Whether you’re blown away by the 4th generation Apple TV or not, there are a ton of cool things you may not have realised you can do with it. Here’s how to get around some of the Apple TV’s annoyances and make it your ultimate home entertainment machine.
System and Settings
First, let’s start with some basic settings that can make your overall experience better. There are a few new toys here to play with that weren’t on previous Apple TVs.
Manage Apps on Your Home Screen
On older Apple TVs, you had a little less control over the home screen and how your apps were laid out. On this one, however, it’s much easier to move your favourites to the top just by using the trackpad. Hover over the app you want to move, then click in the trackpad and hold. You’ll see the app enter what’s known as “wiggle mode,” which should look familiar if you’ve used other Apple devices before. Once the app is wiggling, you can move it around with the trackpad. This is great if you have a few apps you use more than others and want them to be front and centre.
While an app is doing the wiggle dance, you can also delete it by pressing the Play/Pause button. Select “delete” when the menu pops up and that app, along with its associated data, will be gone.
Pair Additional Bluetooth Devices
The new Apple TV allows Bluetooth-enabled devices like game controllers and audio devices to connect with ease. You can play games with the Apple TV remote, but dedicated game controllers can help you take things to the next level, and Bluetooth support means you can even connect wireless speakers. Brad Moon at Forbes, however, may have the best use yet for the Bluetooth functionality: pairing Bluetooth headphones for wireless, private listening. Wireless Bluetooth headphones let you hear what’s on the TV without disturbing anyone around you while also letting you do it without cables or needing to be in front of the TV. Here’s how to pair Bluetooth devices with your Apple TV:
- Set your Bluetooth device so it’s in pairing mode or discoverable mode. If you’re not sure how to do that with your device, a quick Google search will help you find out in no time.
- On your Apple TV, head to Settings > Remotes and Devices > Bluetooth.
- You should see your Bluetooth device listed under “Other Devices.”
- Select the device you want to pair.
The device should now appear under My Devices. If you’re using wireless headphones, you can switch between your headphones and TV speakers by sliding down the trackpad and bringing down the “slide down for info” tab. Once there, navigate over to Audio and you can decide where the audio will play.
While you’re in the Bluetooth menu, you can also check your remote’s battery by heading to Settings > Remotes and Devices > Bluetooth. It will only show you a battery symbol with a graphical display of how much charge is remaining (no percentage or time remaining), but, according to Apple, the new Apple TV remote battery can last for months on a single charge.
Get Cool New Screensavers
The Aerial screensaver that Apple includes in its 4th generation device is beautiful, but you might get tired of seeing the same footage every day. If you want some more breathtaking views, you can head to Settings > General > Screensaver and change the Download New Videos field from “Monthly” to “Weekly” or “Daily.” Keep in mind, however, that downloading each batch of new Aerial screensaver videos will eat up around 600MB of your bandwidth every day, week, or month, depending on what you choose. Furthermore, you can’t customise which videos appear on your screensaver, so once a batch is streaming, it’s part of your screensaver repertoire.
If the Aerial screensaver isn’t your style, you can use photos instead. You can choose from Apple’s collection of animal, flower, landscape, and nature photos, or you can use your own personal photos. Head to Settings > General > Screensaver > Type > and select either My Photos or Home Sharing. My Photos will show the photos you have synced on your Apple ID’s iCloud, and Home Sharing will you let you use photos from your local Apple devices, whether they’re synced with iCloud or not.
Add Multiple Apple IDs to your Apple TV
If you have multiple people in your household, each with their own iTunes account, the Apple TV can support several different Apple IDs for buying separate apps, services, movies, and TV shows:
- Head to Settings > Accounts > iTunes and App Store > Add New Apple ID.
- Enter the new account information.
- Once added, you can switch accounts by heading to Settings > Accounts > iTunes and App Store, then selecting the account you want to log in with.
Any apps installed under other Apple IDs will appear on the Home screen regardless of who’s signed in, but you may not be able to access them depending on the app or service.
