length.

Apple sells an AppleCare protection plan for this Apple TV for $29, though that’s probably a waste of money, since like AppleCare for Macs, it doesn’t cover accidental damage.

There are already a few Apple TV accessories on the market. Apple sells a Remote Loop for $12.99 that attaches to the Siri Remote’s Lightning port and loops around your wrist so you don’t drop or throw it while playing games. If you have sweaty palms or young children, or worst of all, young children with sweaty palms, this may be money well spent.

Image

Studio Neat sells a $12 Siri Remote stand, made out of CNC-milled walnut with a tung oil finish and a micro-suction base. Other stands will likely appear soon.


If you want a game controller for your Apple TV, the SteelSeries Nimbus is the way to go. At $49.95, it’s one of the least expensive Made for iPhone controllers, and it’s the first controller designed with Apple TV in mind, even featuring a Menu button. The battery lasts for over 40 hours and it also works with iOS devices and Macs. You can buy it from Apple’s online store.


Do I need a game controller to play games on the Apple TV?

No, all apps must support the Siri Remote, but some games will likely work better with a dedicated controller.

How does the Apple TV stack up as a gaming device?

It isn’t for hardcore gaming, but it has some fun casual games. People who buy it for media streaming are going to be pleasantly surprised with the gaming options. Out of the gate, you’ll be able to find some iOS favorites like Alto’s Adventure, Badland (see “FunBITS: Badland for iOS,” 21 June 2013), Crossy Road (see “Apple Announces 2015 Design Award Winners,” 10 June 2015), Jetpack Joyride, Oceanhorn (see “FunBITS: Oceanhorn Emulates Zelda on iOS,” 31 January 2014), and Shadowmatic (another 2015 Apple Design Award winner). The good news is that all of these apps either support universal purchase, or are free, so if you own the iOS versions, they’ll be available on your Apple TV!

However, hardcore gamers will likely be frustrated with the gaming experience. Developers might have some surprises up their sleeves, but the Siri Remote is too small and limited to provide much in the way of traditional gaming experiences. Bear in mind that Apple requires all apps to function with the Siri Remote, so developers will be limited in what they can do with more advanced controllers.

Unless you’re a huge Apple nerd, buying a 64 GB Apple TV and a game controller to focus on gaming is a mistake. By the time you’ve bought all of that, you’ll have spent about $250. For just $100 more, you could purchase an Xbox One or Playstation 4 bundle and get a much richer gaming experience.

That said, I’m looking forward to seeing what game developers do with the device. Don’t look at the Apple TV as a gaming box, but rather a media box that can also do apps and games.

Will I have to buy my iOS apps again for the Apple TV?

You may have to buy some of them again. Some apps (like the game Alto’s Adventure) support universal buy, meaning that if you own the iOS app, you can download the Apple TV equivalent for free. However, some developers are choosing to sell their TV apps separately from their iOS apps.

Can I still set up my Apple TV with an iOS device?

Yes! When setting up your new Apple TV, you can choose to do an automatic setup by placing your iOS device (other than the iPad 2) running iOS 9.1 near the Apple TV, with Bluetooth enabled. Follow the prompts on the iOS device to set up Wi-Fi automatically and log in to your Apple account. However, this won’t also configure third-party apps like Netflix.

So I still have to log into each third-party app individually?

Yes, because unfortunately, Apple didn’t implement a single-sign-on service. So you must individually set up each app that requires a login or a cable authentication.

Can I at least use a Bluetooth keyboard when logging in?

Sadly, no, Apple has removed this functionality from the fourth-generation Apple TV, and I’m not sure if it’s coming back.

Why? My theory is that Apple doesn’t want developers trying to bring things like text editors to the Apple TV. Sorry, BBEdit, but I can’t think of a better answer.

So if I have to log into all these services and can’t use a Bluetooth keyboard, the onscreen keyboard must be pretty good, right?

No. In fact, text input on the new Apple TV is a huge step backward, since the letters are arranged in a straight line instead of a grid. Entering passwords via the onscreen Apple TV keyboard is infuriating, since you have to scroll through every letter. It’s a big step down from the previous Apple TV interface, which presented the keyboard as a grid that was easier to navigate.


I’ve heard that if you unpair the Siri Remote and use an Apple Remote instead, tvOS will switch to the old grid-style keyboard, which is both strange and would defeat part of the purpose of the new Apple TV.

