Apple TV settings, Siri remote tricks, and more
There are a slew of under-the-radar features that let you customize your TV to your heart’s content and make it much easier to use. Here are 30 tips and tricks to make the most out of your fourth-generation Apple TV.
Siri searches across apps
Searching for stuff to watch on your Apple TV just got a whole lot easier with the help of Siri. If you search for a movie or TV show from the home screen, Siri will search across several apps, including iTunes, Netflix, Hulu, Showtime, and HBO. If you open one of those apps and use voice search, Siri will show results just in that app. There are tons of tips and tricks to using the new Siri remote alone, so check out our list of Siri commands here and more touchpad remote shortcuts here.
If you need an assist or don’t know what to ask, just press the microphone button on the remote and Siri will offer a few prompts.
When you’re playing a video, a quick swipe down on the trackpad reveals some audio options. “Reduce Loud Sounds” will attempt to smooth out jarring changes in volume (handy for loud commercials in some TV streams), but Full Dynamic Range is the default. If the app you’re using supports closed captioning or foreign language subtitles, you can control that here. You can also select different speakers, which is great if you have a receiver or soundbar that supports AirPlay, or even paired Bluetooth headphones if you don’t want to wake the baby.
When "swipe down" won't disappear
When you’re watching a show or movie in an app like Hulu or YouTube, you can swipe down for more options as it plays. But if the “Swipe down for info” alert doesn’t disappear after a few seconds, which happened to Macworld’s Susie Ochs frequently in Hulu, either pause and restart the video to make it disappear, or press Menu to go back one level and then restart the video.
New Aerial screensavers
If you love the Aerial screensaver, head to Settings > General > Screensaver, and with Aerial selected in the Type field, you can change the Download New Videos field from Monthly to Weekly or even Daily. Just be aware new videos are downloaded in batches of about 600MB. You can’t customize which views you’re shown in Aerial, though—no restricting it to just your favorite city, for example.
Choose your own screensaver
You can use your own photos as screensavers instead of the stunning aerial options Apple preloaded on the TV. Open the Photos app on your TV and then select an album you want to use as the screensaver carousel. Tap the screensaver option to set that album as your screensaver. You can change up your screensaver at any time by going to Settings > General > Screensaver > Screensaver Type.
Create Apple Music playlists
Apple Music subscribers can add to existing playlists or create new ones straight from the Apple TV. Pick a song to play, then use the touchpad to tap the More option (denoted with the ellipses) at the top of the Now Playing screen. Tap Add to Playlist and pick one to add to, or select “new” and give your playlist a name. If all goes well, iCloud Music Library will sync the playlist across all your devices.
Just like the iPhone
Apple TV has an app switcher of its own—just double-tap the TV button on your Siri remote. You can close apps by swiping up on the touchpad remote.
Get rid of unwanted apps
How to delete apps after installing them: Navigate over to the unwanted app and highlight it, then press down on the touch surface of your Siri remote until the app jiggles, just like it would on an iOS device. Press the play/pause button on the remote, then tap “Delete.” As on iOS devices, you can’t remove native tvOS apps that shipped with the device.
Free up storage space
The new Apple TV comes with 32GB or 64GB of space, depending on how much you spend. If you’re an app-hoarder with a 32GB version, you’ll need to keep a close eye on how much room you have left by tapping through Settings > General > Manage storage. You’ll see a full list of apps stored on the TV and how much space they take up. You can delete the most egregious space-hogs by highlighting and tapping the trash can icon next to each app, or you can delete apps directly from the home screen.
Move apps around the home screen
If you just want to move an app without deleting it, follow the same steps as you would to delete it: Highlight it and press down on the touch surface to make the app jiggle. Instead of hitting the play/pause button, just use the touchpad to swipe side to side or up/down and move the app around.
Put the TV to bed
You can’t power down the new Apple TV, but you can put it to sleep. Just hold the home button, which will prompt the TV to ask if you also want to turn off devices connected to the TV—this means your television set. Press the home button once to turn it back on again. You can also put the TV in sleep mode by going to Settings > Sleep Now.
Two tips to restart
So you can’t turn off your Apple TV, but you can reboot it if you need to by tapping through Settings > System > Restart. If that doesn’t work for some reason, hold down the menu and home buttons on the Siri remote at the same time, then let them go when your display starts flashing.
Add multiple Apple IDs to your TV
Multiple people can use the Apple TV in your house, and they don’t have to load up your account with their purchases if you don’t want them to. Associate multiple Apple IDs with your TV by adding a new Apple ID under Settings > Accounts > iTunes and App Store. After the new ID is added, your family members can switch to their accounts under Settings > Accounts > iTunes and App Store. If they install apps on the TV under their account, those apps will remain on your home screen.
Skip forward, jump back
Siri can handle many of the little tasks you want to perform on your Apple TV, like fast-forwarding or rewinding content you’re watching. But you can also skip back and forth through a movie or show using the Siri remote: Press the right side of the touchpad to skip 10 seconds forward, and press the left side to skip back 10 seconds.
