Apple TV tips, tricks and hidden features

How to get the most out of your Apple TV

Apple TV tips and tricks
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Apple TV might have started out as a hobby for its Cupertino-based creator, but it was also the tech giant's first foray into the world of the smart home. Over the past couple of years, Apple has started to take its streaming box even more seriously.

And now, the Apple TV is one of the best streaming kits you can buy. It ticks all the boxes: Dolby Vision, 4K, Dolby Atmos and even an app store. And sure, you might know how to work it, but there are a number of secret manoeuvres and settings that you may not have known about.

Read this: Apple TV 4K review

We've grouped them together for you here, to help upgrade you from an Apple TV user to an Apple TV savant.

Change the Home button's action

Apple TV tips, tricks and hidden features

Apple's TV app is your movie and TV hub. It keeps track of where you are in your favourite TV show and it'll show you whether that movie you want to watch is included in your subscriptions, or if you'll have to pay for it. It also keeps tracks of your local sports teams.

When you click the Home button on your Siri Remote, you'll go straight to the TV app. That's cool, but unfortunately the TV app isn't where it needs to be yet (please add Netflix support, thanks). Until that moment comes, you're better off changing the function of the Home button.

1. Head to Settings.
2. Click Remotes and Devices.
3. Click Home Button to switch to the Home Screen.

Now when you click the Home button you'll actually get to, you know, go home. If you're big on Netflix, this is a much easier way to get to all your content as, unfortunately, the TV app doesn't have support for Netflix content yet.

Get a gaming controller

The Apple TV has access to the App Store, which not only lets you download a host of video apps, but also gives you a number of games to play. The Apple TV's Siri Remote is not only a bit weird and uncomfortable, it's terrible for playing games.

So if you really want to take advantage of everything on offer, you're going to have to invest in an Apple TV-compatible gaming controller. You will need a third-party Made for iPhone-approved gaming controller, but once you have that then setting it up is pretty simple.

1. Head to Settings.
2. Click over to Remotes and Devices.
3. Choose Bluetooth.
4. Choose your controller.


Make use of Dark/Automatic modes

The Apple TV's interface is light and breezy, but it doesn't have to be that way. There's also a dark mode you can switch to. Dark mode can be pretty wonderful, letting some content, like photos, stand out.

However, there's a third option called Automatic. If you switch to it, light mode will be in effect during the day and dark mode will activate when it's night. This way, you get the best of both worlds. In the daytime, your Apple TV interface will be bright and fun and then, at night, it'll get dark and help you get into the mood for that 100th episode of House.

1. Head to Settings.
2. Go to General.
3. Click Appearance.
4. Choose Automatic or Dark.

Reduce those terribly loud sounds

Movies are still made to be played in cinemas, which tend to have state-of-the-art sound systems. Dialogue is crisp and clear, and then explosions and surprises are full, rich and loud.

Unfortunately, that doesn't translate as well when you're at home and watching late at night. If you've ever turned up the volume to hear low dialogue only to give yourself a heart attack when an explosion comes around, Reduce Loud Sounds is the Apple TV feature for you.

1. Hit up Settings.
2. Go to Video and Audio.
3. Click Reduce Loud Sounds.

The music and sound effects of whatever you're watching will come in softer, yet keep all the detail of the original. The best part? You won't be frantically lowering the volume hoping the neighbours didn't hear.

Quick switch between apps

The Apple TV has apps now, and sometimes that means you'll be multitasking. Maybe you're switching between Netflix, HBO Now and Amazon Prime Video to pick out something to watch. Instead of perusing an app, going to the Home Screen and then jumping into another app, there's a simpler way.

Just double tap the Home button on the Siri Remote. You'll be greeted to a carousel of your most recently used apps, and you can quickly jump into whichever app you need.

Cable subscriber? Use Zero-sign on

Apple TV has had a feature called Single-sign on, letting cable subscribers sign in once and get access to all of the video apps available through their subscription. In tvOS12 it gets even better with Zero-sign on, which detects your broadband networks and does all the signing in automatically. There is still a bit of a setup process here though.

1. Open Settings.
2. Select Accounts.
3. Scroll down to TV Provider and sign in by selecting your cable provider.

At the time of writing only Charter is making use of Zero-sign on – you can download its Spectrum app right now if you're a subscriber. Just note that you'll need a fourth-gen Apple TV or an Apple TV 4K to get it.

