The Apple TV is a great place to watch content, whether it's your favorite movies, top TV shows, or a helpful YouTube channel. And while video content is still the focus of the Apple TV, there are other excellent apps on the platform, too, that help extend its usefulness beyond content, from getting the weather forecast to checking out nearby houses or apartments available for rent.
- TV app
- Amazon Prime Video
- Movies Anywhere
- Kitchen Stories
- Daily Burn
- Amazon App
- CARROT Weather
Apple TV app
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Apple's TV is first on the list because it's built into your Apple TV experience, and it's become really good, particularly with the tvOS 12.3 update. The addition of channels, which allow you to subscribe to services without having to navigate between apps, as well as easier navigation have really taken the TV app experience to the next level.
The Up Next row holds most (looking at you, Netflix) of the shows and movies you've been watching, synced between your Apple TV, iPhone, and iPad, making it easy to pick up where you left off with something, no matter which device you're using. There are curated recommendations and quick access to your library of purchased movies and TV shows so you always have something to watch.
If you're going to subscribe to one video service for TV content, my suggestion would be Hulu. It has more new and library TV shows than most other services. If you're a cord cutter, you can use Hulu's live TV service right in the app if you want to become a subscriber. New content is added constant, at a similar rate to Netflix, so you'll never run out of things to watch on Hulu.
A Hulu subscription starts at $7.99 per month, while Hulu + Live TV starts at $39.99 per month. Both plans feature add-one to remove advertisements from library content.
In the past few years, Netflix has established itself as a home for a selection of great original content. From original shows to movies and documentaries, Netflix is the home to some of the best streaming-native content there is. Netflix also continually expands its catalog of movies and TV shows from other sources, with new content added daily. If you share a Netflix account with others, you can easily access and switch between the profiles created for your account, which lets you prevent Netflix from mucking up recommendations.
You can sign up for Netflix starting at $8.99 for a non-HD streaming plan, while an HD plan is available for $10.99, and 4K streaming is yours for $15.99.
Amazon Prime Video
Amazon's Prime Video app rates a spot on the list, but because Amazon's video content library is actually on the Apple TV. Everything from catalog content to Amazon's original content lineup is available on your Apple TV, including 4K HDR content. The app itself could be better, but it's good to actually have Amazon's library on the Apple TV.
You can get a standalone subscription to Prime Video for $8.99 per month, while a full Prime subscription, with free two-day shipping, will run you $12.99 per month.
YouTube, at this point, is fairly self-explanatory. You can find millions of videos about pretty much anything on YouTube, from vlogs to instructional videos to Rene Ritchie. With a completely new look compared to when it first launched on Apple TV, YouTube now feels more like a full-fledged app. It's now easier to find new content from your favorite channels, discover something new, and go back through your history.
The Spectrum apps pairs with the Apple TV's new Zero Sign-On capabilities. Using Zero Sign-On and the Spectrum app, your Apple TV can effectively act as your cable box, delivering all of the same live and on-demand content that you've come to expect from your Spectrum cable subscription without bringing additional hardware into your home.
Though this app is only for Spectrum subscribers, it's a great example of what Zero Sign-On allows.
Movies Anywhere is one of those ideas that's just how things should have worked this entire time. All of the movies you buy, all in one place, no matter which platform you used to buy them. The Movies Anywhere service is free, and connects your iTunes, Google Play, Vudu, Microsoft, Amazon, Comcast Xfinity, and Fandango Now, pouring all of the movies you've purchased from those services into a single app, and syncing them to each other so they all appear on your accounts for each service, as well as in the Movies Anywhere app.
The app itself, while not serving as a storefront, allows you to quickly access and start playing your shared movies. The app supports 4K HDR/Dolby Vision for all applicable titles, including those from Disney. So if a title is offered in 4K HDR on one service but not on iTunes, you can still watch it in its full-resolution, wide-color glory in Movies Anywhere.
Pair movie night with takeout from your favorite place with GrubHub. Keep your phone in your pocket and place your order using GrubHub's Apple TV app, which lets you sign in to your account (make sure you have a credit card on file), browse through available restaurants, peruse their menus, and order.
Kitchen Stories is especially great if you've got your Apple TV hooked up to a television in your kitchen. The app has hundreds of videos covering different recipes, from main courses to desserts. Each video is a miniature how-to with clear instructions and everything shown in wonderful, high-definition video with a mellow, jazzy soundtrack to put you at ease. Whether you use Kitchen Stories to help your own cooking or just to unwind, it's a great app to have on your Apple TV.
If you've ever tried to use a video-based home workout app on your iPhone or iPad, you'll know the experience is less than ideal. Daily Burn puts all of your workouts on your Apple TV, letting you follow along on the biggest screen in your home. Daily Burn has courses for beginners, as well as more experienced users.
You'll need a subscription to use Daily Burn, which starts at $14.95 per month.
Amazon Prime Video is already on this list, but the company also makes a shopping experience available on the Apple TV as well. You can browse Amazon's massive store and make purchases right on your TV. You can also sign in to get the more personalized version of Amazon you're probably familiar with. On a products page, you can purchase it, add it to one of your lists, or use the 'Push to phone' function to produce a QR code that you can scan with your iPhone's camera to view the product on your phone.
You know what I used to use my TV for regularly? Getting the weather. That changed with the advent of smartphones, but now that devices like the Apple TV exist, getting the weather is a much better experience on the TV than it used to be. Enter CARROT Weather, one of the best weather apps for iPhone and iPad, now available on Apple TV. Complete with the trademark CARROT sense of humor, CARROT weather for Apple TV can show you short-term, hourly, and daily forecasts for your area so you're prepared well in advance.
Note that CARROT Weather for Apple TV is a separate app from CARROT Weather on iPhone and iPad, so it will be a separate purchase for you if you already have the mobile version.
Bonus! Cord cutter extras
I've been asked what the best apps are for cord cutters on Apple TV. There are dozens of subscription-based networks, plus many networks that let you access content without paying anyone a dime. These are my favorites.
Network stations that offer content without a cable provider
Most networks that offer content without cable have limited episodes available. But, as long as you're not trying to binge-watch a show's entire series, you can squeeze some fun out of them without needing a subscription or cable provider.
There are also a handful of great channels that unlock dozens (even hundreds) of movies and TV shows for a nominal monthly fee. Sure, if you're not careful, you'll end up paying as much for à la carte channels as you would for a full cable subscription, but at least you get more of what you want when you want it.
Apple TV Channels
Since tvOS 12.3, Apple has offered standalone channels for cord cutters who want to take an à la carte approach to their subscriptions. You subscribe to channels directly through Apple's own TV app, which is also where channel content plays, rather than through a service's own standalone app. This puts all of your subscribed content in one place, and because of this, you won't even need the service's app to be installed to watch its content.
Here are the channels that are currently available in the TV app.
- CBS All Access
- Smithsonian Channel Plus
- PBS Living
- Acorn TV
- Sundance Now
- Lifetime Movie Club
- Urban Movie Channel
- MTV Hits
- Comedy Central Now
- History Channel Vault
- Arrow Video Channel
There are a lot more apps and channels available on Apple TV. Which are your favorites and why do you love them?
Updated January 2019: Updated for latest Apple TV content.
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Joseph Keller is the former Editor in Chief of iMore. An Apple user for almost 20 years, he spends his time learning the ins and outs of iOS and macOS, always finding ways of getting the most out of his iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and Mac.