The Apple TV is pitched as a hub for everything in your living room. Whether that’s movies, games, Netflix, BBC iPlayer or smart home control, you can do it all from this simple little rounded square plastic box.
Despite being really simple to use, there’s still plenty to discover in Apple’s living room set top box. Whether it’s finding out where those live wallpapers were filmed, organising and deleting apps or just enabling dark mode. You can find it in this list.
Take a look below to get the most out of your new Apple TV.
There a couple of different Apple TV remotes, depending on which model you have. The 2021 device has a new remote that ditches the touchpad at the top of the previous remote and replaces it with a circular physical touch button d-pad. It also has slightly different buttons, offering a mute button and a back button in place of the Siri button and Menu button on the older remote.
For the older remote, think of the trackpad at the top as the same as a trackpad on a MacBook. You can swipe across it; up, down, left or right. You can click it by pressing firmly, or just tap gently on it. Clicking it is how you select to launch apps, shows, movies etc. Tapping gently is rarely used, but can be useful at times.
For the newer remote, you have more control with the physical touch button d-pad.
The physical buttons on the remote – whichever one you have – are easy to use. On the older remote, up top are the Menu and Apple TV buttons. Below those, you have the volume rocker, the play/pause button and the Siri/voice control button. The Apple TV 4K remote is a tiny bit different, but the core concept is the same.
For the 2021 model, the Siri button is on the side of the remote. The menu button is replaced with a back button and there is a mute button as well as the volume rocker, play/pause button and Apple TV button.
Get back to the home screen…quickly
Have you ever found yourself clicking through stuff to watch and realised you were 30 menus deep? Well, you’re not alone, but instead of clicking the menu button or back button on the remote a bunch of times to get back to the Apple TV home screen (like most people do), just long-press a single button. The menu button or back button, actually.
It’s so obvious; it’s brilliant. Now you can avoid getting the dreaded thumb-cramp.
Switch between apps quickly, or kill background apps
We’re used to go to our multitasking or recent apps views on our smartphones, but probably not on our TVs. With Apple TV, the software is loosely based on iOS, and so you can actually load up the recent apps view, which shows you stacked thumbnails/cards of previous or recent apps you’ve used.
All you need to do is double tap the TV button and you’ll launch this view. To choose the app you want to switch to, just swipe across the touch sensitive control pad at the top of the remote, or if you have the 2021 Apple TV, use the arrows at the top of the remote.
If an app becomes unresponsive or problematic, this is a really handy way to kill it, before re-launching it. Just open the recent apps view, swipe until you get to the app, then swipe upwards on the control throw it off the screen and – in doing so – dismissing it.
Find something with your voice
Siri is integrated into Apple TV on the more recent generations to make it possible to request movies or TV shows using your voice. All you need to do is press the little button on the remote that looks like a microphone, or the side button on the 2021 remote. Hold it down while you make your request and let it go, and you should see the text appear on screen in real time, followed by relevant results.
You can say something like “Play Spider-man Homecoming” or, while watching a particular movie or show you can ask who’s in that scene, or who directed the movie, and it’ll bring up the results in a pop-up graphic at the bottom of the screen.
It doesn’t just apply to content from Apple’s own iTunes services either. There are a number of other content providers that can be searched using Siri, so even if you don’t own it, you can watch it (providing it’s available to stream somewhere else).
Move, delete or sort apps
Choose the app icon you want to move, then hold down the select button on the remote, and you’ll suddenly see the icon vibrate (similar to how app icons vibrate in iOS), meaning you can move it left, right, up, or down with your remote. Just use the touchpad or the dpad on the 2021 model, and then press the select button again to set things in place. Simples.
Like iPhone, if you want create a folder of many apps or folders to declutter your home screen, you can do that too. Just hover one icon over the top of another and watch it create a folder automatically.
If you just want to get rid of an app altogether, you can delete it. Choose the one you want to get rid of, then hold down the select button/touchpad on the remote until the icon starts vibrating, and press Play/Pause to access a new menu. From there, click “delete”.
Grab the remote (no – the app)
One of the most annoying things about any home entertainment device is the remote, especially if you need to use it for inputing text queries. If you’re one of the few – if not only – people in this world to never lose a remote, you still have to suffer through the experience of manually clicking every letter when searching.
But, like with most things in life, there’s an app for that.
Should you ever lose your Apple TV remote or simply want to use a keyboard to type a query, download the free Remote app on your iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad or even – would you believe it – on your Apple Watch. It’s a beautiful, easy thing (and nearly impossible to lose).
