how to watch Apple tv


How to use Apple TV: The comprehensive guide

Soon you'll be streaming with joy.

Nov 13, 2020, 1:26 pm*



John-Michael Bond

Apple TV is one of the best premium streaming devices on the market. When money is no object, the clean and simple interface found on this streaming device is sure to be a hit with users of all ages. It might take you a moment to get used to its touch remote and menus, but once you learn the basics, you’ll be streaming with joy. And we’re here to help you get a head start. Whether you’re new to streaming or an old-school Roku fan, here’s everything you need to know about how to use Apple TV.    

Apple TVs

What is Apple TV?

It might surprise you to learn that Roku wasn't the first mass-produced streaming device: Apple TV was. Launched in 2007, one year before Roku, Apple's original TV device had 40GB, and streamed movies and shows bought off the iTunes store from your computer.

In January 2008, it became a stand-alone streaming device like we use today, no longer needing a computer to stream. Over the years, Apple TV has set itself apart thanks to its deep ties to the Apple ecosystem, user-friendly design, and steep price.

How does Apple TV work?

Like all streaming media centers, Apple TV requires an internet connection to work. You connect the device to your TV through its HDMI port. When you first turn on your device, the system will automatically walk you through the setup process. You’ll enter your Apple ID, the same one you use on your iPhone or iPad, which automatically connects the device to your Apple account. (If you don’t have one, you’ll make one.)

Once you’re set-up, it’s time to visit the Apple TV Store to select your favorite streaming services. The device can stream your iTunes library and services including Disney PlusNetflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, HBO Max and more. You can even cast your iPhone screen to your TV if they're on the same Wi-Fi network or use your phone as a handy remote.

Longtime Apple users can even access their purchases from iTunes on the service, including music, movies, and TV shows. Most streaming channels require you to have a subscription to access them, but there are free movie-streaming sites like Crackle for folks on a budget.   

One feature to love about the Apple TV is the 4K upgrade on video content bought and rented via iTunes. If you have a large, pre-existing library of iTunes movies you’ve been buying for years, your device will automatically play them in the best image quality available. As someone who spent a ton of money on DVDs—only to spend even more switching over to BlueRay—this free upgrade is a blessing. 

Even better, Apple doesn’t up-charge for 4K movies. For example Mission Impossible: Fallout as a new release on Vudu costs $24.99 for the 4K edition. On iTunes, the movie can be purchased for $19.99. For digital movie collectors, this little feature in Apple TV’s iTunes movies is a blessing. But keep in mind: It's only available on the Apple TV 4K. 

How much is Apple TV?

Apple TV HD

The entry-level device starts at $149, a solid $50 more than the most expensive Roku device. With 1080p video, 32GB of storage, and a voice-controlled Siri remote, the device is ready to meet your basic streaming needs right out of the box. It also comes with one free year of Apple's TV+ streaming service included with the cost of purchase. The biggest selling point of this option is the simplicity of its interface, but paying $149 for an HD streaming device is a big ask. This is recommended for Apple devotees only.

A photo of the Apple TV device and the remote

Apple TV 4K

At $170 for the 32GB model and $199 for the 64GB version, the Apple TV 4K is the most expensive streaming media player on the market outside of gaming consoles. While the device can play games, it isn't a game console, even if its price comes close to one. However, if money is no object, this option is one of the best media players on the market.

Apple TV 4K is the first streaming player on the market with Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos audio. This offers a breathtaking cinematic on setups that can take advantage of it. Particularly if you're working with a high end system, you'll get a better picture out of the Apple's 4K device than an entry level 4K Roku device. Still, most viewers won't be able to tell the difference unless they're particularly attuned to minute details. Its only problem is that the second best devices are still $70 to $100 cheaper.

Apple TV vs. Apple TV+

In March 2019, Apple introduced Apple TV+, a new streaming service promising original content from the likes of Steven Spielberg, Ron Howard, Jennifer Aniston, and plenty more A-list celebrities.

While you'll obviously be able to stream Apple TV+ on your Apple TV, the service will also be available on other devices like Amazon Fire TV and Roku. Confused yet? To put it plainly, Apple TV is the actual device you'll use to stream content, and Apple TV+ is a streaming service (like Netflix or Hulu) that you can watch using a smart TV device.

A photo showing the plug-in options for your device

Best channels on Apple TV

Your Apple TV comes preloaded with iTunes Movies, iTunes TV Shows, the App Store, Photos, Music, Search, Computers, and Settings. Movies and TV Shows are where you’ll find any media content you’ve bought on the iTunes store. The App Store helps you download apps, games, and services for your device. Below you'll find our five favorite channels and apps to get your started. If you're still looking for more content, check out these other winning apps on Apple TV.


