Tech Drivers
Tech Drivers

The Apple TV can do so much more than stream Netflix and Hulu: Impress your friends with these tricks

Key Points
  • The Apple TV is more than just a box for streaming Netflix and Hulu.
  • You can use the Apple TV to control your lights, browse Amazon and order food.
  • CNBC's Todd Haselton shows you how to get the most out of your Apple TV.
It's me Todd, your guide to the Apple TV.
Todd Haselton | CNBC

You might currently use your Apple TV to stream music, watch Netflix and rent movies.

It's great for all of those things, but it can also do a lot more. Sometimes you just need to know where to look.

By knowing the right settings, the proper Siri commands and a few special apps, you can use your Apple TV for everything from calming down at the end of the day to controlling the lights.

Here are some Apple TV tips and tricks to help you get the most out of it.

Use your phone to type in text

The Apple TV remote is terrible.
Todd Haselton | CNBC

The keyboard on the Apple TV is atrocious. It's the worst part of the experience, because you need to use the remote to slide around and tap each letter for a username or password.

But you can save yourself a bunch of time by just typing on your iPhone. Here's how:

  • Make sure your iPhone is connected to the same Wi-Fi network as your Apple TV.
  • Tap into an empty text box on your Apple TV with your remote.
  • Look at your iPhone.
  • You'll see a notification that you can type right from your iPhone.
  • Type in the text.

Try Dark Mode

New TVs are super bright, which means the white colors used throughout the Apple TV interface can be somewhat irritating in a dark environment. I prefer to turn on "Dark Mode," which makes things easier on the eyes, especially if you have the lights off. Here's how to turn it on:

  • Open the Settings app on your Apple TV.
  • Select General.
  • Choose Appearance.
  • Select Dark. You can also select Automatic, which switches to Dark Mode at night.

Control your smart home

The Apple TV can be used as the primary hub for your smart home. With it and a couple of smart gadgets like light bulbs, security cameras and smart outlets, you can control your home from the Home app on your iPhone.

You need to set this up on the Apple TV first. Here's how:

  • Open Settings on your Apple TV.
  • Select Accounts.
  • Choose iCloud.
  • Log in with your iCloud account.

Now you can add gadgets to your house through the Home app on your iPhone. Also, if you want, you can use the microphone button on your remote to ask Siri to control stuff, like your lights.

Use Siri for weather and sports information

Todd Haselton | CNBC

Siri can be used to show information at the bottom of the screen, too. If you ask it a questions like, "Who won the Eagles game?" for example, Siri will show that the Eagles lost to the Saints, with the score and the logos of each team and a summary of the game.

If you ask the weather, Siri will show the current temperature and a logo representing the weather (like a cloud). But, oddly, Siri can't answer some other things that it does on a phone, like how tall the Empire State Building is or how long it will take you to get to work.

See all of the pictures from your iPhone

It's super easy to see all the pictures that you snap on your iPhone right on your Apple TV. You need to set up a couple of things on your iPhone and on your Apple TV to get it working. Here's what to do:

  • Open Settings on your iPhone.
  • Tap your name at the top.
  • Choose iCloud.
  • Enable "iCloud Photos."
  • Enable "Upload to My Photo Stream."


  • Open Settings on your Apple TV.
  • Select Accounts.
  • Tap iCloud.
  • Under "Photos," select "iCloud Photos" and toggle it to "On."

Now open the Photos app on your Apple TV and sign in to iCloud. You'll see all of the pictures you've snapped on your iPhone, and it'll always be updated with the latest ones.

Mirror the screen from your iPhone, iPad or Mac

The Apple TV supports Apple AirPlay, which lets you mirror the screen on your iPhone, iPad or Mac. It's useful if you're watching a YouTube video during a dinner party and want to share it with everyone on the big screen, or even if you just want to display a presentation from your Mac to your Apple TV.

On an iPhone or iPad:

  • Connect to the same Wi-Fi network as your Apple TV.
  • Open control center -- (swipe down from the top-right on an iPhone X or newer, or from the bottom of the screen on older iPhones. The same goes for the newer iPad Pro vs. other iPads.)
  • Select "Screen Mirroring."
  • Choose your Apple TV.

On a Mac:

  • Connect your Mac to the same Wi-Fi network as your Apple TV.
  • Select the AirPlay logo at the top-right of your Mac (it looks like a triangle on a rectangle).
  • Choose your Apple TV.

Log in to your cable provider

Apple TV has a feature called Zero Sign-on that's super, super useful. If you pay for cable, you don't need to sign-in to every single premium app that's based on a cable subscription. So, if you have TBS and CNBC installed and pay for those apps through cable, you just pick your cable network once and then those apps will sign-in automatically each time. Here's how to set that up:

  • Open Settings on your Apple TV.
  • Select Accounts.
  • Choose TV Provider.
  • Select your cable provider from the list.