Pair Bluetooth accessories to your TV
You can only pair one Siri remote to a fourth-gen Apple TV, but you can pair two additional Bluetooth accessories: Either two MFi Bluetooth game controllers, or one game controller and one Bluetooth audio accessory, like headphones or a speaker. Pair your accessories to the TV by tapping through Settings > Remotes and Devices > Bluetooth and selecting the device you want to pair.
Forget Bluetooth devices
If you want to swap out one of your paired Bluetooth accessories for another one, just unpair one under Settings > Remotes and Devices > Bluetooth. Pick the accessory you’re done with, then select Forget Device.
Use the Apple TV remote to control your display
Turn your Siri remote into your main TV remote, or at least give it some extra functionality, by letting it control your TV power and volume. Let your Apple TV remote turn your TV on and off by tapping through Settings > Remotes and Devices > Turn On Your TV with Your Remote. To enable your Apple TV remote to control your TV’s volume, select Settings > Remotes and Devices > Volume Control.
The Siri remote offers an accessibility assist for people with low or impaired vision. Ask Siri to turn VoiceOver on, or navigate to Settings > General > Accessibility > VoiceOver. As you highlight text with the touchpad remote, VoiceOver will read the text aloud. You can pause VoiceOver by tapping the touchpad once with two fingers. Tap twice with two fingers to resume VoiceOver. Check out more VoiceOver controls in Apple’s TV support documents here.
Magnify your screen
There are a slew of other accessibility options supported by the Siri remote. Turn on the Zoom feature in Settings > General > Accessibility > Zoom to use the remote’s touchpad to magnify Apple TV images, focus in on a particular area of the screen, pan across an image, or change the magnification of the screen. See all of the Zoom options here.
You can use Family Sharing on the Apple TV to watch movies or TV shows family members have purchased. Open iTunes, then select Purchased > Family Sharing and pick the name of family member from the menu bar. You have to use a Mac, iPhone, or iPad to set up Family Sharing before you get started on the TV.
Using Siri to find apps
The fourth-gen Apple TV is the first to have a tvOS App Store, but when the hardware shipped, it was almost impossible to find apps. Apple has cleaned up App Store search by adding categories, but the real game-changer was adding Siri integration. Now you can search for a specific app by name without hunting and pecking to tap through letters on the remote. You don’t even have to launch the App Store for Siri to start searching. Just say, “Hey Siri, search the App Store for Netflix.”
You can also just ask Siri to recommend some titles for you. A search for “Find good games” turned up Solitaire, Crossy Road, and Jetpack Joyride (which I had never heard of but I’m now intrigued). You can also search by developer name, if you’d like.
Set up Bluetooth keyboard support
What could be better than searching the App Store with your voice (and a little help from Siri)? Using a keyboard to type your query directly into the TV search bar. The Apple TV supports Bluetooth keyboards with tvOS 9.2, so make sure your TV is up-to-date and your keyboard discoverable. Then go to Settings > Remotes and Devices > Bluetooth and select the device you want to pair.
F3: Switch apps
F4: Go to Home screen
F9: Fast forward
F11: Decrease volume
F12: Increase volume
Dictate text with your voice
Siri makes searching for apps or content within apps a lot easier, but entering text—like your Apple ID and password—is still a pain. Instead of typing in those letters and numbers, let voice dictation to do the work for you.
When a keyboard pops up on screen, press and hold the microphone and spell out your username or password. Apple’s passwords are case-sensitive, so make sure to say “uppercase” when capitalizing a letter.
If you messed up, just say “clear” to erase all text.
A cool privacy note: Apple usually processes the information you relay through Siri and Dictation, but not with usernames and passwords you speak to your Apple TV.
Watch live channels
With Siri support, Apple added a U.S.-only feature called live tune-in, which lets you jump to live content in supported apps. Those apps are: CBS, CBS News, Disney Channel, Disney Jr., Disney Xd, ESPN, and FXNow. To access live tune-in, just hold the microphone button in one of the above apps and say, “Watch CBS live” (replace CBS with the name of the app you’re using), then release the microphone button.
Sharing photos from your Mac to your TV
Flipping through a photo album on your Apple TV is a great party trick. Apple now supports Live Photos shot on an iPhone 6s or 6s Plus, too. But there’s a trick to getting photo albums from your Mac to show up on your TV.
Open iTunes on your Mac, then click through File > Home Sharing > Choose photos to share with Apple TV. Select “Share Photos from,” then pick either all Photos or a specific folder you want to share. Then click Apply. Those photos will now appear in the Computers app on your TV, not the Photos app (a little confusing). But don’t worry, they’re there.
Organize your home screen with app folders
Take control of your Apple TV home screen so it’s as personalized as your iPhone by creating category-specific folders.
You can do this two ways: Press down on the touchpad until the apps start jiggling, then drag one app on top of the other so they’ll expand to create a folder, similar to how apps on your iPhone and iPad home screen do. Or highlight an app, press and hold the touchpad until the icon starts to jiggle, then press the play/pause button and select New Folder. That will allow you to create a new folder and edit its name.
