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Roku OS 9.4 will add Apple's AirPlay 2 and HomeKit, more ways to access free content

Roku OS 9.4 will support Apple's AirPlay 2 and HomeKit standards.
Roku OS 9.4 will support Apple's AirPlay 2 and HomeKit standards. (Image credit: Roku)

In addition to new hardware with the updated Roku Ultra and all-new Roku Streambar, the company today also announced Roku OS 9.4, the newest version of its operating system. The biggest takeaway here is that it includes support for Apple's AirPlay 2 and HomeKit standards, making it the first operating system to support it as well as Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa.

“The Roku OS allows consumers to easily get to the content they want to watch so they can sit back and enjoy the show,” Ilya Asnis, senior vice president of Roku OS at Roku, said in a press release. “With Roku OS 9.4, we give our customers even more choice and new ways to navigate and control content-rich experiences on and off Roku devices.”

The Apple part of the equation will roll out later this year, so don't expect it in the upgrade at first. But once it lands, it'll make it as easy as a couple taps on an iPhone or iPad (or clicks from a Mac) to share content and screens onto a television, same as if you were using an Apple TV box. It'll also allow you to control your Roku device using the Home app on you Apple hardware.

Other improvements and changes with Roku OS 9.4 include:

  • A new live channel guide on Roku TVs: This works in conjunction with The Roku Channel — which comprises all sorts of live (ad-supported) content from all sorts of sources. You'll be able to choose between a couple of views. And if you have an over-the-air antenna plugged into your Roku TV, you'll be able to see those channels all in one place, too.
  • Roku Voice Hints: So you'll have a better idea of how to control your Roku with your voice.
  • New volume adjustments for Roku Wireless Speakers: If you're using Roku Wireless Speakers as rear speakers, you'll now be able to control them.
  • The Roku Channel Mobile app: That's right — a full app for all the free shows available via the Roku Channel. It'll be available on iOS and Android smartphones. You'll also be able to access any premium content you've bought through Roku via the app, too.
  • More linear channels: The Roku Channel is expanding its free live/linear channel lineup in the U.S. with new channels, such as Cinedigm's Bloody Disgusting TV, The Craftistry from Studio71, Circle, HappyKids.tv, Hi-YAH! - The Martial Arts Channel, iFood.tv, The LEGO® Channel, Maverick Black Cinema, MOVIESPHERE, Skills + Thrills, VENN, WeatherSpy, as well as a variety of Spanish-language entertainment including Sony Canal Novelas, Sony Canal Comedias, and Sony Canal Compentencias from Sony Pictures Television and Tastemade en Español, starting September 29.
  • Faster speeds: Initial setup time will be quicker, as will channel load time.
  • Updated theme packs: You'll be able to customize your Roku experience more than ever before — including the addition of fun screen saver and themes such as Jungle, Western, Nautical, Kids, and more. And new audio tones are included, too.

Roku OS 9.4 will begin updating on devices later this month and will hit all supported devices in the coming weeks. Roku TVs — which are developed in partnership with television manufacturers and take more time to update — will get the new operating system in the coming months.