Product Evaluations and Guides
A Tour of Apple's iOS and tvOS TV App Plus Remote Options for the Apple TV
In late 2016, Apple released its long awaited TV app, which lets users access both movies and television shows from a range of content providers. Instead of having to go to different apps to access different programs, just go into the TV app. (Not all content can be accessed through the TV app. For example, Netflix, Amazon, and NatGeo Wild are not available. As of this writing, the TV app is only available in the United States.)
The TV app does not need to be downloaded, but will come pre-installed on new phones and will replace the Videos app on older phones as of iOS 10.2. Therefore, your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch must be running iOS 10.2 or later and your Apple TV must be 4th generation using tvOS 10.1 or later. It is assumed for this article that you are familiar with basic VoiceOver commands for selecting items, moving around the screen, and using the Rotor. Furthermore, if using the TV app on the Apple TV, you must be familiar with navigating around the TV screen and making selections.
Using the TV App on an iOS Device
The first time the app is opened, there will be a Welcome screen. The next time, the app will open with four tabs at the bottom of the screen: Library, Watch Now, Store, and Search.
The Library tab contains a list of movies and television shows already purchased from iTunes. There are buttons labeled "TV Shows" and "Movies." Activating either of these buttons will display a list of what's in that category. Using heading navigation quickly brings you to Recently Purchased Shows and Recently Purchased Movies. Directly under each heading is a button labeled "See All."
Once you select a TV show or movie, a new screen will load with information about it. There will be an option to download that selection. This will allow you to watch without an Internet connection and without using data. Once any content is downloaded, a "Downloaded" button will appear below the Movies button. Activating this button brings up a list of titles downloaded to your device.
The Watch Now tab has two major headings, Up Next and Browse by Genre. The Up Next section lets you pick up where you left off in a movie or TV show. For example, I like the program "Dr. Jeff: Rocky Mountain Vet" on Animal Planet. If I don't watch the most recent episode when it airs, it appears the next day in the Watch Now section. All I have to do is double tap on it and in a few seconds, the episode starts playing in the Animal Planet Go app. (If I didn't have the Animal Planet Go app on my phone, the TV app would send me to the App Store to get it.) If I did not have Animal Planet as part of my cable subscription, I would not have access to it. Since I do, I can watch it for free. If I wanted to watch the show and I didn't have the Animal Planet Go app, I could still purchase the episode from the iTunes store for $2.99. Which apps you can get depends on your cable or satellite subscription plan. See the section on the Store tab for more details.
Also in this section are movies and TV shows that I haven't finished watching, listed from newest to oldest.
The Browse by Genre section contains recommendations from Apple based on your apps and content history. Categories include Comedy, Documentary, and Action. Activating any of these genres brings up a list of suggested content. Double tapping on a suggestion will load information about the selected movie or show along with a "Play" button. If you've selected a TV program, you may be given a selection of seasons.
The Store tab is another way to get apps and content. This is where you select individual apps to link with the TV app. Not all apps are free. Some have both a free and paid version or require in-app purchases. If you select a free trial such as with HBO Now, make sure you read the trial terms carefully before getting the app.
At the top of the Store screen are some recommendations. Selecting a recommendation will load a page in the iTunes store for getting the associated app. If you already have the associated app, the content will start playing.
The first heading on the Store page is "Start Watching Now." Directly under this section is another heading called "Get instant access to hit TV shows and movies." Under this heading are some subscription apps including Hulu, HBO Now, and CBS. The basic CBS app is free, but an "All Access" option gives subscribers access to more content.
The next heading is "Watch with your TV provider." The next heading is "Sign in to find TV shows and movies you'll love." Apps in this section include ABC, NBC, ID Go, History and Food Network. A limited number of TV providers support Apple's single sign-on feature. If your provider does not support this feature, you will need to sign into each app that you download.
Below the app listing is a list of new releases on iTunes. Access this area quickly with headings navigation.
