Apple currently produces two models of Apple TV: a regular HD version (our review) and a new 4K flavor (we’ve compared it to competitors). If you lose your hardware remote, your iPhone or iPad might be the only way you can control your set-top box.
Both run tvOS, a fork of iOS that lets you run apps on your TV, and you can control both using your iPhone or other iOS device. You’ll need to pair the two before you can do so, but the benefits extend beyond simple convenience.
Why Control Apple TV With an iPhone or iPad?
If you’ve used the Apple TV for any length of time, you’ll know that the remote is slippery. Made of smooth aluminium, glass, and a small textured touch pad, Apple’s remote is constantly sliding down cracks in the sofa. It’s small enough that you could vacuum it up or throw it away by mistake, and you’d never know what happened to it.
In the event something happens to your remote, your only means of control is another iOS device. If you don’t fancy spending $60 on a replacement remote, you should probably pair a few devices before something happens. It’s always better to pair remotes and not need them than to lose your main remote control and be left with a paperweight.
How Do I Pair an iPhone With Apple TV?
It’s easy to pair your iPhone with your Apple TV:
- On your Apple TV, navigate to Settings > Remotes and Devices > Remote App and Devices.
- Unlock your iPhone, iPad, or other iOS device and bring it close to your Apple TV.
- Wait for the Apple TV prompt to appear on your screen, then tap Pair.
- Authorize your iPhone by typing the PIN displayed by the Apple TV.
When you see a tick, your device is paired and ready. You can pair as many remotes as you like. Simply repeat the process on your iPad, iPod Touch, or another iPhone.
My iPhone and Apple TV Won’t Pair, What Now?
Your Apple TV and iPhone will only be able to communicate if they’re on the same network, so the first place to check is the network status of both devices. If your router broadcasts on two bands, make sure both devices are connected to the same one. The SSID (also known as network name) should be identical on both.
You can also try updating both devices to the latest firmware. On the iPhone you’ll find this option under Settings > General > Software Update. On the Apple TV it’s at Settings > System > Software Updates. If both devices are already up to date, you may want to try power cycling your Apple TV under Settings > System > Restart.
Finally, you can try a more drastic measure: re-pairing your device by deleting it and starting over. To do this, on your Apple TV navigate to Settings > Remotes and Devices > Remote App and Devices then select the device you’re trying to pair and hit Un-pair Device. Now follow the instructions above to re-pair.
How Do I Control Apple TV With My iPhone?
You don’t need to download an app to control your Apple TV. Provided you have updated to the latest version of iOS, just add the Remote shortcut to Control Center:
- Navigate to Settings > Control Center > Customize Controls on your iPhone.
- Under More Controls add the Apple TV Remote to your list of shortcuts.
- Exit the Settings app and swipe up from the bottom of the screen to reveal Control Center.
- Tap the Apple TV button to launch the control panel.
You can then control your Apple TV by swiping the main navigation panel as you would your hardware remote. You’ll notice this software remote has the same controls as your main remote, but it lacks volume control. This is because your iOS device doesn’t have an infrared blaster to communicate with your TV.
- Launch your chosen remote app then wait for the list of available devices to update.
- Tap on your Apple TV, then input the PIN displayed on your TV.
- Control your Apple TV using the software remote by dragging your fingers around the navigation area.
While these apps work perfectly well, native iOS control using Control Center (above) is more convenient and doesn’t require an additional download.
How Do I Type on Apple TV Using iPhone Keyboard?
If you’ve successfully paired your Apple TV as per the instructions above, you can simply launch the remote from Control Center to type. When you select a text field, the keyboard will automatically appear on screen. Tap the navigation area to cancel typing. If you’re using one of the downloadable apps, it works in the same way.
Not only does this make searching Netflix and the App Store even easier, it makes logging into apps and services quicker too. If you use a password manager, you can even paste your passwords into the iPhone keyboard text entry field.
How Do I Turn On an Apple TV Without a Remote?
You can use any paired device or app to start your Apple TV. Simply swipe up to reveal Control Center and tap the Apple TV logo shortcut you created earlier. Tap anywhere on the navigation panel to wake up your Apple TV.
How Do I Pair a New Remote With My Apple TV?
If you bought a new Apple TV remote because your old one disappeared or doesn’t work anymore, you can pair it by turning it on near your Apple TV and waiting. If nothing happens, press and hold Volume Up and Menu until the remote enters pairing mode, then move it close to the Apple TV.
Top Tip: Charge Your Apple TV Remote!
Roughly three times a year my Apple TV remote will start acting up. During this time it won’t register full swipes and I can’t scrub through any media that’s playing. It’s at this point I remember that there’s a battery inside that I never think to charge. Plug your Apple TV remote in for an hour every few weeks to avoid this problem!
For everything you need to know about using your Apple TV, check our our Apple TV setup and troubleshooting guide.