Give apps top row privileges
After you’ve made folders, decide which apps you use the most and move them to your top row. Apple has given Apple TV apps in the top row a special power: the ability to preview content in those apps before opening them. For instance, highlight Netflix and see what shows and movies are trending now in the top bar, or highlight Music to see which albums you’ve recently added to My Music. Not every third-party app developer has built TV previews—looking at you, Vevo—but it’s a great way to see the latest content without opening the app.
Pause video to swipe
One of my favorite things about my Apple TV is the ability to swipe through content using the Siri remote touchpad. It makes it super easy to find specific scenes and jump around a show or movie whenever I want. But tvOS 9.2 changed the way that swipe function works. Now, instead of just swiping as the video plays, you have to press pause to swipe. At first I thought Apple had ditched the swipe feature and I was beyond peeved, but don’t worry: It still exists, just in a slightly less useful way.
AirPlay on Apple TV is great for groups
The Apple TV is the focal point of your living room, but you can also use it for work. AirPlay makes the TV easier to use in both settings.
To use the TV as a conference room display so anyone can share their Mac or iOS screen to the device, just go to Settings > AirPlay > Conference Room Display and create a custom message so that everyone in the room can see on-screen that the TV is in Conference Room Display mode. (You don’t want to accidentally share your screen with the world.) You can choose a background photo if you want, then lock the TV in Conference Room Display mode with a 4-digit pin. This keeps anyone from using the TV as a, well, TV, without knowing the code. This feature was previously only available on older Apple TVs, but tvOS 9.2 brought it to the fourth-gen device.
You can also use AirPlay as a way to have friends beam content to your TV without giving them access to your WiFi network, thanks to the peer-to-peer AirPlay functionality introduced in iOS 8.
Use your iPhone or Apple Watch as a remote
The fourth-gen Apple TV wasn’t the easiest to use when it launched last fall. Apple waited months to add robust Siri support, Bluetooth keyboard integration, and one of the easiest ways of all to control the TV, the Remote app for iOS. We wondered: What gives?
It took awhile, but the Remote app for iOS and the Apple Watch does now work with the new TV. How it works: Pair your phone and your TV by opening the Remote app and entering the 4-digit pin into your TV under Settings > Remotes and Devices > Remote app.
That’s it! Now when you open your Remote app on the iPhone, its screen acts as a Siri remote touchpad. You can also set up the Remote app using Home Sharing—just select that option in the iOS app, then enter your Apple ID and password. It will find the other devices connected to your account that have Home Sharing turned on (so make sure you enable it on your TV if you’re going that route).
To enable the Remote app on your Apple Watch, make sure it’s paired to an iPhone that’s on the same Wi-Fi network as your Apple TV. Open the watch Remote app, then tap Add Device. It’ll give you a 4-digit pin. Enter that pin under Settings > Remotes and Devices on your TV. Then you can use your watch to swipe through options or pause/play content.
Welcome to the TV app
When you upgrade your Apple TV to tvOS 10.1, the Movies and TV Shows apps turn into a single TV app that provides a new experience—and changes the behavior of a button on the Siri remote. Now, pressing the TV button goes to the TV app instead of the home screen. (You can press it again to go all the way to the home screen, and still hold it down to get to the Sleep command.)
The TV app’s Watch Now tab holds your Up Next queue, which features shows and movies from supported apps that you’ve been watching already, or you added to the Up Next queue yourself. Scroll down for more suggestions curated by Apple.
Add to Up Next
As you browse around the TV app, or find things in Search, you can add them to your Up Next queue with this button. That tells the TV app you’re interested in this show, and it’ll pop back up in the queue every time there’s a new episode to watch.
Also new to tvOS 10 is the single sign-on feature, where you can sign in with credentials from your TV provider, and then see which apps support those credentials. Then when you install those apps, tvOS signs you in automatically, so you don't have to keep typing your user name and password.
Select your TV provider
Some big hitters are still absent from this list, like Comcast Xfinity for one. But scroll down and see if yours is there. And cord cutters, you're not totally left out of this party. Sling TV, an over-the-top channel bundle, is here, way at the bottom.
Find apps that use your credentials
After I signed in with my Sling TV user name and password, I see that the only tvOS app that supports that login is FXNOW. Which is beyond fine, since it has Simpsons World, which lets me watch every single episode of The Simpsons ever, and then watch them all again with the commentary track on. I’m never leaving the house again, pretty much.
tvOS will ask your permission to use your stored TV provider’s username and password to sign into new apps. You only have to authorize each app once. You'll see some privacy notices around single sign-on too.
Connect apps to the TV app
The TV app doesn't support every app on tvOS yet. Netflix, for example, isn't supported. So if you're binge-watching OA, it won't show up in the Up Next queue, although a show you're binging in Hulu (which is supported) will. As you install new supported apps, tvOS will prompt you to connect them to the TV app.