Despite Apple originally referring to the Apple TV as a 'hobby', that all changed with the introduction of the fourth-gen Apple TV, followed by the Apple TV 4K back in 2017. Why? It features tvOS, an operating system that brings a whole new dimension to Apple TV.
For those unaware, tvOS offers access to Siri and the App Store on your Apple TV. 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 football team's match.
However, it also comes with features unique to the Apple TV, including the ability to search not only iTunes but Netflix 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 was a huge addition to the Apple TV, and looks to take the Apple TV from a ‘hobby’ to a killer product with a range of amazing Apple TV games and apps. It’s even better news for us in the UK, as Apple never really catered to UK Apple TV users in the first few years of the Apple TV's life, offering a small selection of apps compared to our US counterparts, but now UK companies - and crucially the TV channels - have started to offer their own apps, so you can pretty much find everything you want to on the Apple TV.
Here, we take a look at some of the best apps for Apple TV for UK users.
Best Apple TV apps
There are all sorts of categories of apps you might want to install on your Apple TV, from entertainment apps like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video to fitness, cooking, education and social media apps. There are lots to choose from, but a lot aren't all that good. The ones we list below are the best Apple TV apps we've found on the Apple TV App Store.
Best entertainment apps
The YouTube app is a must for any Apple TV owner. You don’t have to pay a subscription and you can get access to a vast wealth of video content, from the latest gameplay videos to beauty vlogs and, frankly, anything else you could possibly imagine.
Sure there’s some questionable content, and we do wonder whether the kids will turn out fluent in Korean based on the amount of Korean content they are consuming, but there’s usually something interesting to watch. It would be nice to see the Kids YouTube app though.
Another one that is obviously essential if you have a subscription - and these days who doesn’t? You’ll find all the shows everyone else is watching and because it works with Apple’s TV app, you can search for a show there and it will let you know whether it’s available in Netflix or another app. Subscribe here.
This is one to install immediately if you have an Amazon Prime subscription - which would give you access to loads of really good TV shows and films, as well as the free, next-day delivery service. What’s not to like? Subscribe here.
If you are in the UK you’ll be pleased to learn that All 4 is now available on Apple TV - which means you can now get all the On-Demand channels for TV in the UK (bar UKTV itself - which is where you’d find Dave). It was a long time coming, arriving in December 2018. This means shows like Catastrophe and hundreds of box sets including Skins, Shameless and Teacher, will be available via the app (and can also be accessed from inside Apple’s TV app).
Also predominantly for our UK readers, the iPlayer app gives you access to all the BBC content, including Ceebeebies for those with young children. You will have to sign in on your iPhone or computer in order for the app to work - that’s because the BBC is checking your location. (If you are outside the UK and want to watch iPlayer, read this).
Another UK app for OnDemand TV, home to Peppa Pig, Ben & Holly and various other kids TV shows as well as Home and Away and Neighbours.
If you are in the UK and you want to watch ITV programmes like Love Island and The Only Way Is Essex then this is one to install.
If you are a BT Sport subscriber you can watch events, including Premier League football, via your Apple TV. BT Sport costs £9 per month in addition to a BT Broadband subscription and some EE customers can also get access to the service too. Sign up here.
Chances are your Apple TV is plugged into a TV and therefore you can watch live telly, but if you are using a TV that lacks an aerial you may be wondering if there is a way to watch television while it's being broadcast. 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 free to use?
Plex for Apple TV 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.
The company claims that its Apple TV app is one of its most feature-rich, including support for playlists, channels and in-app search. 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.
Disney Life (Soon to be Disney+)
The Disney Life app will give you tons of Disney content for a £5.99 a month subscription, there is a free one-week trial. You’ll find all the Disney films, shorts and TV shows in an easy to use interface, and when Disney+ officially launches in the UK in March 2020, Disney Life subscribers will be switched over to the improved service.
