Apple took centre stage at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in September 2015 to announce a slew of new products, including the new iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, a brand new super size iPad Pro, a new iPad mini and a completely new Apple TV. Though it looks like its predecessor, it boasts the all-new tvOS which brings a number of improvements to a product considered a ‘hobby’ by Apple until recently.
Apart from a UI redesign to bring tvOS in line with the style of iOS 9 and OS X El Capitan, the two main additions to the Apple TV are Siri and an App Store. Siri can be used in a similar way to how it’s used on the iPhone, and can be asked a variety of things from what the weather is like to the status of your teams’ football match. However, it also comes with features unique to the Apple TV, including the ability to search not only iTunes but Netflix (with other third-party apps coming soon) for movies and being able to say “What did he say?” to get Siri to rewind the film by 15 seconds and temporarily enable subtitles.
The Apple TV App Store is a huge addition to the Apple TV, and looks to take the Apple TV from a ‘hobby’ to a killer product. It’s even better news for us in the UK, as Apple has never really catered to UK Apple TV users, leaving us with a small selection of apps compared to our US counterparts. Here, we take a look at some of the best apps for the Apple TV for UK users.
Best Apple TV apps: Facebook
While it isn't actually available just yet, Facebook recently announced a dedicated Facebook app for the Apple TV. However, unlike the standard iOS app, the focus on the Apple TV variant will be videos, giving users an easy way to browse through the myriad of videos available on the platform. It should be released as part of the iOS app (it'll be a universal app) so if you haven't already, download Facebook on your iPhone and it'll appear on your Apple TV once it's rolled out in the coming weeks.
Best Apple TV apps: Netflix
Of course Netflix is amongst our best Apple TV apps, the on-demand video provider has had huge success in every country that it operates, and it’s a no-brainer that it made an appearance on the new Apple TV. For those that aren’t aware of Netflix, the company offers a vast library of movies, TV shows and (hugely popular) Netflix original content on-demand, and is constantly updated with new content.
Best Apple TV apps: Streaks Workout
Streaks Workout is a great app for those of us that want to improve our general health and fitness, but aren’t quite ready to commit to a monthly gym membership. The idea is very simple, choose from a range of exercises that work your various muscle groups – legs, arms, chest, abs, etc – and complete a workout each day. There are options available for each workout to increase its intensity, all based on your ability and how much time you have – these options are easily tweaked before the workout is started. The app stores your workout statistics and lets you easily track and view the data, which should help keep you motivated to lead a healthier lifestyle.
Best Apple TV apps: Zova Yoga Workout
Zova isn’t going to be everybody’s cup of tea, but if you’re into Yoga, you’ll be pretty interested. The app is free to download, and allows you to browse through a number of Yoga workouts, all curated by health and fitness experts. You can see the time it takes and the number of calories you’ll burn at a glance, and the step-by-step videos will take you through every element of the workout. Though don’t get your hopes up too quickly – the app may be free, but only a handful of them are free to watch. The majority of its vast library is paid-for, and you’ll have to part with your cash before Yoga-ing to the max. But hey, if it’s something you enjoy, a couple of pounds won’t matter too much right?
Best Apple TV apps: Plex
Plex co-founder Scott Olechowski confirmed in an email to ITWorld soon after the Apple TV announcement that Plex would be coming to the Apple TV soon after launch. True to his word, Plex is now available to download on the Apple TV, completely free of charge. Plex allows users to store videos, music and photos on their computer or a NAS drive, then using the Plex’s free server software, transcode and stream those files to the Plex app. The end result is having your complete movie library available to you at the touch of a button, no need to burn a DVD or AirPlay from your iPad – functionality that avid users of Plex have been patiently waiting for, for years.
Read our Plex for Apple TV review
The company claims that its Apple TV app is one of its most feature-rich, including support for playlists, channels and in-app search from day one. One of the key features of the Apple TV is its universal search that searches both official Apple channels and third-party apps. Unfortunately, the API hasn’t been released for all developers just yet, but once it does, you may see videos from Plex appear in your results.
Best Apple TV apps: Smule Sing! Karaoke
New research has found that singing with a friend or partner will help you bond with them quicker, due to the release of exercise-like endorphins while singing. Enter Sing! Karaoke by Smule, an app for the Apple TV that aims to turn it into a fully blown karaoke machine – perfect for those boozy nights in with your friends. Users have the choice of either having a duet with someone in their front room, or someone from around the world, although the editor of Macworld UK points out that there is no way to have a sing-song by yourself, which may be off-putting for some people.
