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Apple TV's new TVOS 12 is available now: What's new and how to get it

The fruit company's streaming box gets Dolby Atmos, "zero-sign-on" and more.

Apple TV 4K
Sarah Tew/CNET

It's Apple software update season, and along with iOS 12 for iPhones ($1,337 at Amazon Marketplace) and iPads ($1,000 at Amazon), the latest update for Apple TV ($179 at Walmart) and Apple TV 4K is ripe and ready to pluck.

The new version of Apple's operating system, TVOS 12, brings mostly minor improvements -- unless you're lucky enough to have a massive Dolby Atmos home theater audio system. OK let's face it: Even if you are that lucky, the improvement isn't exactly earth shattering. Let's dive in.

What you get

Dolby Atmos capability on Apple TV 4K: Atmos is one of the highest-quality surround sound formats available today. It adds to the more widely known 5.1 surround sound formats, like Dolby Digital and Dolby Digital Plus, with dedicated "height" channels designed to more precisely locate sound in space. Now the Apple TV 4K is compatible.

Now playing: Watch this: Dolby Atmos comes to Apple TV 4K
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Dolby Atmos titles on iTunes, with free upgrades: Apple claims its iTunes service will have the world's largest library of Atmos titles -- take that, Vudu! -- and that if a user owns a title that later adds Atmos, that title will get upgraded free of charge. That's similar to Apple's current upgrade policy with 4K HDR movies.

Zero sign-on for cable subscribers' TV apps: Cable and other pay TV subscribers can immediately unlock full episodes and other content on TV apps (including ESPN, Nick Jr. and FX Now) without having to sign in to the individual apps at all. The system detects the user's broadband connection and signs into all the apps their subscription supports, automatically. Charter Spectrum subscribers are the first to gain support, with others to follow.

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Óscar Gutiérrez/CNET

Apple TV and Siri can work with third-party remotes: High-end remote makers CrestonControl 4 and Savant have already announced partnerships with Apple TV, meaning those companies' voice remotes can be used to invoke Siri. I'd love it if that tech trickled down to affordable universal remotes, namely Logitech Harmony. We'll see.

Password autofill from the iPhone keyboard: Now if you have an iPhone or iPad running iOS 12, you'll get an alert when you encounter a login screen to an app such as Netflix on your Apple TV. Tapping the alert brings up the phone's keyboard with your password as a suggested fill-in. Tapping it fills in the password on Apple TV. Easy-peasy.

Screensavers by NASA: Apple TV's gorgeous screensavers will include new satellite imagery.

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James Martin / CNET

How you get it

Your Apple TV is generally set to download new software automatically, and since TVOS is available now that should happen soon. If you can't wait, feel free to force the upgrade. Head to the Settings app and select System > Software Updates > Update Software.

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