Apple TV and Siri guide: How it works and essential commands revealed

How to control your Apple TV 4K with your voice

Complete guide to Apple TV and Siri
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As you might expect, Siri is a key Apple TV feature, and a great way of commanding your entertainment. As well as watching movies, TV shows and playing games, the Apple TV is a major part of Apple HomeKit’s smart home plans, and as such, Siri plays a leading role.

However, it’s a vastly different beast than the Siri you might be used to on your iPhone, or indeed the Apple HomePod. Let’s take a look at the Apple TV and see what it's capable of.

What is the Apple TV 4K and what can it do?

The Apple TV 4K is a fantastic piece of smart home kit. Not only is it a gateway to perhaps the biggest selection of 4K content going – with support for Ultra HD streams and downloads via Netflix, iTunes, Amazon Prime Video and more – it’s also an Apple HomeKit hub.

Read this: Best Apple TV apps

Because it’s ‘always-on’, it can be used as a way for Apple HomeKit compatible devices to connect within your home, and lets you access things like smart home cameras, plugs and thermostats remotely.

Apple TV and Siri guide: How it works and essential commands revealed

How do I use Siri on Apple TV 4K?

Siri gives the TV an extra edge. But unlike your iPhone, HomePod or Mac, you can’t have Siri wake on they classic "Hey Siri" command. You need to use the built-in remote, which is your gateway to Siri.

To access Siri you have to press and hold the microphone button on the remote and start speaking. The upside is you don’t have to say Hey Siri like a complete dork every time you want to adjust the volume, and you can bark your command straight away. You can use Siri at any time, but there are some nuances as to what kind of result you will get.

Essential reading: Apple TV 4K guide

Another difference is that Siri won't talk back to you on Apple TV, so this will limit the type of response you receive. This is because Apple doesn't want to disturb your peaceful TV watching by having Siri gabber away through your home audio system, and that might be a good call. If you ask for the weather, or a similar Alexa-style command, the data feedback will be a brief, on-screen alert. This means you don’t always get the detail you might expect.

What can Siri do on Apple TV?

Siri on Apple TV is pretty capable, but the main thing you’ll want to use it for is searching your library. And where Siri has improved hugely on the fourth generation Apple TV is that it can now extend its reach into third party services.

That means the App Store and iTunes are all Siri enabled, as well as Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Prime Video and more. We were actually impressed with how powerful Siri is on Apple TV – it’s just a question of knowing what to ask for.

Searching for straight content without any qualifiers means you’ll take a bit of a gamble at where you might end up. Siri is pretty good at knowing that if you want to watch Mum, you’ll want to do that on iPlayer because it's free. Likewise, if you’ve watched Mum on iPlayer before, it will skip you straight there and start playing automatically.

Ambient guide: Apple TV tips and tricks

Things get a bit convoluted if you want to watch the first ever episode of Mum, because that means going to iTunes TV Shows store as that season isn't on-demand. That’s where you will want to start qualifying your voice searches with extra information.

We found Siri became much more powerful when you gave it a bit of extra data. Ask to "watch KEXP on YouTube" or "watch 4K TV on Netflix" and you generally end up in the right place. Be as specific as you can. Generally, we knew where we wanted to end up, so making our searches more specific meant we ended up happier TV watchers.

Apple TV and Siri guide: How it works and essential commands revealed

Essential Siri Apple TV commands to try out

Movies and TV (iTunes)

  • "I want to watch [movie or TV show].”
  • “Find [movie or TV show].”
  • “Show me some [funny horror] movies.”
  • “Find new movies in 4K.”
  • “What are some popular new releases?”

Music and movie playback commands

  • “Pause.”
  • “Play.”
  • “Fast forward two minutes.”
  • “What did he say?” [scrubs back a few seconds]
  • “Turn on subtitles.”
  • “May the Force be with you” [try other movie quotes too]
  • “Who stars in this?”

App Store commands

  • “Find games.”
  • “Show me most popular apps.”
  • “Find apps for kids.”

Netflix commands

  • “Show me movies on Netflix.”
  • “Show me TV shows on Netflix.”
  • “I want to watch 4K movies on Netflix.”

YouTube commands

  • “Search YouTube [video].”
  • “Find [genre] videos on YouTube.”
  • “Play [YouTube channel] on YouTube.”

General Siri commands

  • “What’s the weather like today?”
  • “What time is it in New York?”
  • “What is the meaning of life?”

Smart home commands

  • “Set heating to 20 degrees.”
  • “Turn living room lights on.”
  • “Turn Christmas tree lights on.”

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