Use the Apple TV to control your smart home

The Apple TV can be your smart home hub for controlling all your HomeKit gadgets. If you haven't done so already, you'll need to link your account. To do so, you'll need to do the following:

1. Open Settings.
2. Select Accounts.
3. Select iCloud and log in with your account.

Now, there's no Home app on the Apple TV, but you can use Siri to control devices that are already connected to your account. There's a mic in the remote, so you'll just need to hold the microphone button and speak your command. If you want to add more smart home devices, you'll need to do this in the Home app on your iPhone or iPad.

Talk to Siri

Speaking of Siri, you can chat to Apple's personal assistant while in the middle of a movie and not have it interrupt. For example, you could ask Siri for a sports score and the results should pop up in a panel on the bottom of the screen.

Read this: Best Siri commands for Apple TV

If you then select that panel the current programming will pause, but otherwise you can just swipe down on the remote to dismiss it. Be warned: Siri does interrupt your video in YouTube.

Use the keyboard shortcuts

The most baffling UI decision on the Apple TV is its keyboard, which opts for a line of letters and numbers. This can make typing anything into the Apple TV take forever, but there are a couple of tricks to make things easier.

While you're typing, press the Play/Pause button to instantly cycle between upper and lower case letters. This will save you having to use the touch pad to scroll down to the shift button, and will let you keep typing.

Similarly, if you press and hold the touchpad on a letter, you'll be presented with alternate characters (like ć or ç for the letter c). On the left, you'll also see a quick backspace button, and a quick swipe to the left will delete your last character. Hooray.

Get some Dolby Vision and Atmos equipment

Apple TV tips, tricks and hidden features

The Apple TV 4K was the first streaming device with both Dolby Vision and Atmos support. Vision is Dolby's HDR 4K video format, and it essentially allows for brighter, bolder colours. Its main competitor is the open standard HDR10. However, Vision has an advantage in that it allows your TV to dynamically adjust its colour settings based on the scene, ensuring you get the best picture possible at all times.

Atmos is Dolby's sound format, which can simulate a 360-degree sound experience in your living room. You'll be able to hear sound all around you, giving you a more immersive audio experience.

Essential reading: Apple TV 4K guide

You'll need a Dolby Vision-compatible TV, which actually isn't too difficult to get hold of as it's quickly becoming a standard on most TV sets at all price points. For Dolby Atmos, you will need to pick up a set of speakers or a sound bar with Atmos support.

To make it sweeter, if you have any iTunes content, Apple will upgrade it to 4K HDR with support for both Vision and Atmos for free – which, sadly, isn't totally the case elsewhere.

Restart your Apple TV – quickly

Sometimes your Apple TV is going to give you some trouble. Maybe an app won't respond. Or your connection is being bad. Time for a restart.

You can do this by heading into the Settings menu and scrolling all the way down to System and then Restart. But there's a simpler way, and all you have to do is hold down the Home and Menu buttons on the Siri Remote for six seconds. Once you do that, your Apple TV will reboot.

Make and manage some Folders

Apple TV tips, tricks and hidden features

You may already know that if you select an app icon and then click and hold the touchpad you can move the app around the home screen. If you move an app over another app, you can create a folder, much like you can on iOS.

There's an easier way to do this though. Click and hold on an app icon to make it wiggle, and then press the Play/Pause button on the Siri Remote. You'll bring up a secret menu that will let you delete the app or create a new folder.

If you already have a couple of folders, it will let you easily sort the selected app into the folder. It's much, much easier than using the Siri Remote to drag and drop apps on top of each other.

Output your audio to HomePod

Apple TV tips, tricks and hidden features

If you've got a HomePod and Apple TV, you may be wondering how you can take advantage of Apple's great-sounding speaker to boost your home cinema game. It's easy.

While at the Home Screen, hold down the Play/Pause button on the Siri Remote. A menu will pop up and allow you to choose where the Apple TV's audio is outputted. Just choose your HomePod and you'll be set.

Sad note: HomePod does not support Dolby Atmos, so if you were hoping to turn it into a cheap Atmos speaker, your bubble has just been burst.

Add Apple TV remote to your iOS Control Center

You can use the Siri Remote to control the Apple TV if you want, but there's also the Apple TV Remote app on iOS. However, if you don't want to have to open up an app every time you want to use it, there's also another way.

Control Center will give you access to all the remote features you need. Just swipe down and click the Apple TV icon in Control Center. You'll be able to navigate, head to the menu, head to Home, play and pause and even use Siri. You won't be able to adjust volume though.

Control Center's TV remote is supposed to install itself when you download the Apple TV Remote app, but if it's not there follow the steps below to activate it.

1. Open the Settings app.
2. Click Control Center.
3. Open Customize Controls.
4. Scroll down and click the green plus next to Apple TV Remote.

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