Consolidate Your Remotes
If your TV supports HDMI-CEC, the Apple TV remote can control your TV as well. You can adjust volume on the remote and even turn off your TV by putting the Apple TV to sleep. Your Apple TV will try to set this up automatically when you turn it on for the first time, but you may have to adjust your TV’s settings to get it working properly.
HDMI-CEC does, however, go by different names depending on the manufacturer of your TV. For example, Samsung calls it Anynet+, Philips calls it EasyLink, and Sony calls it BRAVIA Sync. If you have an HDTV made in the last several years, CEC is bound to be somewhere in its settings. Chris Hoffman at How-To Geek has a complete list of HDMI-CEC trade names if you’re still having trouble.
If your TV isn’t HDMI-CEC capable, you can fortunately still set up a standard infrared (IR) universal remote to use with your Apple TV and have everything in one place:
- Head to Settings > Remotes and Devices > Learn Remote.
- Hold down the corresponding buttons on your IR remote as instructed.
- Name your custom remote.
- If your IR remote has buttons for play, pause, fast forward, etc., head back to Settings > Remotes and Devices > your custom remote name.
- Hold down the corresponding buttons on your IR remote as instructed.
Now you can use your normal TV remote if you want and forego using the Apple remote entirely. This is great for those that aren’t interested in adding yet another remote to their collection, or like to have a single universal remote that controls everything.
Fix the “Swipe Down for Info” Issue
Lastly, some folks (including myself) have encountered an issue where the “swipe down for info” alert at the top of the screen won’t disappear after starting a video in apps like Netflix. You can temporarily fix this by either pausing and restarting the video, backing out of the video and restarting it, or swiping down the menu and swiping back up. It’s not a permanent fix, but it’s better than nothing for right now.
Get More Out of Siri
The Apple TV’s Siri button (the one that looks like a microphone) allows you to quickly access all kinds of information and easily perform various tasks. If you press the Siri button and wait for a little bit, you’ll be able to view a list of commands you can issue to Siri. Holding it, however, allows you to actually issue those commands. You probably know that you can check the weather and ask about news and sports scores with Siri, but there are some other cool things you can do too.
Find Movies and TV Shows With Siri
Siri will let you search for movies by title, but you can also search for movies by actor, director, or even screenwriter. Additionally, you can narrow your search by applying search parameters like “only the comedies” or “only the good movies,” which will narrow things down to the critically acclaimed. For example, your script might read like this:
- “Show me Bill Hader movies.”
- “Only the comedies.”
- “Only the good ones.”
- “Just show me the ones from this year.”
That script will narrow you down to one flick in a matter of seconds: Trainwreck. When you select it, you’ll be taken to the iTunes page for that movie. There, you can rent or buy the movie from iTunes or see what other apps (like Netflix) have it in their library.
Watching Movies and TV Shows With Siri
While you’re watching your movie or TV show, Siri can help you navigate and control your audio preferences. For example:
- “What did he/she say?” will jump back 15 seconds in what you’re watching and bring up close captions for that segment so you won’t miss what anyone is saying in that particular scene.
- “Reduce loud sounds” will lower the volume of music and sound effects so you can hear dialogue more clearly.
- “Play from the beginning” will restart the movie or TV episode.
- “Turn on closed captioning” or “turn on English subtitles” will let you read what everyone is saying.
- “Fast forward X minutes” and “rewind X minutes” will do exactly that.
You can also use Siri to get info about what you’re watching and settle any debates about who directed the movie, wrote the script, or even who starred in what roles. You can also ask what the movie is rated and when it was released.
Control Apps and Settings
Siri is also a pretty simple way to open and close apps, or enable or disable settings. For example, instead of clicking and swiping around, you could say things like:
- “Go to Netflix.”
- “Open the App Store.”
- “Play Apple Music radio.”
- “Enable VoiceOver.”
- “Disable screensaver.”
Almost any app or setting can be activated with Siri, so go nuts and see what cool shortcuts of your own you can come up with. Siri might seem silly if you have a bunch of people over, but when I’m home alone, I have no problem asking Siri to make things easier for me.
