18 Apple TV tips and hidden features (2023)

Apple TV Tips and Tricks

Just like your other Apple devices, Apple TV has its own set of hidden features. So, to make your device even smarter, even better, and even more useful, check out this list of tips and tricks for Apple TV.

1. Choose the Siri remote TV button action

By default, the TV button on the Siri remote opens the Apple TV app. But maybe you prefer it takes you to the Apple TV Home screen instead. 

  1. Open Settings and select Removes and Devices.
  2. Below Remote, select TV Button to change it from Apple TV App to Home Screen.

2. Use Siri to search by voice

Just as Siri is super helpful on your other Apple devices, you can use it to perform tasks on your Apple TV. What makes Siri so useful is that you don’t have to type your requests, you can simply speak them.

  1. Press and hold the Microphone button on your remote. When you see Siri appear on your Apple TV, speak your request. 
  2. When you release the Microphone button, you should see your results on the screen.

3. Allow Siri to recognize your voice

To take Siri’s voice search up a level, you can enable it to recognize your voice. This is useful if you have several Apple TV users in your household.

Once you turn on the feature, you can simply say things like “What should I watch next” or “What song should I listen to now?” and Siri will provide personalized suggestions.

  1. Open Settings and select Users and Accounts.
  2. Choose your user account.
  3. Click Recognize My Voice in the Siri section to change it from Off to On.
  4. Pick Confirm with Apple Device to use your nearby iPhone or iPad to confirm.
  5. Follow the prompts on your device to confirm that you want to enable the feature, and choose Done when you finish.

Then, just give the feature a try by asking Siri for something on Apple TV.

4. Change the Apple TV keyboard layout

Maybe you don’t mind typing things like search requests, usernames, and passwords using your Apple TV keyboard. But did you know that you can change its layout from the default linear style to a grid layout instead? This can speed up selecting letters and numbers using a more compact keyboard space.

  1. Open Settings and select General.
  2. Below Language and Region, select Keyboard Layout, which is set to Auto by default.
  3. Then choose Grid.

The next time you see the keyboard input, you can use the handy grid layout with the keypad on the left side. To use numbers, select the 123 button, and to enter uppercase letters, select and hold a letter.

5. Type on your iPhone keyboard

Another option for typing on your Apple TV is using your iPhone’s keyboard. Whenever you access a spot for typing on your TV, you can receive a notification on your iPhone to use its keyboard instead.

  1. On your iPhone, open the Settings app.
  2. Select Notifications.
  3. Choose Apple TV Keyboard.
  4. Turn on the toggle at the top for Allow Notifications.
  5. You can then exit the iPhone Settings app as normal.

The next time you reach a location on Apple TV that requires input, you’ll see the notification on your iPhone. Tap to open and then type in the text field that appears. As you do, you’ll see the characters entered on your Apple TV.

6. Pair a Bluetooth keyboard or game controller 

If you’d like to use a Bluetooth keyboard or game controller for your Xbox or PlayStation, you can connect these types of devices to your Apple TV in just minutes.

Open Settings → Select Remotes and Devices → Pick Bluetooth.

  • For a Bluetooth keyboard, put that device in pairing mode and select it when it displays below Other Devices. Follow the subsequent prompts to connect the device.
  • For a game controller, pick How to Pair Game Controllers and follow the instructions per your game console.

7. Switch between light and dark mode

Just like your iPhone, Mac, or some third-party apps, you can enable a dark mode on Apple TV. So if you’re using your Apple TV in a dark environment, you don’t have to bother those around you with the light screen appearance.

  1. Open Settings and select General.
  2. Choose Appearance which is set to Automatic by default. This setting switches between Light and Dark mode based on the time of day.
  3. Pick Dark to set dark mode.

8. Use picture-in-picture

Picture-in-Picture (PiP) is a popular way to watch a show or video in a small window while still using your large screen for other things. If you’re ready to perform some multitasking on Apple TV, here’s how to enable picture-in-picture mode for supported apps.

After you start the show or video, swipe up from the bottom of the screen and select the Picture-in-Picture icon on the bottom right.

You’ll see the video shrink and move to the corner of the Apple TV screen. You can then continue to perform other actions on your TV while the video plays.

To move the screen to a different corner or put the picture-in-picture screen back into full-screen mode, press the TV button on your remote and then use the icons in the picture-in-picture window.

9. Arrange the Home screen apps

Just as important as the Home screen layout on your iPhone or iPad, you can arrange apps to your liking on Apple TV. This includes rearranging, deleting, and moving apps to folders.

  1. Also, like on iOS, you’ll put your app into edit mode, or jiggle mode. Click and hold an app using the touchpad on your remote.
  2. Press the Play/Pause button on your remote to create a new folder with the app, move it to an existing folder or delete the app
  3. You can also use your touchpad to drag the app to another spot on the screen.

To exit edit mode, click the touchpad on your remote.

Organize the Home screen app shelf

One more organizational feature for your Apple TV Home screen is the app shelf. This sits at the top of your app icons on the Home screen and looks sort of like the Dock on your iPhone, iPad, or Mac with a gray background.

  1. Select an app to put it into edit mode, as described above.
  2. Then, drag an app on the shelf to another spot or off of the shelf completely. 
  3. To place a different app on the shelf, drag it to the location you want. You can have up to five apps on the shelf.

10. Sync the Home screen

If you own more than one Apple TV, you can keep things consistent across the board by syncing your Home screen. Once you enable the syncing feature, you’ll see the same Home screen on your other Apple TVs.

  1. Open Settings and select Users and Accounts.
  2. Choose your user account.
  3. Below iCloud, pick One Home Screen to change it from Off to On.