Now, open an app like NBC or another network that requires cable.

  • You'll get a prompt asking if you'd like to use your cable subscription.
  • Choose "Allow."
  • Visit the website listed and enter in your activation code. Don't worry, this is the only time you'll need to do this. That's it.

See what apps you subscribe to, and cancel them if you want

At some point, you or the kids might have signed up for an app that requires a monthly subscription. Maybe you don't want to pay for it anymore. You can see and cancel those subscriptions right from your Apple TV. To do that:

  • Open Settings on your Apple TV.
  • Select Accounts.
  • Choose Manage Subscriptions at the bottom of the page.
  • Select any of the active subscriptions you'd like to cancel.

Order food

Order food from apps like GrubHub
Todd Haselton | CNBC

There are a couple of Apple TV apps that let you order food right from your TV, including GrubHub and Papa Johns pizza. To use them:

  • Open the App Store on your Apple TV.
  • Scroll down to "Food and Drink."
  • I like GrubHub because it lets me browse local restaurants and order any sort of cuisine I feel like, so try that one.
  • Now, visit from a computer and create an account, entering in an address and your payment info.
  • Log in to your GrubHub account on your Apple TV.
  • Order some grub!


Shh, I'm meditating with my Apple TV.
Todd Haselton | CNBC

I've been using an app called Calm recently and, as I started writing this guide, I saw that it has an Apple TV app, too. It costs $9.99 a month, but I think it's worth it. There are a couple of other meditation apps, but to use Calm do this:

  • Open the App Store on your Apple TV.
  • Install Calm from under the Health and Fitness category.
  • Select a meditation, sit back and follow along with the instructions.

Move apps and create folders

You can organize the home screen of your Apple TV with folders and by moving applications around. But the controls are really hidden. To create folders or move apps around, do this:

  • Push and hold down the top part of the Apple TV remote on any app on the home screen.
  • Wait until it wiggles, then let go.
  • Move it around to where you want it.
  • To create a folder, when the icon is wiggling, hit the play/pause button on your remote.
  • Tap "New Folder."
  • Give it a name, like "Entertainment."
  • Move apps to it following the first steps above.

Watch CNBC

Watch CNBC on your Apple TV.

You can watch CNBC on your Apple TV. There's a bunch of free content if you just open the app, including recent clips from your favorite shows, highlight segments from the top news of the day and more. Or, if you have a cable subscription, you can sign in and watch CNBC live. To get CNBC:

  • Open the App Store on your Apple TV.
  • Search for and download CNBC.
  • Open the CNBC app.
  • Choose "Settings"
  • Select sign in to your cable account.
  • Visit and enter in the code on your Apple TV.

Browse for stuff on Amazon

You can browse for goods on Amazon and add them to a list to buy later. Sadly, you can't actually buy stuff — you need an Amazon Fire TV to do that — but this is still fun if you just want to window-shop from the couch.

  • Open the App Store on your Apple TV.
  • Download the Amazon App.
  • Sign in to your Amazon account.
  • Choose "search" at the top of the screen.
  • Press the microphone button on your remote and search for something like "men's shoes."
  • Choose what you want and select "add to list."
  • Buy the product from the Amazon app on your phone or from the website on your computer.

Change TV button on remote to take you home instead of to the TV app

There's a TV icon on the remote but, by default, it brings you to the TV app. This is where you can find lots of TV shows and movies from all sorts of places, like Hulu and iTunes, but I prefer setting that button to bring me to the home screen so I can see all of my apps. Otherwise, I have to tap the menu button several times to return home.

To change the TV button to bring you home, do this:

  • Open Settings on your Apple TV.
  • Choose Remotes and Devices.
  • Select Home Button to toggle between "Apple TV App" and "Home Screen."
  • Leave it at "Home Screen."

Use Siri to rewind or fast forward or to find content

You don't have to fiddle with the remote to find the controls to fast forward or rewind while watching a movie. You can ask Siri to do it for you by tapping the microphone button on the remote. You can use Siri to fast forward or to rewind.

(Tip: Say "Fast forward 20 minutes" to move further ahead.)

You can also use Siri to find specific types of content, like comedy movies, or movies starring a specific person. The fastest way to play and pause, however, is to just tap the play/pause button on your Apple TV remote.


Play around with different apps and dig around in the settings menus to find even more things you can do with the Apple TV. Or, if you don't own an Apple TV, check out my guide to using the Amazon Fire TV.

Apple wants TV content without R-rating: Wall Street Journal