It might be hard to believe, but the Apple TV has now been with us for more than 10 years. In that time, it’s gotten a lot smaller and a lot smarter—and it has a few tricks up its sleeve that you might not know about. Here are seven tips to improve your Apple TV experience. They all work with the latest, fourth-generation box.
Rearrange your home screen
Don’t settle for the app layout that your Apple TV gives you for a default. As you add apps, you can move them around to access your favorites more easily. Using the top half of your Touch Remote, tap and hold on any app to move the icon somewhere else on screen. Tap again to confirm. To delete an app from the home screen entirely, tap and hold on it and then press Play/Pause to delete it. One of the most recent tvOS updates has enabled folders too. Just like on iOS, you can drag an icon on top of another icon to instantly create a folder, which will keep your apps more neatly organized. If you change your mind, drag the app icon out to the edge of the folder, and it will return to the home screen grid. In the General menu in Settings there are more options for changing your home screen’s appearance, including switching between a light and a dark interface mode and choosing from a list of available screensavers.
Make full use of the Touch Remote
The Touch Remote that Apple bundles with its TV is cleverer than it looks. With the right combination of flicks and gestures, you can reveal several hidden menus and screens, particularly within Apple’s own apps. Here are a few of the most useful tricks. You can double-tap the Home button (which looks like a big TV display) to display all of your recent apps. Within an app, if you scrub left or right on the touch-sensitive top half of the remote, it lets you go backward or forward in videos and audio tracks. While you’re using the top half of the remote, test out a few downward swipes too—in the Netflix app, for example, it brings up the subtitle and audio options. If you find your Touch Remote too sensitive, or not sensitive enough, head to the Settings app then choose Remotes and Devices, then Touch Surface Tracking. You can check up on the remote’s battery level at the same time.
Check how much space apps are using up
You get a certain amount of on-board storage included with the fourth-generation Apple TV. But all those HD iTunes movies can quickly eat up precious space, and you don’t want to run out of room If you need to free up some storage, you can see which installed apps are the biggest data hogs by going to Settings and then choosing General and Manage Storage. The next screen shows all the apps on your Apple TV, with the biggest culprit (very likely a game of some sort) at the top. Handily enough, there’s a trash can right by each entry on the list—tap once on this icon, and you can delete the app and free up some space. The Apple TV remembers your app purchases, so you can always download them again.
Make your Apple TV kid-friendly
The Apple TV is a great device for entertaining kids of all ages…but you don’t necessarily want your youngsters to access all the material that’s available, or start spending your money on in-app purchases. That’s where the Restrictions menu in Settings proves very useful. Turn restrictions on, and you can stop new purchases and rentals from iTunes (helpful if your toddlers don’t know what they’re doing) and disable in-app purchases too. You can also block music, podcasts, TV shows, and movies by rating, as long as the content is correctly labelled (as it is in the main iTunes app). On top of that, you can disable multiplayer gaming, screen recording, and even explicit language in Siri’s responses. All of these blocks and limits are protected by a PIN code which must be entered to turn them off again.
Do more with Bluetooth devices
Your fourth-generation Apple TV has Bluetooth on board, so make the most of it. You might already realize you can boost the audio capabilities of your box with Bluetooth speakers or headphones, but you can connect other devices as well. For example, tvOS now supports Bluetooth keyboards, which means you can save yourself the hassle of typing out movie titles and search requests—just swap the Touch Remote for a keyboard. Or add an MFi Bluetooth game controller to give you more intuitive control over your big-screen games. Up to two Bluetooth devices can be connected to your Apple TV at any one time. Head to Remotes and Devices from the Settings app, then choose Bluetooth to pair devices, or to remove one device and make room for a new one.
Load any kind of content on your Apple TV
It’s not always easy getting content up on your Apple TV. Watching iTunes or Netflix videos is easy enough, but if there’s not an appropriate app for the media that you want to view, it can be tricky to stream it over to the box. Certain apps can be a big help here, specifically Plex, which will stream audio, video, and photos from any computer on the same network straight to your Apple TV. Just install Plex on your computer (or on an old device that you want to turn into a dedicated streaming machine) and also install the app on the Apple TV to get started. Plex has more information about setting up the app. VLC Media Player is also worth a mention. It’s already one of the most versatile media players for computers and phones. On the Apple TV, it provides support for streaming almost anything from your local network.
Get help from Siri
Siri has arrived on the Apple TV, so make use of the voice-controlled assistant by pressing and holding on the Siri (microphone) button on the remote. Try asking, “What’s the weather forecast?” or saying, “Show me comedy movies from the 90s” (or whatever genre you’d prefer). The best part is, Siri’s results pop up along the bottom of the screen most of the time, so they won’t interrupt what you’re doing. When watching movies and shows, you can say, “Forward ten minutes” to jump around, or ask, “Who stars in this?” to get a list of cast members to appear on screen. Another good vocal trick is asking, “What did he/she just say?” This prompts Siri to rewind whatever you’re watching by 15 seconds and temporarily turn subtitles on. Meanwhile, saying, “Reduce loud sounds” can also make it easier to hear dialogue.