Every Apple TV device supports Disney+, bringing the Marvel Universe, Disney, Pixar, and NatGeo content into your home for one low cast.

Amazon Prime Video

If you're already a Prime member, you'll have access to Amazon's full library of movies, Amazon originals, documentaries, 4K Ultra HD movies, and what’s new on Amazon each month.


Already a Netflix subscriber? Apple TV makes it easy to stream. Here are our guides for best movies on Netflix, and the must-see Netflix original series, documentaries, docuseries, and movies.


Whether you choose Hulu with Limited Commercials, upgrade for Hulu with No Commercials, or sign up for the Disney+/Hulu/ESPN+ bundle, all options offer a wealth of great moviesshowsdocumentaries, anime, and the must-see Hulu originalsHulu Live TV is also a popular way of watching live TV online. 

Apple TV+

Apple TV+ is Apple's entry into streaming. Featuring great original series like Little America, Apple's streaming service is still building its content library, but what its made is incredible. You get one year of Apple TV+ for free with the purchase of your Apple streaming device.

Live TV streaming on Apple TV

Sling TV

Thanks to its consistently affordable, flexible pricing starting at $30 per month, Sling TV carved out a powerful niche in streaming TV wars. As its competition continues to raise their prices, Sling TVs a le cart offerings remain an affordable and feature-packed alternative for cord-cutters.

YouTube TV

Although YouTube TV recently raised its price to $64.99 per month, this streaming TV service still has plenty of value to offer. Its package includes 85+ major channels like ESPN, Comedy Central, and all four major TV networks (and their local affiliate programming that can be hard to lock down on other streaming services. That means you won't have to scramble to catch the big game or Drag Race. Factor in its unlimited cloud DVR for up to six users and YouTube TV is a tempting package for big TV-loving families.

Hulu Live TV

Hulu Live TV offers a wonderful middle ground in the streaming TV pricing wars. At $54.99 per month, this package delivers 60+ channels, including the big three news networks, Bravo, ESPN, and more. Along with streaming TV subscribers get a basic streaming Hulu package, giving Hulu the largest on-demand library of any streaming TV service.

How does Apple TV stack up against the competition?

A screenshot of the user-friendly interface

Apple TV vs. Fire TV Stick

Unless you come from generational wealth, it's difficult to recommend the Apple TV over Fire TV Stick. At $29.99, the entry level Fire TV Stick Lite provides the exact same 1080p HD picture as the $149 Apple device. For $39.99 the Fire TV Stick come with 1080p, HDR support, and a bluetooth remote that can control your TV. If you'd like a 4K model, Apple starts at $170 for a 32GB version and tops out at $199 for the 64GB edition. Meanwhile, the jump to 4K with the Fire TV Stick 4K is just $49.99. If you're loaded or simply have your entire digital library purchased through iTunes, we understand. Otherwise, Apple's streaming device is just too expensive.

Apple TV vs. Roku

While Apple TV is an impressive feature-packed device, its cost is a massive problem compared to the competition. This is particularly true in the world of Roku. A basic HD Roku Express starts at just $29.99, with the 4K Roku Premiere costing just $39.99. That means the basic Apple device is over $100 more than Roku's simple 4K solution. As much as we adore the Apple interface and ease of use, Roku is just as easy and costs far less. If money is no object, then go with Apple. Everyone else should look elsewhere.

Apple TV vs. Chromecast

Starting at just $29.99, we understand if you might expect us to recommend the Chromecast over the Apple TV. Well, you're in for a surprise. Chromecast is an awful device that forces users to watch TV by broadcasting content from different apps on their smartphone instead of offering its own interface to navigate. TV time is time to wind down, yet the very design of Chromecast demands you remain tied to your phone during use. Meanwhile, Apple's streaming device lets you disconnect, offering both a remote and an actual user interface to navigate from show to show. Sure, there are other options out there for less money than Apple TV, but it's worth paying $129 extra not to have to use a Chromecast.

Streaming Device Guides

Amazon FireApple TVAndroid
RokuSmart TVsXBox

Live TV Service Guides

AT&T TV NOW CBS All AccessFubo TV
Hulu with Live TVPhiloPluto TV
Sling TVVidgoYouTube TV

Editor's note: This article is regularly updated for relevance. The Daily Dot may receive a payment in connection with purchases of products or services featured in this article. Click here to learn more.

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*First Published: Mar 27, 2019, 6:00 am