Updated: September 8, 2014
Similar to many of the other Apple devices, the Apple TV home entertainment system is a simple device as well. But, it offers a lot of potential that many Apple TV users have yet to realize.
If you are an avid user of Apple TV or you are unfamiliar with it, Apple TV is a set-top box that allows you to stream home entertainment using a remote or your iOS device. Apple TV allows you to access your favorite television programs and movies when it is convenient for you, instead of having to work your schedule around your cable TV programs or remember to set the DVR to record.
Although Apple TV is one device among many that allows you to access television shows and movies on demand, it is the only source that allows you to enjoy media from the iTunes store. This means if you miss an episode of your favorite television series, all you have to do is go to the iTunes store, choose the episode for purchase, and then watch it on Apple TV.
Apple TV allows you to facilitate interactions between your iOS devices and your flat screen television. The home screen provided by Apple TV provides tools for customization to highlight your preferences, configure your iPad and iPhone for use as a TV remote control, and play games on a big screen television using your iPad.
In this article we will provide an overview view of Apple TV for new users and provide a few tips and tricks that even seasoned users can use to maximize the potential of Apple TV.
Overview of Apple TV
Apple TV offers a lot of versatility in terms of costs and the variety of programming you can access. You can choose to rent programming from designated TV channels for less than one dollar, access Netflix at a fraction of the cost of cable TV, and rent high definition movies on the same day they are released which eliminates the typical waiting period you endure with cable TV.
In addition to offering a variety of services, Apple TV is a set-top device that provides you with access to a versatile number of entertainment options. The device is very compact and is connected to your flat screen television via an HDMI cable and requires a high speed broadband Internet connection.
Once the Apple TV media streaming device is connected to your television, you are provided with an intuitive interface on your TV screen that supplies you with the tools you need to adjust the settings, locate television shows and movies, and access programming on Internet TV.
Apple TV Setup, Features, and Tips
If you are using the third generation version of Apple TV, the interface is loaded with features and versatility. Using an iOS device that runs on iOS 7, Apple TV can be easily setup and configured without having to manually navigate your way through the onscreen menus. All that is necessary is a connection to a Wi-Fi network and Bluetooth that has been activated. Then you can place your iOS device near the Apple TV device to automatically detect the setup.
Here is a great video that will provide you with further information on setting up an Apple TV.
Once you have completed setup, here are a few features and tips on how to maximize your use of Apple TV.
Once you have completed the setup and you access the home screen, if you do not like the way the apps are displayed, you can easily change their location. This is accomplished by highlighting the app you want to relocate and then holding down the Select button on the remote control. When the app icons begin to wiggle, use the arrow buttons to relocate the app to where you want it on the home screen.
Apple TV adds apps to the home screen by default. This means there may be apps that you will never use. To further customize the home screen, you can hide the apps by highlighting a specific app and then holding down Select on the remote control. When the app begins to wiggle, press Play/Pause. When the list appears, choose Hide This Item.
Mirror Your iOS Device Screen
The third generation version of Apple TV allows you to mirror your iOS or Mac device to your big screen television using the AirPlay feature. This feature also allows you to stream content from your device to the Apple TV unit for viewing on your television.
To mirror your Mac device screen, click on AirPlay on the device menu and choose Apple TV. This allows your screen to be displayed on your television.
You can also mirror the screen on your iPad or iPhone by accessing the Control Center on your device. In the Control Center, choose AirPlay from the list, click on Apple TV, and then select Mirroring. Your iPad or iPhone screen should appear on your television.
Use Your iOS Device as a Remote Control
Apple TV includes a separate remote control when you purchase the device. However, many Apple TV users opt to use their iPhone or iPad to avoid losing the remote control. To convert your device to a remote control all you need to do is download and install the Remote app from the iTunes Store.
Create Names for Your Apple TV Devices
If you have more than one Apple TV device in the household, you can change the name of each device to help you distinguish one from the other. To change the name of each device, the process is simple. Simply go to the Settings feature on the Apple TV interface, click on General, and then choose Name. Choose the location name in your house to assign it to an Apple TV device. These are names such as Living Room, Family Room, Office, Kitchen, etc.
If you have more than one PC or mobile device connected to your home network, the Apple TV interface provides a linking feature which allows you to connect any PC on the network to your Apple TV. You can also use your television as a PC monitor which provides a way for you to share content that you have on your PC’s hard drive.
Simply navigate to Settings, select Network, and choose Configure Wireless. Choose your home network from the list, enter your password, and then choose Connect. Apple TV will then connect to the network and display a passcode on the screen. The five digit passcode connects Apple TV to iTunes on your PC.
The TV tab feature on the Apple TV interface allows you to choose from a list of television shows, as well as a range of television networks. By using the remote that accompanies your Apple TV device or your iPhone or iPad, you can choose from a wide genre of programming including episodes from your favorite television series you may have missed.
Movies and TV Shows
When you click on the Movies and TV Shows feature app on the upper part of the home screen, you can search for movies and TV shows by category in the iTunes catalog, as well as preview movies that have been recently released in the theatres. This helps to provide you with an overview of what you will be able to access.