Make the Apple Remote Suck Less
The new Apple TV remote looks pretty sleek, but it isn’t perfect. Here are some helpful tips for using the trackpad, as well as some simple shortcuts that can save you some time.
Make the Trackpad More Precise
The trackpad is the touchscreen-like square at the top of your Apple TV remote. Its surface looks matte compared the shiny, black surface on the rest of the remote, and it can be really useful. Here are some things you might not know:
- The touchpad is speed sensitive. The faster you swipe on the touchpad, the faster you’ll scroll on-screen. If you make a big sweeping movement with your thumb, you can skip way ahead, or way back, in any video. Alternatively, you can scan frame-by-frame if you slowly sweep your thumb to the right or left.
- If the trackpad is too sensitive for you, you can adjust how fast the trackpad scrolls by heading to Settings > Remotes and Devices > Touch Surface Tracking. There you can change the trackpad speed to slow.
- When entering text with the Apple TV remote, you can hover over any letter on the keyboard then click and hold down the touchpad to open a contextual menu. From here, it’s much faster to add uppercase letters, accents, and use the backspace.
- While watching video on your Apple TV, you can fast forward by clicking just the right side of the trackpad. You can do the same to rewind by clicking the left side of the trackpad. This is great for skipping credit sequences you’ve watched a thousand times or quickly rewatching a particularly awesome movie scene. If you place your thumb on the right or left side of the trackpad, you’ll see the 10-second rewind or fast forward symbol appear next to the current timestamp so you know before you click.
- While listening to music on your Apple TV, you can skip tracks by clicking the right side of the trackpad, restart the track by clicking the left side, and go back a track by double-clicking the left side of the trackpad.
- While using the Apple Music app, you can click and hold on a song to see more options for the song, artist, and album.
When you know all the cool ways you can use the trackpad it starts to look a lot less like a gimmick.
Instantly Enable Features With the Menu Button
The Menu button is located in the top left-hand corner of the remote — the one clearly labelled “Menu.”
- Hitting it once will take you back to the previous menu or screen.
- Holding the Menu button will take you back to the Home screen.
- Double-clicking it will instantly start the screensaver.
- Triple-clicking it will enable the Accessibility Shortcut menu and let you quickly turn on VoiceOver (which narrates navigation through Apple TV menus) and Zoom (which allows the magnification of specific parts of the screen), as long as you have it enabled. To enable it, head to Settings > General > Accessibility > Accessibility Shortcut. Once there you can decide what accessibility options will appear in the Accessibility Shortcut menu.
If you’re not able to get the Accessibility Shortcut working, you don’t have it enabled properly. You need to dig through the menus to get it turned on if you didn’t do so during setup.
Quickly Switch Between Apps With the Home Button
The Home button, or “Apple TV button,” is at the top right of the remote and has a symbol that looks like a TV screen.
- Hitting it once will send you back to the Home screen regardless of where you are.
- Double-clicking it will bring up the App Switcher, which is similar to the App Switcher in other iOS devices. Here you can quickly switch between apps, or kill apps that may not be responding or working properly.
- Holding the Home button will allow to put the Apple TV to sleep, as well as turn off your TV if your TV supports HDMI-CEC.
Keep in mind, it’s not necessary to kill apps with the App Switcher to save memory. It’s really only essential for when apps start acting up and need to reload.
Get Back to the Music With the Play/Pause Button
The Play/Pause button is the bottom left button with the play and pause symbols (duh).
- While entering text with the remote, hitting the Play/Pause button once will switch the keyboard between uppercase and lowercase.
- While moving apps around in “wiggle mode,” you can delete apps by hitting the Play/Pause button once.
- Holding down the Play/Pause button will return you to the Apple Music app and whatever song was playing when you left it last.
Being able to quickly jump back into Apple Music is great for kicking off some party background music, or returning to the place you left off as you make your way through a new-found artist’s anthology.
Quickly Restart Your Apple TV
- You can restart your Apple TV by heading to Settings > System > Restart, but you can also force restart by holding Menu and Home buttons simultaneously.
You hopefully shouldn’t need to restart your Apple TV very often, but it’s nice to know you can do it so quickly with the remote.