The 8 Coolest Hidden Features for Your iPhone’s TV App « iOS & iPhone :: Gadget Hacks


Whether you subscribe to Apple TV+ or not, the TV app on your iPhone is a great place to watch movies and TV shows. On the surface, it looks like a pretty simple app, but there are hidden features lurking in the shadows that can improve how you use it.

First, there are the obvious moves you should make for the TV app. Connect your cable or satellite provider – or just the individual streaming apps you subscribe to – so you have easy access to all the content from those services. The TV app becomes a one-stop destination for finding content to watch, and it’ll give you a link to open the title in the streaming channel‘s own app if it can’t play it.

Then there are the other basics you need to customize, like subscribing to Apple TV channels you don’t yet have access to, changing your stream and download quality, adding content to Up Next, etc. But there’s more to it, and some of the best features are truly hidden.

1. Change the artwork in Up Next

Since iOS 15.4, there was an option in Settings -> TV -> Up Next Display that lets you choose between “Still Frame” or “Poster Art” as the image displayed for each title in your Up Next queue. The still image will display the image where you left it, while the poster will display the title’s default cover art.

Stills (left) vs posters (right) for current titles.

2. Clean shared with you

Shared with You first appeared in iOS 15, and it shows you content your friends are sharing with you through Messages right in the content host app. For Apple TV, that means any movie or TV show links you receive in a text message or iMessage will appear in a “Shared with you” section in the Watch Now tab of TV.

It’s great, but it can be cluttered with content that you have no interest in watching. To make it only show the movies and TV shows you want to watch, go to Settings -> Messages -> Shared with you, then turn off the “Messages” switch. Now only content you pin in a conversation will appear; Long-press the Apple TV link in the message and tap “Pin” in quick actions to pin the content.

Before (left) and after (right) turning off TV in Shared with you.

If pinning Apple TV content to your Messages app seems like too much to ask, you can also just remove recommendations made by a friend or two. This way you only see content from friends with similar tastes in Shared with you. To do this, open the conversation with the recommendations still bad, tap the name at the top, then turn off the “Show in Shared with you” switch. However, this will also hide shared content from MusicSafari, Photos, Podcasts and Notes.

3. Reduce loud sounds when wearing headphones

Not every movie or TV show has the perfect audio balance so you can hear whispers without going deaf from explosions. To combat this in the Apple TV app, go to Settings -> Sounds & Haptics -> Headphone Safety, then turn on the “Reduce Loud Sounds” switch. Adjust the decibel rating to the most comfortable position for your ears from the slider that appears. Any changes will apply system-wide for headphones, not just the Apple TV app.

4. Customize the TV app interface

Choosing a dark or light appearance for the Apple TV app is just the start of the customization options. Go to Settings -> Accessibility -> Per app settings -> Add app. Choose TV from the list, then go to its preferences. Here you can set bold text, text size, button shape, contrast, transparency, labels, motion, etc. And these settings only apply to the TV app.

5. Only use dark or light mode

Notice the per-app settings don’t include a dark/light mode switch? If you prefer the Apple TV app UI to only use dark mode or light mode, there is a perfect workaround: Automation of shortcuts. You’ll need to create a few automations in the Shortcuts app, and they’re a bit above beginner level. However, we go through everything step by step, so you should have no problem setting it up.

6. Add other languages ​​to downloads

If you prefer downloading movies and TV shows rather than streaming, you can embed any supported audio or subtitle language in the file. This increases the download size, but it’s better than having to re-download it with the correct language. Go to Settings -> TV -> Languages ​​(under Download Options) -> Add Language. Choose the desired language, then repeat for the other languages.

Not all languages ​​are available for all videos, so you may or may not see some or all of your selections as options during playback.

7. Change the appearance of subtitles

When you need subtitles, they can either help you hear what’s being said on the screen or block out the essential visual elements of the movie or TV show. To customize the appearance of captions, go to Settings -> Accessibility -> Captions & Subtitles. Then choose your style or tap “Create New Style” to design one yourself. These changes will also apply to other apps that display subtitles, such as Netflix, so keep that in mind.

8. Use TV with shortcuts and beyond

In the Shortcuts, you can use the “App” trigger in a personal automation, set it to “TV”, and create a shortcut that will run every time you open, close, or open and close the TV app. It’s like the Dark/Light Mode switch seen above, but you can do so much more than that.

Your shortcut can change the style of the interface beyond what the per-app settings allow you to do, automatically set a focus mode, text or email or tweet to let people know that you are about to watch something, record the time you spend watching TV, and more.

And while there are no TV-specific actions for regular shortcuts, you can open the TV app whenever another shortcut triggers it. To go further, you can use URL schemes in your shortcuts to open specific content in the TV app, such as links to shows, episodes, movies, genres, and celebrities.

If you’re not a huge Up Next fan or want to create custom lists to share with others, you can create a shortcut that will add any TV content you share with it to a specified list, complete with a URL scheme to open each content item.

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Cover photo and screenshots by Justin Meyers/Gadget Hacks


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