Expert tips for the Apple TV

Your Apple TV can be even more useful with this selection of 10 tricks and hacks that push its capabilities to the limit

By

  • 1 Switch region
  • 2 Watch Google Play movies
  • 3 Be a keyboard whizz
  • 4 Use multiple Apple IDs
  • 5 AirPlay any video file
  • 6 Listen to iTunes Radio
  • 7 Speedy Ethernet connections
  • 8 Apple TV on Public Wi-Fi
  • 9 Connect to a NAS
  • 10 See secret technical info
  • More stories
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Switch region to get more channels

There’s an easy way to get additional channels on an Apple TV – switch the region setting to the USA. This is done by open Settings, selecting iTunes Store, and changing the Location. 

As with the default UK setting many of the channels you discover this way will be subscription only, and some will simply refuse to play because they’ll detect you’re not in the US. However, some will play just fine. We had no trouble getting documentaries on the Smithsonian channel to play, for example. 

For $5 a month, services like Unblock Us use a clever DNS trick to overcome region blocking, and are compatible with the Apple TV. This even lets you tune into the US Netflix service, proving access to more much more rental content. 

Read next: How to surf the web on an Apple TV

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There’s an easy way to get additional channels on an Apple TV – switch the region setting to the USA. This is done by open Settings, selecting iTunes Store, and changing the Location. 

As with the default UK setting many of the channels you discover this way will be subscription only, and some will simply refuse to play because they’ll detect you’re not in the US. However, some will play just fine. We had no trouble getting documentaries on the Smithsonian channel to play, for example. 

For $5 a month, services like Unblock Us use a clever DNS trick to overcome region blocking, and are compatible with the Apple TV. This even lets you tune into the US Netflix service, proving access to more much more rental content. 

Read next: How to surf the web on an Apple TV

 

Watch Google Play movies

If you’ve an Android tablet or phone you might have purchased films or shows via the Play Store. Well, here’s some great news – you can watch them on your Apple TV too using the YouTube channel. Just start the YouTube channel and sign into My YouTube with the account used to make the purchases, and the movies should be listed under either or both of the Watch History and My Purchases headings. 

Even if you don’t usually buy movies via Google Play it’s still worth checking the store every now and again because films and shows are sometimes given away free. 

In case you’re wondering, yes, this trick also works with the YouTube apps on the iPhone and iPad!

Read: How to watch TV on Apple TV, get iPlayer, 4OD, Sky Go

 

Be a keyboard whizz

Setting up a Bluetooth keyboard is definitely the best approach for inputting data on an Apple TV but if you’re forced to use the on-screen keyboard via the remote control then there’s one trick that’ll make life significantly easier: pressing and holding a letter reveals a pop-out menu showing the delete key and also the capital letter.

For certain letters you’ll also see non-Latin variations, such as letters with umlauts or acute accents above them. Just use the direction keys on the remote control to highlight what you want, then hit the select button on the remote to choose it.

To delete, just move the highlight over to the delete symbol and it’ll instantly delete whatever’s behind the cursor, without cancelling the pop-out menu, so you can repeat the process to delete as much as you need to!

Read: Apple TV hints & hacks for the ultimate Apple TV setup

 

Use multiple Apple IDs

Unlike iTunes on your Mac, or your iPhone and iPad, the Apple TV lets you add multiple iTunes account logins. Just open the Settings app, open the iTunes Store menu heading, and select the Apple IDs entry on the subsequent menu. Then select Add New Apple ID. 

Alas, it’s not possible to be logged in with more than one account at once – you have to use the menu to choose which of the iTunes logins you want to use at the current time – but if you’ve iTunes music, movies and shows spread over several different accounts it’s an easy way of being able to easily switch between them. 

Read: 5 reasons not to buy an Apple TV | 5 reasons to buy an Apple TV

 

Play any video file via AirPlay

Playing video files you download yourself is possible by importing the file into iTunes, starting playback and selecting the Airplay option near the transport controls. However, iTunes is only compatible with MP4 file format and you may find yourself with an MKV file, or files in a handful of other formats.

Newer Macs can use Airplay mirroring to mirror the screen and audio via an Apple TV. Just use an app on your Mac like VLC to play the video, then select the Airplay icon at the top right of the screen and select the Apple TV and the mirroring option.