Customizations for Enhancing the Viewing Experience
The Apple TV interface also provides a settings feature which allows you to adjust the settings to achieve the best viewing experience. The settings include but are not limited to, audio and video, media sharing, and sleep mode, in addition to a variety of other adjustments.
On Demand Content
With a high speed broadband Internet connection, the Apple TV interface allows you to access Netflix, HuluPlus, Amazon On Demand Video, and other sources for streaming videos on demand. You also have the ability to view videos on YouTube, enjoy a variety of podcasts from the iTunes store, access Internet radio stations, and share media content such as photos on Flickr and videos you have uploaded to the Internet.
Apple TV Tips and Tricks
Like any other type of technology, there are tips and shortcuts that you can use to make your Apple TV experience more pleasant. Here are a few cool ideas you can use to improve your viewing experience:
Access Quick Info
Instead of being required to press the Menu button multiple times to return to the home screen, using the Apple TV remote, hold down the Menu button to return to the home screen You can do this anytime, regardless of where you are within a specific app.
If you have videos which are not compatible with the iTunes format, you can format the videos to make them viewable with your new Apple TV device. If you currently have a Mac PC or iPad, most of the devices are equipped with iMovie. This app allows you to format videos to make them viewable with Apple TV. You can also re-format your videos using Apple’s QuickTime Pro application which is compatible with PC, Mac OS, and iOS devices
The Parental Controls feature allows you to limit what your children can watch. Using the Apple TV home screen, you can simply navigate to Settings, click on General, and choose Restrictions. Under Restrictions is a broad range of features that allow you to block access to specific TV shows and movies, restrict content according to the rating, and block your child’s access to movie rentals and purchases that are made without your consent.
Add a Bluetooth Keyboard
Instead of having to use the tiny keys on the Apple TV remote control, it is possible to add a Bluetooth keyboard which provides you with access to full-sized keyboard. Setting up and configuring a Bluetooth keyboard is easy.
Simply navigate to Settings, click on General, and choose Bluetooth. Make sure your keyboard is in pairing mode so it appears in the list on the Apple TV interface. Then connect it and begin using the keyboard to navigate the Apple TV controls.
Access the Latest Movie Trailers
Instead of having to choose movie trailers separately on YouTube, you can view a collection of trailers from the latest movies. This is accomplished using the Trailers app which helps you search and create a collection of movie trailers to watch.
Any photos that you have taken with your iPad or iPhone can be viewed on Apple TV. The photos can be readily available using the My Photo Stream app on Apple TV and your iOS device.
To enable My Photo Stream on Apple TV, access Settings and then choose iCloud. Sign into iCloud using your Apple ID password. Choose iCloud Photos Settings and then select Turn On My Photo Stream.
To enable My Photo Stream on your iPad or iPhone, access Settings, click on iCloud, and then choose Photos and enable My Photo Stream. Whenever you add new photos to your iPad or iPhone, the photos will appear on Apple TV each time you access the iCloud Photos app.
Apple TV provides a way for you to stream music to your television. You can do this by streaming your library of music in iTunes to your Apple TV. If you have a high quality set of speakers added to your home entertainment system, it is necessary to activate Home Sharing and enable sharing in iTunes.
Home Sharing can be enabled by selecting the Computers app and choosing Enable Home Sharing. Then you must go to iTunes on the menu and select Preferences, and then click on Sharing.
Connecting Apple TV to an Older Model Television
If you have an older model television, it is not necessary to discard it in order to enjoy Apple TV. Instead, you can install an adapter that is specially designed to work with component cables. These are the cables that utilize the red, yellow, and white ports on your TV, as opposed to an HDMI cable port. You can obtain this type of an adapter at most electronics retail outlets in your community or online.
Test the Internet Connection
If downloading content seems to take a long time, you can test the Internet speed directly from the set-top box to identify any issues. On the Apple TV interface, go to Settings, choose General, and then select Network. Choose Test Network to run a test on the Internet connection that the Apple TV device is receiving.
If you find that your Internet connection is running slow, you can try connecting your Apple TV device with an Ethernet cable to speed up the connection and prevent problems with video buffering and slow downloads. If your Apple TV device is located near your router, you may want to consider this option to help speed up the connection when streaming videos and downloading content.
Compile Your DVDs
If you already have an entire library of DVDs that you have purchased and collected over the years, you can still stream your DVD collection to your Apple TV by ripping your DVD library. This can be accomplished using a program such as HandBrake, which is an open source software program designed for ripping DVDs for use with video streaming programs.
A great resource that explains how to use HandBrake was recently featured in an article in Macworld.
It is also important to mention that Apple TV provides a way to access DVR recordings and live TV using the Slingbox app produced by Sling Media. The Slingbox app also allows you to sling a video to an additional TV located in or outside your home.
In conclusion, Apple TV has been around for about eight years now with millions of devices sold since it first debuted in 2006. Many television and home entertainment enthusiasts are opting to choose this form of programming over cable TV to significantly reduce costs and to enjoy a broad range of programming which is available on demand.
According to a recent article in Network World, Apple has been preparing to deliver a completely revamped Apple TV device in 2014. It will be interesting to see what is about to come with new Apple TV innovations in the near future.