The Apple TV is a great device if you want to ditch your cable subscription and get your entertainment via streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime Video instead. As the Apple TV website asserts, “it’s all about apps.” The latest, fourth-generation Apple TV runs a new operating system called tvOS, which integrates a new App Store packed with a wide array of great Apple TV apps.
Apple claims that “Apps are the future of television,” explaining on its website, “On your mobile devices and computers, you already use apps such as Netflix, Hulu, WatchESPN, and iTunes to watch TV shows. And that’s exactly where TV in the living room is headed. Apps have liberated television.” Whether or not you agree with Apple’s claim that apps are the future of TV, apps are certainly an exciting part of the Apple TV. But even if you have an iPhone or an iPad, you can’t simply transfer your favorite apps from those devices to your Apple TV. And even if you could, they probably wouldn’t work as well as they do on your iOS devices.
Interacting with an app on your television is very different from interacting with one on a small touchscreen, especially because the new Siri-enabled remote features motion-sensing capabilities, a small touchpad, and a microphone for voice control. As on any app store, there are plenty of Apple TV apps that aren’t so great. But there are just as many that are worth the download. Here are 20 must-have Apple TV apps you need to download, whether you’re just setting up your Apple TV for the first time or whether you’re looking to make the most out of one that’s been sitting in your living room for a few months.
If there’s one app you should download to get started on the Apple TV, it’s Netflix, which is, unsurprisingly, one of the top Apple TV apps. A key feature of the fourth-generation Apple TV is Siri, which enables you to use voice search to find content and control playback with voice commands, like “fast-forward 10 minutes” or “tell me what he just said.” Siri can find your favorite movies or TV shows on Netflix, searching by genre, release date, or even by a specific episode. And even if you’re keeping your collection of Apple TV apps small, at least to start with, you don’t want to miss out on all of the movies and TV shows you can watch via the streaming service.
Another great Internet streaming service made newly accessible through the world of Apple TV apps is Hulu. Conducting a search with the Apple TV’s universal search function will surface Hulu content, much of which is TV shows from both big and small networks in their entirety. Like Netflix, Hulu is also producing its own original content, and the low price tag of a monthly subscription means that you can probably subscribe to both — especially if you’re using an assortment of Apple TV apps to ditch your cable provider.
3. HBO Go or HBO Now
Even if it’s just to watch Game of Thrones, HBO is a must-have on your Apple TV. If you subscribe to HBO as part of your cable subscription, then you should download HBO Go. If you don’t subscribe to HBO through your cable provider, then you can get an internet-only subscription to HBO Now (which will give you access to the same programming, the same live premieres, and the same ability to stream on multiple devices that you’d get if you had an HBO subscription through a cable provider). Siri can search either app for content, which makes it easy to find the latest episode of your favorite show, and makes both Apple TV apps very useful for HBO fans. You can find out more about HBO Go and HBO Now here.
Another addition to our list of must-have Apple TV apps for TV lovers? Showtime. The app gives you access to Showtime’s TV series, movies, and exclusive sports programs, even without a cable or satellite subscription, which makes it a great choice if you’re hoping to cut ties with your cable provider. The app enables you to watch all of your favorite content either live or on-demand, and you can choose an east coast or west coast feed. And when you subscribe to Showtime, you can watch not only on your Apple TV, but also on your iPhone, iPad, or Mac.
If you have trouble choosing the perfect movie to watch — whether you’re hanging out at home by yourself or trying to choose something for a fun night in with your partner or family — Decyde will be a great addition to your arsenal of Apple TV apps. The app asks you a series of easy questions and then offers three suggestions. The idea is to narrow down the practically endless options and minimize the amount of time you’d spend trying to find something that appeals to everyone in the room. The app will also show you where you can stream, rent, or buy the title you choose via wide range of sources (and other Apple TV apps), including Netflix, Hulu, iTunes, Stan, HBO, and Crackle.
If YouTube is your destination of choice for entertainment, or if you’re just as enthusiastic about internet videos as you are about your favorite movies and TV shows, then that should show in you choice of Apple TV apps. For the ultimate in internet video, download YouTube. You’ll be able to access your profile — complete with your favorite channels and your subscriptions — right on your TV, which makes it easier to catch up on the latest videos from the channels you love, or to show that funny video to your partner or roommate on the big screen.
If you’re less interested in curating your own selection of internet videos and more excited about finding an app that can sift through the overwhelming variety of options and find the good stuff for you, then Hyper should definitely make your list of must-download Apple TV apps. Hyper handpicks great videos from a variety of awesome sources. Each one is chosen by a group of filmmakers and journalists, who sift through thousands of videos from hundreds of sources and choose the best ones on a variety of topics, including tech, science, style, culture, international news, and simple entertainment.
There are also some great apps for people who don’t rely solely on streaming for their entertainment. Plex is one of a handful of Apple TV apps designed to make life easier for users who have an archive of music, videos, and photos stored on their computers and want an easy way to enjoy them on the Apple TV. Plex enables you to transcode and stream your media to the Apple TV (without going through the process of adding it all to iTunes). The app organizes your media collections and makes them available on any of your screens, and the free Plex Media Server on your computer or the Plex app on your iPhone makes it easier to access your content and share it with your friends and family.