11. Extend or mirror your Mac display

Maybe you’d like a second monitor for your Mac, but it’s not in your budget. Or maybe you’d like to see the tasks you’re performing on your Mac on a larger screen. You can extend or mirror your Mac’s screen on your Apple TV.

  1. On your Mac, do one of the following:
    • Open the Control Center, select Display, and choose Display Settings
    • Open your System Settings and pick Displays.
  2. Click the plus sign to open the drop-down menu on the right. Choose your Apple TV.
  3. Select your Apple TV screen at the top of the Display settings.
  4. Open the Use as drop-down menu and pick Extended display or Mirror display (or another option if you have multiple monitors).

If you want to disconnect it later, return to the Displays settings, open the plus sign drop-down box, and deselect (uncheck) your Apple TV.

12. Customize subtitles and closed captions

Subtitles and closed captions help you see the words being spoken during a movie, show, or video. On Apple TV, you can not only enable these visuals but also customize the appearance.

  1. Open Settings and select Accessibility.
  2. Below Hearing, choose Subtitles and Captioning.
  3. Pick Style.
  4. You can then choose an option to change it, including the background, text, classic view, and outline text. You may see a couple of styles which also include any custom styles you set up.
  5. To set up a custom style, choose Edit Styles and pick New Style. Then, enter a Description (name) and use the Text, Background, and Advanced sections to set up the design. 
  6. When you finish, use the Menu button on your remote to go back and then select your new custom design on the Style screen.

13. Set up restrictions or parental controls

If you have a home with children who also use your Apple TV for movies, games, or other apps, you may want some control over what they can access. By setting up restrictions, or parental controls, you can set limitations on what content can be viewed, downloaded, and accessed.

  1. Open Settings and select General.
  2. Choose Restrictions.
  3. Select Restrictions to turn it from Off to On.
  4. Enter a four-digit passcode and then confirm the passcode.
    Be sure to write down the passcode, add it to Notes, or save it in your password manager.
  5. You’ll see a confirmation that your passcode has been created. Click OK.
  6. You can then use the various sections to set up the restrictions. These include iTunes Store (App Store), Allowed Content, Game Center, and Allow Changes.

14. Reduce loud sounds

While we love the cinematic experience for movies, the sound can also boom, blast, or explode unexpectedly and loudly. For instance, you may have the volume turned up for that quiet intent conversation, but when it ends you jump out of your seat from the loud boom that comes next. This is the time to use the Reduce Loud Sounds feature.

You can enable this feature in the Settings ahead of time or access it quickly while watching a show.

  1. Open Settings and select Video and Audio. Below Audio, select Reduce Loud Sounds to change it from Off to On.
  2. To enable the feature while watching a show, select the Sound icon on the bottom right and choose Reduce Loud Sounds.

15. Control playback on other Apple devices

You don’t have to purchase several Apple TV remotes to always have one at hand to pause or rewind a show or song. Using the Control Center on your iPhone or iPad, you can easily adjust the playback for your Apple TV with two different methods.

Method one: Control other speakers

  1. On iPhone, open your Control Center.
  2. Select the Now Playing icon.
  3. Tap Control Other Speakers & TVs.

You’ll then see a Pause button for the music playing on your Apple TV. Press to pause and again to play.

Method two: Home controls

If you have your Apple TV set up in the Home app and the Home controls in your iPhone Control Center, this is another option for controlling playback

On iPhone, open the Control Center and select the Apple TV icon. You’ll then see the playback controls display so you can pause, play, move forward, or rewind.

16. Turn on smart home scenes or automations

If you have your Apple TV set up as part of your smart home, you may have scenes or automations for playing or pausing what’s on the screen. With that, you can control those scenes and automations right on your Apple TV. This allows you to quickly enable one without waiting for the schedule to kick in.

  1. Open the Control Center by holding the TV button on your remote.
  2. Select the HomeKit button.
  3. Choose a scene or automation to turn it on.

If you want to access the Home screen at any time during the scene or automation, press the Menu button on your remote.

17. Take advantage of AirPlay

AirPlay is a fantastic feature for sending a show to your Mac screen from your iPhone or a song to your HomePod from your iPad. Take advantage of this tool for doing the same with your Apple TV.

Send an item to Apple TV with AirPlay

Maybe you’re watching a show, listening to music, or browsing photos on your Apple device. You can send your screen or sound to your Apple TV.

Select the AirPlay icon in the app or using Control Center on the device and choose your Apple TV.

Send an item from Apple TV with AirPlay

Picture a party where you and your guests are listening to music or even singing along with lyrics displayed on Apple TV. Why not boost the experience by using AirPlay to send the sound to your HomePod too?

Open the Control Center on Apple TV, select the AirPlay icon, and choose your HomePod.

18. Use Conference Room display

You may be using Apple TV in the classroom, office, or at a get-together where you want others to share something on that big screen. With Conference Room Display, other Apple device users can do exactly that. Plus, you can show a particular background picture, add a message, or require a PIN code to connect.

  1. Open Settings and select AirPlay and HomeKit.
  2. Choose Conference Room Display.
  3. Select Conference Room Display on the next screen to change it from Off to On.
  4. You can then add a PIN, create a custom message, and change the background photo.
  5. Click Preview to see how it’ll look.

Check out our how-to on using Conference Room Display on Apple TV for complete details on the feature.

Take your Apple TV up a notch!

You may already be aware of some of the tips and tricks for Apple TV listed here but are surprised to see a few other hidden Apple TV features you didn’t know existed. Hopefully you’ve found something on this list that you can’t wait to try on your Apple TV. And when you do, please let us know!

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