I have iOS devices and an Apple Watch. Can those control the Apple TV?

Not yet. The Remote app needs to be updated to work with the new Apple TV.

How much of a learning curve is there with the new Apple TV’s interface?

Very little! Other than Siri and the App Store, the new interface should be familiar to Apple TV veterans. Once you get past the new colors and whizzy parallax effects, the interface is almost identical to the previous models. You choose apps from a grid in the main menu, and the other menus are quite similar to the old model.


However, with third-party apps no longer being stringently controlled by Apple, some have seen bold redesigns, like HBO’s new Apple TV apps (which I find to be much better than the previous ones).


Speaking of apps, will the new Apple TV also be full of junk apps I don’t want?

No, unlike the previous Apple TV models, the fourth-generation Apple TV comes with only a bare minimum of apps. You download the ones you want from the App Store.

Are all of my favorite Apple TV apps in the App Store? Even Qello Concerts?

Almost every app that was available on the third-generation Apple TV is available for the fourth-gen model in the App Store. But Apple’s Podcasts app is gone (I’m pretty sure it’s coming back, since it’s featured in Apple’s marketing materials), and I’ve heard that some Canadian Apple TV apps are missing.

Is the Flickr app in the App Store? Can I use it to set screensavers?

Yes, it’s still there, but the screensaver functionality is broken. Selecting Use as Screensaver in an album presents an error message: “Screensaver functionality is not available at this time. Flickr will be updated with screensaver support as soon as possible.”

How can I organize all the apps I’m going to download?

You can’t move apps into folders, but you can easily add and remove apps. Also, you can now move apps from the top row of the main menu! To move an app, highlight it on the main menu and press down the touchpad until the icon starts shaking. Slide your finger around the touchpad to move the app and tap the touchpad to fix it in place.

So how do I get rid of apps I don’t want?

Press down an app like you’re going to move it, and when it starts shaking, press Play/Pause to delete it. Or you can go to Settings > General > Manage Storage, and click the trash button next to the app.


And how do I add an app back after I’ve deleted it, or find an app I already own on iOS?

Open the App Store, move up to the top navigation bar, and select Purchased. Then you can select the app in question to put it back on the main screen.


How do I return to the main screen?

Either press Home on the Siri Remote or press and hold the Menu button.

Is there any way to switch between apps without going back to the main menu?

Just like on an iPhone or iPad — double-press the Home button on the Siri remote to bring up the app switcher, and then select the app you want.


Do headphones work with the new Apple TV?

Yes, you can finally connect Bluetooth audio devices to the Apple TV, which should be a boon for those with Bluetooth hearing aids, or anyone who wants to listen to TV without bothering others in the room! To do so, go to Settings > Remotes and Devices > Bluetooth, put your device in pairing mode, select the device from the list, and follow the onscreen instructions. Unfortunately, if you have multiple Bluetooth devices, the Apple TV will connect to only one at a time. If your Apple TV is connected to one Bluetooth audio device and you try to connect it to another, the first one will be kicked off.

What if I’m using earbuds with a mic? Can I activate Siri via a Bluetooth microphone?

Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like you can do that yet. Seems a shame, and perhaps Apple will add that capability in a software update.

Does the new Apple TV still work with AirPlay receivers?

Yes! Either select the device from the video menu (swipe down while a video is playing), or select it in Settings > Audio and Video > Audio Output.


Can I use the volume buttons on the Siri Remote to adjust Bluetooth and AirPlay speaker volume?

Unfortunately, no. You have to adjust volume either on the audio device itself or in Settings > Audio and Video > Volume, as you can see in the screenshot below. This is another step backwards from the previous Apple TV, which let you adjust AirPlay speaker volume from the video menu.


Will my old Apple Remote work with the Apple TV?

Yes, indeed, since the new Apple TV still has an IR sensor. Mine worked out of the box, though talking to it made me feel like Scotty in “Star Trek IV.”

Can I still program any IR remote to work with the Apple TV?

Yes! Go to Settings > Remotes and Devices > Learn Remote. However, a third-party remote can’t learn the Home or Siri buttons.

How do I use Siri on the Apple TV?

Pretty much like on an iPhone or iPad. Hold the Siri button on the Siri Remote and state your query. You must hold the button down while talking to activate the microphone, and keep it down the entire time you’re talking.

What can Siri do for me on the new Apple TV?

