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by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Jason Snell

Hands on with the tvOS 9.1 update

Apple rolled out a bunch of software updates today, including tvOS 9.1, which adds a few key features to the product that were missing at launch: the ability to use an iPhone as a remote, and extended Siri support.

Apple TVs running tvOS 9.1 are detected by the same old Apple Remote app that hasn’t been updated in months—it just works, as if it was an older, previously-compatible Apple TV model. I was able to connect to my fourth-generation Apple TV and use my iPhone as a trackpad to navigate through the menus, tapping on the screen to emulate a click on the Siri Remote. When a text-entry area appeared, the iPhone vibrated and an on-screen keyboard slid up, allowing me to type the text rather than pecking it out using the keyboard on the TV set.

Music search has arrived for the Siri Remote, too. It works, but my results were mixed. When I said, “shuffle my ‘Latter Day Bob Mould’ playlist”, it starting playing from the playlist and displayed a button so I could choose whether I wanted to switch to the Music app or remain where I was. When I said “show me the album ‘Hamilton’,” rather than showing me the only album containing that string in my library or doing a search on the word in Apple Music, it showed me a single album by an artist named Hamilton.

Similarly, when I said “show me the musical artist Randy Newman,” the Music app launched and showed me a Pixar soundtrack by Randy Newman. Apple Music has an artist page for Randy Newman, and when I typed “Randy Newman” into the Music app’s search field, it was the first item offered to me. Seems like Siri’s music search results should err on being a bit more expansive—showing results that might match—rather than jumping straight to a questionable result.

Still, I use my Apple TV’s Music app more than any other—owing to the fact that it’s currently the only device that’ll play Apple Music on my living-room speakers—and I’m glad that I can use voice search to access it. It’s a great step forward, as is the addition of Apple Remote app support. Just in time for the holidays, the Apple TV is noticeably improved from its original release software.

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[Get much more Apple TV-related stuff on our Apple TV page.]