How to use iOS or Apple Watch as remote controls with Apple TV

Apple, Apple TV, iOS,
Credit: Apple

One for all the family

Apple introduced a much-desired new feature for Apple TV owners using Apple Watch, iPad or iPhones last week – the capacity to use your iOS device as a remote control for your TV. Here's how to get it working.

Before you can use the new feature you must update to iOS 9.2 on your iPad, iPhone and/or iPod Touch. You must also update your Apple Watch and Apple TV to the latest software versions (tvOS 9.1 and WatchOS 2.1) and install Remote app on your devices.

Home Sharing

You can enable Remote app on your devices by enabling Home Sharing on your Appe TV and signing in with your Apple ID. However, you don’t need to use Home Sharing to enable Remote on your devices.

To add an iOS Device

Launch Apple TV Settings, select Remotes and Devices and opt for Remote App and then select your iOS device.

On the device you should launch Remote app and use “Add a Device” to select the Apple TV you wish to control. You will be given a four-digit code you must enter on your iOS device to pair the two.

Also read: The essential Apple TV Siri Remote usage guide

To add an Apple Watch

Once again, visit Apple TV Settings, select Remotes and Devices and opt for Remote App and then select Apple Watch.

Next you should ensure the Apple Remote app is available on your Watch using your iPhone, and then launch the app. Select Apple TV and enter the code you will receive.

Remote app

When used with iOS devices the Remote App lets you swipe to control the on-screen action and (most usefully) provides you with a virtual keyboard, which makes it much easier to search for items on Apple TV.

Now Remote is active on your Apple Watch you can:

  • Scroll through content in apps.
  • Access and play music in iTunes
  • Play or pause movies, TV shows and music.

NB: There is no fast swipe on Apple Watch, you navigate on-screen elements one swipe and one object at a time – swipe speed is not recognized. You can’t use Apple Watch to navigate games, but it is fine for most apps.

The popular Siri-based Apple TV controls are not supported when using Remote app, though this will change next year, Apple’s SVP Eddy Cue promised last week.

"We’re working on a new Apple TV remote app that will give you the full functionality of the Siri Remote on your iPhone," he said. "We’re hoping to ship that in the first half of next year."

The company reportedly has suspended plans to introduce its own subscription-based TV services as incumbents in the space were unable to agree a deal.

Also read: 10 Apple TV features you’ll use

This may not mean too much as the app-based approach to programming is gathering steam, with UK broadcaster, the BBC, making an iPlayer app available to the Apple TV.

The BBC isn’t the only channel to see sense in making programming available via apps. One big US example, Endemol Beyond USA is making its Icon and Smasher channels available as original apps.

“The video entertainment landscape is shifting to reward those investing in the on demand, video everywhere infrastructure,” said Frank Sinton, founder and CEO at Beachfront Media (the company building these apps for Endemol Beyond USA. “The success of Endemol Beyond and its networks are proof that apps are the new channels through which people enjoy content.”

Apple listens

Apple is committed to its TV platform. As evidence of this take how quickly it has responded to previous criticism of the Apple TV. In just five weeks, the company has already improved app discovery, attracted additional channels, made improvements to Siri and Apple Music, enabled use of an iPhone as a text entry device for search and more. In other words the company is listening to feedback and attempting to create a perfect solution for television.

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