Sadly, older Macs aren’t compatible with Airplay mirroring. You know if this is the case because the Airplay icon simply won’t appear on the menu bar.

But older Macs owners shouldn’t give up! There are at least two options. The first is to install AirParrot, which quite simply activates mirroring on all Macs (those with a Core 2 Duo processor onwards). AirParrot costs $14.99 although a seven-day trial is available. 

However, arguably better if you simply want to play video files is Beamer, which costs £12.00 and promises glitch-play playback at up to 1080p, along with subtitle support. Beamer simply sends the files directly to the Apple TV without mirroring. A free trial is available. 

Read: How to get US Netflix on Apple TV

 

Listen to iTunes Radio

At the time of writing iTunes Radio still hasn’t made it across the Atlantic but the same trick for tuning-in via an iPhone or iPad can be used – just create a new iTunes login, stating your country as being the US.

Add it as an additional iTunes account, as described in tip 4 previously, and also switch your region to the US, as described in tip 1. An iTunes Radio option will then appear as a channel. 

Read: Apple TV 2015 release date rumours

 

Use Ethernet for speedy connections

Although Wi-Fi boasts speeds easily fast enough for glitch-free video playback from your Mac to your Apple TV, real-life conditions will almost certainly mean your actual connect speed is slower.           

The solution is to connect your Apple TV directly to your Internet router via an Ethernet cable, if such a thing is possible bearing in mind the distance. It possible you should connect your Mac via Ethernet too (although note that it isn’t possible to connect an iPhone, iPhone or iPod Touch via Ethernet). 

Read: How to turn an Apple TV into a games console

 

Use an Apple TV on public Wi-Fi

Because it lacks a web browser it’s seemingly impossible to get an Apple TV to join a public Wi-Fi service, such as that in a hotel (if you want to use the room’s TV to watch movies, for example). However, it might be possible with a little hack.

Start by discovering the Wi-Fi address of your Apple TV. This can be done by looking at the sticker on the bottom, or by open the Settings app and selecting About, then looking at the Wi-Fi Address heading. The address will be something like ab:c3:d5:e3:1d:aa:ca.

Next, remove the power from your Apple TV temporarily and on your Mac download LinkLiar, which can be accessed once installed by opening System Preferences (the version of LinkLiar for Mavericks works fine on Yosemite). Click the Wi-Fi En1 heading, and in the pop-out window type in your Apple TV’s Wi-Fi address. Note that this is a hexadecimal number, so any 0 characters are zeroes, and not the letter O. Be sure to type the colons as well as the letters and numbers. 

Click the Apply button, then turn off Wi-Fi on your Mac, before turning it back on again. Sign onto the Wi-Fi service using your Mac, which might involve entering a user ID and so on. Shutdown your Mac, and boot-up your Apple TV. Use the Settings app to connect to the Wi-Fi service and you should now find the Apple TV is now able to get online. Following this, boot your Mac and join the network a second time. Note that there’s no way for your Mac and Apple TV to share the same login for the Wi-Fi service, so you may need to pay twice if it’s not a free service. 

 

Connect to a NAS

Apple doesn’t let you connect a hard disk directly to your Apple TV in order to play movies stored there, but a small hack lets you can connect to any computer running the free-of-charge Plex Media Server software. This can be any computer, such as an older PC that you turn into a server. 

How it works is that the Trailers app on the Apple TV is hijacked so it tunes into Plex instead of Apple’s servers. Surprisingly, this doesn’t require jailbreaking the Apple TV, and only requires a handful of configuration changes on the Apple TV.

However, on the computer running Plex Media Server you’ll also need to install PlexConnect, which again is a fairly simple task but requires certain software to be in place. On a Mac running Plex this is already present, but a Windows computer may need additional configuration. 

Once setup is complete, just open the Trailers app on your Apple TV and you should see the movies on your Plex server. 

 

See secret technical info

By clicking General > About within the Settings app you’ll see lots of technical info about your Apple TV. But that’s not all there is to see! Click the select button on the remote and the Model field will switch to show Apple’s internal Part Number system of identification.

The Apple TV Software field will change to read OS Build Version. Press the Up button on the remote control and at the bottom will be added a new heading that will cycle as you continue tapping Up to read Bonjour Device ID, Wi-Fi BSSID, and Wi-Fi Channel. 

Read: New Apple TV 2014 release date rumours

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