Another UK service, Now TV bundles various offerings from Sky into a single app. You can subscribe to the movies (£11.99/m), TV shows (£8.99/m) or Kids (£3.99/m) as well as Sports (from £5.99/m) and Hayu (£3.99/m) despite the latter also being available as part of a standalone Hayu app. Subscribe to Now TV here.
Full of content geared to kids, Hopster costs £4.99 a month and includes games, shows, music and books for children. You’ll find Fireman Sam, The Grufalo, Octonauts and Thomas and Friends. There is even some content that can be watched without subscribing (including an episode of In the Night Garden and one of Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom).
VLC For Mobile
You might already be familiar with VLC as the media player that lets you play any kind of multimedia file on your Mac. Well, now you can use it on your Apple TV (and your iOS device) too. Like with the Plex app, VLC for Mobile allows you to play any kind of media file accessed via your network.
If watching the Kardashians isn’t the worst thing you can imagine doing with your evening, then you could try out the Hayu app, which has about every reality TV show you can imagine. It’s £4.99 a month to watch over 200 reality TV shows from the US.
Best education apps
The TED app is worth a look, with presentations about all sorts of interesting things. There are categories for Business, Science, Psychology, Technology, Health and Politics amongst others. Talks are around 15 minutes long generally and when you find one that interests you, you’ll find links to similar talks below.
This app which costs £170 a year if you want access to everything, or around £85 a go if you just want to partake of a single class. These classes are taught by people who are famous in their fields: you can be taught filmmaking by Jodie Foster, now to write a story by Neil Gaiman, Gordon Ramsey will teach cooking, and Annie Leibovitz will teach you photography, for example. Classes are made up of a number of lessons that list a few hours, and are catered to students of all levels of skill.
There are 80,000 video training courses in the Udemy app. You can learn everything from accounting and criminal psychology to how to become a best selling author, play the guitar, speak Latin and much more. Prices range from £19.99 to £119.99.
Training courses are also available from Linda.com but the great thing about this Apple TV app is there is lots of free content available in the form of tips which are updated weekly.
iBooks Story Time
Here are some interactive, read-along books, most are priced at £6.99, but you can find Finding Dory for £3.99.
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 has sound, and users are able to choose from eight different soundtracks.
Best cooking and recipe apps
These are short recipes that might inspire you when you are wondering what to cook for dinner. Some videos are widescreen, some square (potentially because they are filmed for social media) but they are rarely longer than a minute or two. It’s easy to search for chicken or salmon and get recipe ideas, but don't expect in-depth cooking tutorials.
The Cooking Channel
If you love cooking shows, there are loads to watch here, and you can easily save them to a personal collection for easy access at a later date.
The Food Channel
More short recipes to watch.
Best health and fitness apps
This is primarily a meditation app, but we tend to use it more as a screensaver since there are some lovely scenes you can choose from such as a sunset beach, rain on leaves, wind in the pines, and so on. If you struggle to sleep at night, Calm is a nice option to have running in the background.
Simply Yoga Fitness Trainer
Where most of the fitness apps on the Apple TV require a subscription, this one is free. It only covers the basics of Yoga and is aimed at beginners but that being said, what more do you want from a free app?
This app costs £3.99 (one-off, not subscription) and is essentially a personal trainer. You perform various exercises - which can be customised - and you can record streaks and see your progress.
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.
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 tutorials 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 social media and news apps
Rather than access to your Twitter feed, this app provides a link to content that can be found across Twitter, from funny videos to political news, technology, music and entertainment. It’s quite good for watching Tasty videos if you are into cooking and Today On Twitter lets you see what everyone else is watching.
This is a little like the Twitter Apple TV app in that it is a place to watch video content that’s being shared via Facebook rather than anything being shared by your friends.
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 laughter 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.
Albums for Facebook on your TV
The names a bit of a mouthful but if you want to be able to view your Facebook photo albums on your TV then this is quite a good way of doing so. You can set it to play slideshows of your photo uploads and albums. It can take a while to download content.
Best lifestyle 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 full-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.
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 £2.49 again for the Apple TV app.
If it's games you're after, we have a separate article that looks at the best games for Apple TV.