Does “What did s/he say?” work in third-party apps?

Yes, in some of them. I can confirm that it works in Netflix and HBO GO. It also works in YouTube, but doesn’t display subtitles there.

Does Siri search only iTunes content, or can it find programs from other services?

When you search for content, Siri will show alternative sources to iTunes, such as Netflix, HBO NOW (or HBO GO), and Hulu. Unfortunately, developers don’t have access to this functionality yet, so it’s limited to the services with which Apple partners.


Is Siri buggy?

Of course it is, it’s Siri! Siri sometimes misunderstands me, and there are some things it has trouble finding.

Another drawback to Siri is that video keeps playing while it’s activated, although it mutes the audio so as to not interfere with voice recognition. I hope Apple updates the Apple TV to pause video while using Siri.

Bizarrely, Siri does not work with Apple Music, and Apple says it won’t until early 2016. It also cannot search the App Store.

I’ve heard that the Siri Remote can control my TV and receiver? How does that work?

Pretty well, actually. Out of the box, the volume buttons controlled my Sharp TV’s volume. However, I wanted it to control my receiver’s volume instead, as can be configured in Settings > Remotes and Devices > Volume Control (you can also disable volume control here).

The Siri Remote can also turn your TV on and off automatically. This can be disabled in Settings > Remotes and Devices.

How this functions depends on whether or not your TV supports HDMI-CEC, which is built into many newer television sets and receivers. With HDMI-CEC, your Apple TV can control your equipment via the HDMI cable. If your equipment doesn’t support HDMI-CEC, you can still control the volume and turn the TV on and off with the Siri Remote. When putting your Apple TV to sleep, keep it pointed at the TV to turn it off. For more information, see this Apple support article.

Wait, how do I wake and sleep the Apple TV?

To wake up the Apple TV, press any button on the Siri Remote (you may have to do this several times). To put it to sleep, hold the Home button and select Sleep.

Will I still be able to view iTunes content via Home Sharing?

Yes, and the Computers app is still there in the main menu. It works just as it did before. Enable Home Sharing in iTunes on the Mac via File > Home Sharing, and then enable Home Sharing on the Apple TV in Settings > Accounts > Home Sharing, making sure to log into the same Apple ID as in iTunes.


Does Siri search my Home Sharing library?

Sorry, not yet. Apple TV’s search is limited to the iTunes Store and App Store.

Does the new Apple TV support Apple Music?

Yes, the built-in Music app is designed around Apple Music and iCloud Music Library. Unfortunately, that’s all it works with. It doesn’t display content from the iTunes Store or iTunes Match. Thankfully, you can access your iTunes library locally in the Computers app.


Does the new Apple TV support iCloud Photo Library?

No, and that’s a disappointing lapse. Just like the previous Apple TV, the new model displays only iCloud Photo Stream and shared iCloud photo albums.

What apps are available for the Apple TV?

There are a lot of apps at launch, and unfortunately, there are no categories yet in the App Store, so it’s tough to navigate. Happily, the good folks at iMore have posted a video displaying every app available at launch.

Will Amazon bring an Instant Video app to the Apple TV?

Although Amazon has iOS apps for Instant Video, it appears that the company is boycotting the new Apple TV, at least for now. Apple told BuzzFeed News that “all are welcome” on the new Apple TV. Amazon hasn’t submitted an app to the App Store, and it refused to comment when asked.

Is a Plex client available?

Yes, the official Plex client is now available, but a $4.99 in-app purchase is required. As an alternative, you can purchase SimpleX for $2.99, though it doesn’t support the Plex music and photos sections.

Can I take screenshots or videos of my Apple TV’s screen?

You can, but not from the Apple TV itself. You need a USB-C to USB type A cable to connect the Apple TV to your Mac, and you can then take screenshots with Xcode or videos with QuickTime Player. Serenity Caldwell wrote a nice how-to for iMore.

That’s it for now, but we’re sure you have more questions, and feel free to ask them in the comments. We’ll do our best to answer them and update this article or write more articles as appropriate.

