Differences Between Writing tvOS and iOS Apps

A couple months back I completed my first tvOS app, FeaturedDisplay. While the process is very similar to making an iOS app I found there were a few differences:

  1. How you make icons – tvOS uses layered icons to give a parallax effect when focused. Instead of using a single file, multiple files are placed in an assets catalog and are then laid on top of each other to make the final product. Here are Apple’s images and icons guidelines for tvOS that cover all of the icon/image requirements.
  2. Library support – Even if a third party library does not explicitly support tvOS it is just a derivation on iOS so with a few minor tweaks (e.g. commenting out some iOS-specific version checks) you can likely get most iOS libraries out there to work with your tvOS app.
  3. Focus Engine – One major departure from iOS is the Focus Engine which is used to drive the tvOS interface. While it mostly “just worked” right out of the box for me there seems to be a fair amount of tutorials out there if you do run into any issues.
  4. Not a huge amount of tvOS-specific help resources – Not a big shock here but there just aren’t as many people making tvOS apps so there is less existing answers out there if you bump into something. One that I encountered was adding license text to the settings bundle similar to how the Music app does it.
  5. Linking to your app – When I first released my app this fall I noticed that there was no way  to link to it. There was no option to generate an iTunes link like you can for other apps/music/books and the Apple TV has no web browser so it was pretty much impossible to point users to your app. Luckily Apple remedied this issue in early November and you can now make iTunes links for tvOS apps.