Lessons Learned from Developing Apple TV App

If I had a magic lamp then I would wish that I would be able to create apps for the Apple TV! Fortunately, we don’t need a magic lamp because with the release of the new Apple TV you can now create apps for the Apple TV. Apple wants Apple TV to succeed and that is why they even gave away Apple TV Developer Kits to the developers free of charge! Well not exactly free, they charged $1, man I miss that $1 …. NOT

Now, that the Apple TV is available for sale, the rush to submit the apps is on. I was fortunate enough to develop and submit my Apple TV app called “7 Minute Body” to the App Store. During the development of “7 Minute Body” app I learned a lot of things about the new tvOS framework which are explained below:

60–90

No, these are not the winning lottery numbers! But in a way they are because top:60 and left:90 margins will allow your Apple TV apps to be content focused without cutting your precious content. This guideline is clearly mentioned in the Apple TV HIG document. Of course, it does not mean that you should not put any content at those locations. It simply means that you should think twice if you are putting navigation features at those position which, might be get cut on older TVs.

Focus:

Apple TV is all about easy navigation and highlighting your content. Focus is an important part of the navigation experience. Consider the following screen:

The screen starts with the focus on the “Begin Workout” button. You and swipe down to get the focus on the individual items. But as you move towards the items on the right you can no longer swipe up to move the focus to the button. This is a serious problem since now the user has to move all the way to the left and then up to move the focus on the button. The way you solve this issue is by using UIFocusGuide. UIFocusGuide class is designed to expose non view areas as focusable. UIFocusGuide represents an invisible, focusable region that can redirect focus movement to other views. Here is a really nice article which covers UIFocusGuide in detail.

Parallax

Your Apple TV icons (large and small) must be layered icons which provide a parallax effect. Once, you have created the layered icons as an .lsr file you can simply drag and drop the file inside Xcode assets catalog. This will create a new file for the icon which will also allow you to preview the parallax effect. The easiet way to set your icon as the default icon is to remove all the layers (front, middle, back) from inside the default icons and drag your icons layers into it.

Top Shelf Icon

The Top Shelf icon can be a simple PNG file. For this you don’t even need to rename any icons. Simply, drag your image right on top of the default image and it will be set as the Top Shelf icon as shown in the following screenshot.

The Top Shelf icons are supposed to be opaque. This means you will have to remove the alpha channel from the top shelf images. No worries, because using the preview tool you can simply export the image as a .png and remove the alpha channel as shown below:

Menu Button

The Menu Button on the Apple TV remote works as a back button. This means that the menu button is the only means for the user to go back to the main screen of the Apple TV. Make sure that your app does not interfere with the menu button navigation and allows the user to go back to the home screen.

James Thomson also noted that if you do not call super.pressedEnded event when you are overriding the pressedEnded event then your app will get rejected.

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Pricing

Pricing is always a difficult beast to tame! Especially, on a complete new platform like Apple TV. It would be interesting to see how developers price their apps! My app “7 Minute Body” will have a small price tag attached to it. I will definitely be experimenting with pricing the app and see what works the best!

Update

Yesterday (10/29/2015) I was able to download and install the released version of the Apple TV SDK. This version enabled the App Store on Apple TV. One of the things I immediately noticed that there are no categories, yet! The only way to search for your app is through the search field.

I was also curious that how people are going to leave reviews for the apps they downloaded since writing a review using the Apple TV remote is cumbersome. I finally got my answer yesterday, presently you cannot leave written reviews for the apps on Apple TV. However you can rate the app since it is more easy and intuitive!

And finally, it was awesome to see my app on the App Store. Hope you like the app and download it :)

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See ya in the Apple TV App Store! :)

iOS Developer, speaker and educator. Top Udemy and LinkedIn instructor. Lead instructor at DigitalCrafts. https://www.udemy.com/user/mohammad-azam-2/

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