Apple releases iOS 12.3, macOS 10.14.5, watchOS 5.2.1, and tvOS 12.3

Today, Apple began rolling out new versions of its iOS, macOS, watchOS, and tvOS operating systems for iPhones and iPads, Macs, Apple Watches, and Apple TVs, respectively.

The updates are largely focused on the video services that Apple announced at its March 25 event—namely, a revamped Apple TV app, Apple TV Channels, and an expansion of AirPlay 2 to devices produced by Apple’s partners.

A handful of bug fixes, performance optimizations, and other small tweaks are also included in the updates.

And no doubt deliberately timed with these updates, AirPlay 2 and Apple TV app support has finally rolled out to supporting Samsung TVs as planned. Apple says they’ll roll out to supporting LG, VIZIO, and Sony smart TVs “later this year.”

There’s still no sign of the Apple TV+ subscription service and its included original programming unveiled at the aforementioned event, but that wasn’t expected just yet. Apple will likely launch that this fall.

The new Apple TV app and Channels

The centerpiece of two of these updates (iOS 12.3 and tvOS 12.3) is the revised Apple TV app. Now available in 100 countries, it has a revised interface, the new Channels feature, a kids’ tab, and quite a bit more—all of which was previously described at Apple’s March 25 event and detailed in a blog post published by the company earlier today.

The headlining “Channels” feature is a new, easier way to subscribe to content from networks like HBO, Showtime, and Starz through the Apple TV app and Apple’s own billing system. You could do this before in some cases, but Channels is an entirely new platform that’s a bit different on the back end—the content actually plays in the TV app through Apple’s own system, rather than requiring you to download and open a third-party application.

This is a little more convenient, but it also allows Apple to enforce strict standards about tracking user viewing data—and it, of course, plays into Apple’s push to further monetize and control services used on its devices.

The other big change is access to the iTunes library directly from the TV app; previously, you’d have to actually  your TV episodes and movies in the iTunes app but watch them in the TV app, which could be confusing. Now you can buy directly within the app.

Users can share subscriptions with others in their households via Family Sharing (up to six people), and Apple also added new personalized recommendation features in the app.

iOS 12.3

Now let’s get into the updates themselves. iOS 12.3 is arguably the most extensive of the four. It adds the new TV app and Channels feature just described, plus AirPlay 2 support for targeting those Samsung smart TVs that now support it (and the TVs from other brands that will support it later). See the description above or the notes below for all the details on the TV features.

In terms of smaller features, Apple’s notes for this update say that you can now follow a magazine from the Apple News+ catalog browsing view, and Apple Music will offer more frequent personalized recommendations. Apple also talked up the editorial curation of the kids’ section in the Apple TV app, so once again we’re seeing evidence of Apple’s big spree of hiring an army of editorial people to carefully monitor, filter, and select all the content that appears across News, TV, Books, Music, and the App Store.

Apple is investing a lot more in that approach and placing a much greater emphasis on it than any of its competitors. As we’ve seen at recent events, Apple sees itself not just as a tech company, but as a guidepost for culture.

Bug fixes include a fix for non-responsive Apple TV remotes, a solution for some Wi-Fi call drops, and a fix for an issue “where song information from a connected iPhone may not appear in a car’s display.”

These are Apple’s release notes:

iOS 12.3 includes support for AirPlay 2-enabled TVs and features a redesigned Apple TV app. This update also includes bug fixes and improvements.

AirPlay 2

Apple TV app

The update also includes bug fixes and improvements. This update:

tvOS 12.3

tvOS 123 also rolled out today, alongside an Apple TV Software update labeled 7.3 for older Apple TV units. The result is a new TV app experience for the third- and fourth-generation Apple TVs as well as the Apple TV 4K.

And these are Apple’s brief release notes on Apple TV Software Update 7.3:

This update includes general performance and stability improvements and this feature:

macOS 10.14.5

macOS Mojave 10.14.5 adds AirPlay 2 support and otherwise largely focuses on bug fixes and performance improvements. Apple says the update reduces audio latency on 2018 MacBook Pros and fixes an issue with OmniOutliner and OmniPlan. Point releases like this generally don’t offer much in the way of new features.

The notes from Apple for macOS 10.14.5 are as follows:

Enterprise content:

Hang tight if you’re still waiting for some big feature, though; Apple will likely outline big new features for the next major macOS release at its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in early June.

watchOS 5.2.1

watchOS 5.2.1 is the first update since the one that added support for Apple’s second-generation AirPods. The headlining bug fix “fixes an issue where the numbers on the Explorer face would not appear for some users.” Additionally, it brings the ECG app and irregular-heart-rhythm notifications to users in Croatia, the Czech Republic, Iceland, Poland, and Slovakia.

It’s not mentioned in the update notes, but the update also adds a new 2019 version of the LGBTQIA+ Pride watch face. Users can select either the 2018 or 2019 face, whichever they prefer.

Here are Apple’s release notes for watchOS 5.2.1:

All of these software updates are rolling out to devices starting today. If you don’t see them yet, wait a bit and look again—they should become available to all users soon.

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