For news junkies, an app like Watchup is a must-have. The app offers a personalized daily newscast with video news from a wide selection of local, national, and international sources. It’s an especially great choice if you want to keep up with the news without a cable subscription, since it integrates more than 160 news channels in more than a dozen categories. When you tune in, you’ll get curated news from sources like CBS, CNN, Bloomberg, PBS Newshour, and WSJ Video, which makes it easy to catch up on the day’s most important stories without sitting through the fluff and commercials you’d typically have to tolerate, which means that your collection of Apple TV apps can both keep you informed and entertained and save you some time.
Even if you sometimes prefer radio to TV, there are plenty of Apple TV apps that are meant just for you. Take Receiver as an example. The app offers you access to 22,000 radio stations and 20,000 podcasts, all in one place. If you download the Receiver app on your iPhone or iPad, you can sync the radio stations and podcasts that you’ve marked as favorites to the Apple TV. And, speaking of the iPhone app, you can use the app to wake up to your favorite radio station or song, and the Apple TV app is free when you purchase the iOS version of Receiver.
11. Alto’s Adventure
Next, let’s move on to another favorite category of Apple TV apps: games. If you want a beautiful game to play on the big-screen in your living room, look no further than Alto’s Adventure. The game became a fan favorite on iPhone, but many Apple TV users think that the graphics are even more impressive and the gameplay is more fun when you try this snowboarding-themed game with a television and the new touchpad-equipped Apple TV remote. Players join Alto and his friends on an endless snowboarding adventure through villages, woodland, and even ancient ruins.
12. Lumino City
Another title that’s as much a piece of interactive art as it is a game is Lumino City. The entire world in the game was created by hand out of paper, cardboard, miniature lights, and motors, and then photographed — pretty unique among games and Apple TV apps alike. Players explore this beautiful environment in order to find Lumi’s grandfather, who is the kidnapped caretaker of Lumino City. In the process, you discover the mechanisms that power the city, and solve puzzles along the way. It’s a stunning game that makes great use of the Apple TV and the big screen sitting in your living room.
13. Rayman Adventures
Apple selected Rayman Adventures as one of the best Apple TV apps in 2015, and based on players’ enthusiasm about the game, the distinction is well-deserved. This adventure game features gorgeous graphics, makes great use of the Apple TV’s remote, and feels like it was made specifically for the Apple TV. Players explore worlds from haunted medieval castles to mythical settings in order to search for the Incrediballs’ eggs to revive the sacred tree. The game offers a mix of action and exploration, and you can collect the Incrediballs and compete to grow the tallest tree.
BADLAND is another great choice if you want your collection of Apple TV apps to emphasize beautiful and engaging games — ones that you can play on your own, with a friend, or as a family. The game is set in a forest that looks like it belongs in a beautiful fairy tale, but there’s actually something very wrong under the surface. The player controls one of the forest dwellers to figure out what’s going on, and encounters numerous obstacles and traps along the way.
Our final recommendation when it comes to Apple TV games? Transistor, which may be one of the best of the best among Apple TV apps when it comes to amazing visuals and a fascinating environment. The title is a science fiction RPG that sees the player wielding a weapon of unknown origin while fighting through a futuristic city. And no worries if you find yourself wanting to play even when you aren’t at home. Thanks to the game’s iCloud-enabled cloud save function, you can pick up the progress you made on the Apple TV on your iPhone or iPad.
16. Kitchen Stories
Kitchen Stories is a popular recommendation for foodies looking for Apple TV apps, and for good reason: the app is described as a “video and photo cookbook” and enables you to discover delicious recipes, watch videos, and follow recipes with step-by-step instructions. You can even use the app to create a shopping list or create collections of your favorite recipes. Kitchen Stories adds new recipes each week, and is an especially useful addition to your collection of Apple TV apps if you love expanding your repertoire in the kitchen (or even if you just need some basic guidance and can see your TV from your kitchen).
While sitting on the couch in front of your Apple TV may not sound like the best way to get a head start on a new diet or to figure out the best way to cook and eat healthier, both are possible with Yummly. The app enables you to discover recipe recommendations and collections that are perfect for you, and search for recipes based on cuisine, taste, diet, nutrition, allergy, cook time, and even technique. You can save and organize your favorite recipes, create a shopping list, and even have ingredients delivered to your door in select cities thanks to Yummly’s partnership with Instacart — which may just make it one of the most useful titles in your arsenal of Apple TV apps.
If you’re looking to put your Apple TV to work in helping you learn new skills, then you’ll want to check out Lynda. This may end up becoming one of your favorite Apple TV apps because it gives you access to expert-taught courses in subjects like graphic design, photography, business, web and interactive design, 3D animation, audio, and more. Right from your couch, you’ll be able to browse the library and organize the courses you add to your playlist, check out new courses and the most popular training programs, and either autoplay an entire course or select videos to watch individually.
19. Streaks Workout
Surprisingly enough for a device that makes it easier for you to entertain yourself with your TV, the Apple TV is also home to a few apps that can help you stay in shape. Streaks Workout is one of a few great Apple TV apps that make it easy to exercise in your living room, no equipment (or hours of free time) needed. You’ll simply choose a workout based on the amount of time that you can spend exercising, and Streaks will tell you how many of each exercise to complete, with animated figures that demonstrate each move.
Our final recommendation when it comes to must-have Apple TV apps? Another great choice for fitness enthusiasts: Zova. This app is a great choice for Apple TV owners who want video workouts, which make it easier to follow along with more complex exercises and routines. Additionally, each video is accompanied by a soundtrack to help keep you motivated, even though you’ll just be in your living room instead of at the gym.