Read and post comments about this article | Tweet this article


TidBITS Watchlist: Notable Software Updates for 2 November 2015

  by TidBITS Staff: editors@tidbits.com

Parallels Desktop 11.0.2 -- Parallels Desktop has been updated to version 11.0.2 (build 31348) with a number of bug fixes for the virtualization software. The update resolves an issue with mouse cursor positioning in Windows 10 when using all displays in Full Screen, fixes a bug related to dragging and dropping from a virtual machine to OS X in Coherence, sorts out a problem with opening virtual machine applications from the Dock in OS X 10.11 El Capitan, ensures that Microsoft Office application windows render correctly in Coherence after restoring a window from the Dock, and rectifies a problem with installing an El Capitan virtual machine from the .app image.

Parallels Desktop has been split into three editions — the standard Parallels Desktop edition for home and student use, a Pro Edition that’s designed for developers, and a third Business Edition that touts a number of IT administration features. The standard edition of Parallels Desktop is priced at $79.99 for a one-time purchase, while the Pro and Business Editions are available only via a $99.99 annual subscriptions. If you have a license for either Parallels Desktop 9 or 10, you can upgrade to version 11 of either the standard edition for $49.99 or the Pro Edition for a $49.99 yearly subscription. You can get a free 14-day trial of the standard Parallels Desktop edition, but you’ll need to provide an email address. ($79.99 new for standard edition, $99.99 annual subscription for Pro/Business Edition, $49.99 upgrade, free update for version 11 licenses, 289 MB, release notes, 10.9.5+)

Read/post comments about Parallels Desktop 11.0.2.

ScreenFlow 5.0.3 -- Telestream has released ScreenFlow 5.0.3 with support for OS X 10.11 El Capitan and a number of bug fixes. The screencast recording app fixes a couple of runtime errors that occurred after media had been deleted, resolves a dreaded “beachball” slowdown that occurred when making cuts on imported MP4 files, fixes a problem that prevented videos from publishing to Facebook, rectifies a problem that left unsupported export options checked after changing encoder presets, and fixes a crash when attempting to remove a media file that ScreenFlow couldn’t locate. For a complete rundown of the new features, read the PDF release notes from Telestream’s download page for version 5.0.3 (requires login). ($99 new from the Telestream Web site or $99.99 from the Mac App Store, 52 MB, 10.10+)

Read/post comments about ScreenFlow 5.0.3.

OmniFocus 2.3 -- The Omni Group has released OmniFocus 2.3 with a new Custom Columns layout added to the Getting Things Done-inspired task management app. Added to OmniFocus’s preferences, the Custom Columns layout redistributes horizontal space automatically between the columns as you resize the window, and those with an OmniFocus Pro license can choose which layout to use per perspective via the View popover in the toolbar. The update adds title folding capabilities that show only the first line of an item’s titles to keep rows vertically compact, updates the note button in the Fluid and Custom Columns layouts, fixes bugs and visual glitches in OS X 10.11 El Capitan, and addresses a bug that incorrectly reported a sync conflict. ($39.99 new for Standard edition and $79.99 for Pro edition from The Omni Group Web site, $39.99 for Standard edition from Mac App Store (with in-app purchase option to upgrade to Pro), 25.1 MB, release notes, 10.10+)

Read/post comments about OmniFocus 2.3.

OS X Server 5.0.15 -- Apple has released OS X Server 5.0.15, which has been updated for compatibility with OS X 10.11.1 El Capitan (see “Apple Releases OS X 10.11.1 to Fix Microsoft Office 2016 Crashes,” 21 October 2015). The update also improves support in the Web service for handling certain custom Apache configurations, adds support for two-factor authentication in the Xcode service, makes enhancements to the OS X Server iOS file sharing service, and improves the Profile Manager. According to this Apple security note, the release also patches multiple vulnerabilities in versions of the BIND DNS server prior to 9.9.7-P3 as well as a vulnerability related to an HTTP header field reference missing from a configuration file. ($19.99 new, free update, 203 MB, release notes, 10.10.5+)

Read/post comments about OS X Server 5.0.15.


This is TidBITS, a free weekly technology newsletter providing timely news, insightful analysis, and in-depth reviews to the Apple Internet community. Feel free to forward to friends; better still, please ask them to subscribe!

Non-profit, non-commercial publications and Web sites may reprint or link to articles if full credit is given. Others please contact us. We do not guarantee accuracy of articles. Caveat lector. Publication, product, and company names may be registered trademarks of their companies. TidBITS ISSN 1090-7017.

Copyright 2015 TidBITS Publishing Inc. Reuse governed by this Creative Commons License.
TidBITS Publishing: 50 Hickory Road, Ithaca, NY 14850, USA 607-216-8248