The final tab is Search. At the top of the page is an edit box for entering search criteria. You can also search with Siri. Also in this tab are headings for trending movies and trending TV shows.
Using the TV App on Apple TV
With a few exceptions, the TV app works similarly on an Apple TV.
With tvOS 10.1, the TV app has automatically been added to the Apple TV 3rd and 4th Generation. By default, it is placed at the top left of all your apps. You can set the Home button on the Siri remote to open the TV app instead of the Home screen. By default, the button is set to the app. You can change this by going to Settings > Remotes > Devices > Home Button.
Tabs on the TV app have a slightly different layout than in the iOS version. The Watch Now tab is first, followed by the Library, Store, and Search tabs.
The Watch Now tab contains the same information regarding shows or movies you haven't finished watching. If you want to play content from an app that is on your iOS device but not on your Apple TV, you will need to download the TV version of the app from the App Store. For example, I have had the iOS version of Animal Planet Go on my phone, but I needed to get the Apple TV version in order to watch their shows. As soon as I selected the program on my Apple TV, I was brought to the page to get the app.
If your content is from iTunes, there is nothing else you need to do before playing. Activate the "Play" button and within a few seconds, content should begin playing.
All purchased content from iTunes will be in your iTunes library. Once you find content to play, activate the "Play" button.
Control Your Apple TV with an iOS Device or Apple Watch
If you are tired of keeping track of the Apple TV remote or just want other options, try controlling the TV with your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, or Apple Watch.
Using an iOS Device
The Apple TV Remote requires iOS 9.3.2 or later. Download the remote app here. It might take practice to get the feel of how iOS and Apple Watch react when used as remotes. Review the app's information to learn about using the app with older Apple TVs.
The first time you launch the Remote app, you will be prompted to pair your iOS device with an Apple TV. Use the Remote app to do this. Both the TV and the iOS device must be on the same Wi-Fi network. You can use the iOS remote and the remote that comes with the TV interchangeably.
Once the iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch is paired, the main screen will load. At the top left of the screen is the Devices button. Choosing it brings you back to the pairing screen.
At the top part of the screen, flicking right from the Devices button brings you to the gesture area, where gestures are performed. The bottom part of the screen has controls for Menu, Play/Pause, Home, and Siri.
Just above the device's "Home" button is the remote's "Home" button. Above that is the "Menu" button. The "Play/Pause" button is to the left and the "Siri" button is to the right.
The "Siri" button, which is near the bottom right of the screen, works a little differently with the Remote app. Double tap and hold the button. After hearing Siri's double chime, remove your finger and start speaking.
When content is playing, media controls are accessible. Rewind is to the left of the "Menu" button and Forward is to the right.
Using an Apple Watch as a Remote
The Remote app is pre-installed on your watch. Open it and select "Add Device."
Pairing your Apple Watch is more complicated than pairing your iOS device. Your watch and TV must be on the same Wi-Fi network. How you pair the watch depends on which generation of Apple TV you have:
Fourth Generation: Settings > Remotes and Devices > Remote app, then select your Apple Watch
Second or Third Generation: Settings > General > Remotes, then select your Apple Watch
On your Apple TV, with either the TV remote or your iPhone remote, enter the four-digit code that appears on the watch.
Use the Watch as a remote by first opening the Remote app. Once the Watch is connected, flicking right brings you to the gesture area. Activate the gesture area by double tapping the button. VoiceOver will start speaking commands; double-tap to start using the gesture area. Tap once to make a selection and swipe to move. Each time you want to use the gesture area after using either the "Menu" or "Play/Pause" buttons, you will need to double tap on the gesture area button.
Flicking right past the gesture area brings you to the "Menu" button. Flicking right again brings you to the "Play/Pause" button.
The Bottom Line
The TV app is an easy way to organize and have quick access to your movies and TV shows. The iOS device Remote app and the Apple Watch Remote app provide good options if you don't like the TV's included remote. It is not an either/or decision. Any combination of remotes can be used at the same time.
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