However if it doesn’t bother you, you’re able to download the Sing! App on your iPhone to turn it into a microphone, with the ability to use two phones/microphones simultaneously. Your friends will also be able to personalise the music queue while you’re belting out your best Whitney impression, keeping the activity flowing. If this sounds like a fun night in to you, you’d better download it soon as the Sing! Karaoke app along with its 100,000 song library are free for only a limited time.
Best Apple TV apps: Alto’s Adventure
If you’re looking for a fun time-waster, then Alto’s (seemingly never-ending) Adventure is a great option. The hugely popular iOS app has leaped onto the Apple TV, bringing its beautiful graphics and simplistic controls with it – due to the games tap-centric nature, it’s ideal for use with the Apple TV remote. Though it was already praised for being a beautifully designed iOS app, you really get a chance to admire the snowy slopes and free flowing backdrop on a bigger scale when played on the Apple TV.
Alto’s Adventure will set back new players £2.29 instead of force-feeding you horribly placed adverts and IAPs like many of its side-scrolling companions. Although if you’ve already purchased the app on your iPhone or iPad, it’s free of charge and should be available to download in your Purchased list on the Apple TV app store.
Best Apple TV apps: Rayman Adventures
One of the best free-to-play adventure games on the Apple TV at the moment seems to be Ubisoft’s Rayman Adventures, which feels more like a traditional console game as opposed to an iOS game. In fact, the game isn’t even available for iOS devices, making it an Apple TV exclusive (for now, anyway). Playing as Rayman, you solve puzzles and conquer challenges to fight your way through various levels in true Rayman fashion, with the end-goal of saving an enchanted forest.
The game can be played with either the Apple TV remote or a third-party controller, and though the Siri remote provides a satisfactory gaming experience, Macworld US writer Caitlin McGarry notes that using a controller should make the experience even better. As we mentioned above, it’s free to download and play so you’d be crazy not to give it a go!
Best Apple TV apps: CARROT Weather
CARROT is a weather app for the Apple TV (and iOS) with a slight difference; it has added sass. CARROT is a comprehensive weather app that can display accurate, detailed data and weather maps with additional sarcastic (and sometimes a little weird) comments. The app displays current weather related information like humidity, temperature and air pressure alongside a short-term forecast that displays the outlook for the next 18 hours. You can search for different locations and as you use the app, you’ll unlock made up locations like Mount Doom or the Wyoming Badlands during the times of the dinosaur.
However, with all that being said, there are a few key features missing from the Apple TV app that are present in its iOS counterpart. These features include the time machine that lets you look up the weather up to 70 years in the past, as well as 10 years in the future, along with the radar map – something that’d look pretty cool on a TV. Also it’s worth mentioning that even if you’ve paid for CARROT weather for iOS, you’ll have to pay again for the Apple TV app which costs £2.49.
Best Apple TV apps: TVPlayer
Unfortunately, the Apple TV doesn’t support TV tuners, however that doesn’t mean that it can’t be used to binge on live TV. Enter TVPlayer; TVPlayer is an app for the Apple TV that enables access to a number of freeview channels including BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5, as well as a premium option that’ll unlock extra channels including Eurosport. The app itself is pretty simple to use, though the streaming quality can greatly vary from time to time, ranging from crisp to so blurry you’d think you’ve forgotten to put your glasses on. But hey, who’s complaining when it’s a free app?
Best Apple TV apps: Earthlapse
Earthlapse offers something unique to new Apple TV users; the ability to stare out of a virtual view from the International Space Station, looking at our big blue planet. The app is created by Jetson Creative, the guys behind the Magic Window app for iOS and Mac, and displays a range of beautifully crisp videos (18 in total) of the Earth along with a caption in the top left hand corner that informs you of what/where you’re looking at, and the time and date in the top right hand corner.
The source videos aren’t great quality, so the team instead pulls the raw images from the NASA feed and re-builds them in a much higher resolution using Apple’s Metal API to render the images, allowing you to change the speed and colour effects on the fly. These images are similar to Apple’s own aerial screen savers, but with one difference; Earthlapse have sound, and users are able to choose from eight different soundtracks. To download on your Apple TV, search for “Earthlapse” in the App Store.
Best Apple TV apps: GIFtv – Endless GIF Reel
From incredibly detailed photos of our planet, to GIFs of cats doing funny things. Yes, fans of GIFs should download GIFtv. The idea of the app is to display a random GIF for seven seconds, before moving onto the next one, in a never ending reel of (mostly) hilarious GIFs. The more astute of you will note that GIFs don’t feature audio, and so it’ll be a pretty quiet app – and while you are right, the app features background music streamed from iTunes Radio, so you’re not in tears of laugher in complete silence. Admittedly, there isn’t much else to the app, but if you need a chuckle or just want something on the TV in the background, this is a good (and free) choice.