With the rumors of a completely new Apple TV and television service there’s a lot of excitement in the air about what TV technology we could see from Apple come mid summer. The Apple TV, after all, hasn’t received a major upgrade since 2012. In that time competitors like Roku and Amazon have surpassed Apple’s digital media player in features. The Amazon Fire TV specifically has two killer features the Apple TV does not: voice search and its Amazon Instant Video channel–not to mention a BBC iPlayer channel. But using these two hacks you can get your Apple TV to mimic those best features of Amazon’s Fire TV.
Using voice search on the Apple TV
Amazon’s Fire TV comes with a killer remote control with a special voice search button. Simply press and hold the remote’s search button and speak your query. When you speak, the remote’s built-in microphone will translate your words and return results right on your TV screen. Using voice search you can search for TV shows, movies, actors, directors and genres. Once Fire TV translates your request it shows you on your TV screen, then you just confirm the search result by clicking a button on the remote. It’s an awesome feature, but one that is slightly crippled because it only works for content provided by Amazon–meaning its Amazon Instant Video content. Voice search does not work with third-party channels like BBC iPlayer or Netflix.
But that limited voice search is a lot better than the voice search you get by default on the Apple TV–and that’s to say “none”. Yet using a few software tricks and your iPhone or iPad as a remote, you can mimic the Fire TV’s voice search features to a good degree. Here’s how:
- Download the free Remote app from the App Store. This app is made by Apple and turns any iOS device into a remote for the Apple TV. It works on the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.
- The Remote app doesn’t work via IR, it works via wireless, so be sure the Wi-Fi is turned on on your iOS device and that device is connected to the same wireless network as your Apple TV.
- Launch the Remote app and then log in with your Apple ID on the Home Sharing screen.
- The app will detect your Apple TV. Tap the Apple TV icon in the app to begin controlling it.
- From the “More…” button at the bottom of the screen tap Search.
- On the search page of the remote app tap in the search field. But instead of typing in your query tap the dictation button on the keyboard. The dictation button looks like a microphone.
- Now simply speak your query into your iOS device and it will dictate it into the search field. Any results will be displayed instantly. Simply tap on the result to launch the video.
As you can see this isn’t exactly as straightforward as having a dedicated voice search button on the remote control, but once you set up the Remote app to work with your Apple TV (steps 1-4) you only have to perform steps 5-7 for each voice query in the future. Those steps take about 5 seconds to complete.
Get BBC iPlayer and Amazon Instant Video on your Apple TV
Of course the HUGE advantage Fire TV has over the Apple TV is that the Fire TV has both BBC iPlayer and Amazon Instant Video channels. Amazon Instant Video offers a much better selection of movies and television shows in the UK than Netflix does, so the lack of it on the Apple TV really limits our streaming content choices. And god only knows why the Apple TV still doesn’t offer a BBC iPlayer channel when every other device on the planet offers a BBC iPlayer channel.
Thankfully you can use this AirPlay streaming workaround to get both Amazon Instant Video and BBC iPlayer on your Apple TV. Heres how:
- Download the Amazon Instant Video and BBC iPlayer apps from the App Store.
- For the Amazon Instant Video app you’ll need to sign in with your Amazon Prime ID to use it.
- In both the Amazon Instant Video and BBC iPlayer apps search for the content you want to view. When you find that content start playback by hitting the play button in each app.
- When the movie begins tap the AirPlay icon on the play-bar at the bottom of the screen.
- A pop-up menu will appear. Tap “Apple TV” on the menu and your video from Amazon Instant Video or BBC iPlayer will begin playing on your television connected to your Apple TV.
The solution above is almost as good as having a dedicated Amazon Instant Video and BBC iPlayer on your Apple TV. The only thing you lose out on is not having an on-screen navigable menu and library for both services.