When you first set it up, it’ll look for Apple TV boxes on your network, and then once you’ve selected the one you want to use it with, you put in a code that it displays on your screen and boom, you’re done.
Scrubbing (find that scene)
If you’re looking for a specific part of a movie or missed some when you left the room to get that thing (you forgot what it was), you can scrub back through the video timeline by hitting the pause button and then just swiping left on the touchpad or dpad until you find the scene you’re looking for. As you scrub, it’ll show a preview thumbnail above the timeline updating in real time, so it’s super accurate.
If you’d rather go a little more old-school, you can just click the left or ride side of the touchpad or dpad to go back or forwards in 10 second increments.
This one is handy for those of you who have trouble hearing or simply want to watch a foreign movie but still understand what’s happening: Apple TV lets you enable subtitles. There are a few ways to do this, but the easiest way by far is to swipe downwards while you’re watching a show.
You’ll then see options to enable subtitles come down from the top of the screen, if they’re available. Daredevil on Netflix, for instance, lets you choose from English, French, German, and Spanish. Awesome.
Dark mode, baby
Like every other operating system in the world now, you can have a dark theme on your Apple TV. By default it’s set to the light theme, so go to Settings > General > Appearance and then choose either the “Dark” option, or you can have it switch automatically when it’s evening by selecting “Automatic”.
Find out where that awesome live wallpaper was filmed
One of the coolest things about owning an Apple TV is the slow motion landscape videography in the live wallpapers/screensavers that come on after a few minutes of activity. To find out where it is (if you’re not sure), just lightly touch the touchpad on the remote and text appears on screen telling you where it is.
Manually launch the live wallpaper screensaver
Usually you’ll only see those awesome live wallpaper scenes when the TV has been inactive for a few minutes. But, you can activate it manually. Go to the home screen and then press the Menu button again, and it’ll go into screensaver mode.
Rename your Apple TV
You can rename your Apple TV. Yeah – who knew? This is useful if you have more than one Apple TV in your house and want to know at all times which one is which on your network. To name your Apple TV, navigate to Settings > General > About > Name. At that point, you can choose from Apple’s default list of names.
Apple lets you name your Apple TV based on the room it might be in, such as the living room, but if you want to get even more creative, you can designate a custom name. We named ours Bob. Hi, Bob!
Adjust the video quality
If you want to adjust the video and audio quality, just head to Settings > Video and Audio, and here you’ll find a whole host of options. You can change the resolution, or match the frame rate of the TV to the content.
You can even select to have those navigation “clicks” switched off, so it doesn’t do that weird blipping every time you swipe over the touchpad or dpad while scrolling through lists and app icons.
PIN protect stuff you don’t want your kids watching
One of the most useful options in the Apple TV system is the ability to add a PIN code to content with a specific rating (or higher) so that your kids can’t accidentally watch anything you deem inappropriate. The only downside to this native option is that it only applies to iTunes content: so movies and TV shows you’ve bought or rented through the Apple.
To set a PIN code, head to Settings > General > Restrictions. It’ll ask for you to set a PIN code once you’ve switched it on. If you scroll down the list you’ll see “Allowed Content”, and here is where you can choose which music or podcasts are allowed, as well as setting ratings for movies and TV shows.
If your kids are okay watching 12-rated content, you can choose that as your minimum, and then every time you try and watch a movie that’s rated 15 or 18, it’ll ask you to input your PIN code that you set earlier. For other services – like Amazon Prime – you’ll need to go through that provider’s own parental control options.
Pair your headphones, game controller, or a Bluetooth keyboard
If you’d like to watch your favourite shows without disturbing the rest of the house, you can pair some headphones with your Apple TV. Open the Settings menu, go to “Remotes and Devices” and scroll down to “Bluetooth”. Now you’ll see a list of available devices.
If you already own AirPods or Beats headphones with the Apple H1 chip in them, your headphones will already be paired with the TV through the magic of iCloud. For any others, place them in pairing mode and wait until they show up in the “Other Devices”.
This same method applies to Bluetooth keyboards and game controllers too. Each controller will have its own method of placing it into pairing mode. For instance, with the Xbox Wireless Controller, you just press and hold the Connect button for a few seconds. With the PlayStation DualShock 4 you press and hold the PS and Share buttons together until the light starts flashing.
Send it to sleep
There’s both a long way and a short way to send your Apple TV to sleep. You can – of course – go through the settings menu by navigating Settings > Sleep Now. The easiest way, however, is to press and hold the Home/Apple TV button until you see a narrow side menu slide into the screen from the right.
Here you’ll see a big button that says “Sleep”. When pressed, the Apple TV will switch off and your TV (and any other connected devices) will go into standby mode.