How to control your Apple TV and iTunes content with Remote app

By , Dec 9, 2015

Apple TV apps games

As of yesterday, Apple’s Remote app supports the latest, fourth-generation Apple TV. Better yet, Apple has confirmed that an all-new remote software is in the works—the full replacement for the Siri Remote’s functionality. But until it arrives, owners of the new Apple TV will have to make do with the good ol’ Remote app.

In this tutorial, we’ll explain how to make Remote work with your Apple TV like a charm. We’ll detail controlling the set-top box—and desktop iTunes— with Remote, explain how to peck with the iPhone’s virtual keyboard instead of Apple TV’s ridiculous two-line keyboard and teach you a few other tricks worth knowing.

Remote app limitations

On iOS, Remote is an optional download. On the Apple Watch, it’s a stock app that cannot be removed.

Remote provides simple navigation, text input and control with second, third and fourth-generation Apple TV. Additionally, the app lets you control desktop iTunes.

On the fourth-generation Apple TV, Siri, volume control and using the accelerometer or gyroscope for gameplay is not possible within Remote. In addition, some third-party apps ignore Remote’s keyboard, like Hulu.

Before we begin…

… a few disclaimers you should be aware of.

For starters, ensure that your Apple TV runs tvOS 9.1 or newer and your Apple Watch has watchOS 2.1 or later. Folks who plan on controlling iTunes content with Remote must use at least iTunes 12.3.1.23 on desktop. The app cannot function properly unless all Remote devices are on the same Wi-Fi network.

You can pair multiple Remotes to a single Apple TV to control the set-top box with your iPhone, iPod touch, iPad and Apple Watch concurrently. Pairing Remote won’t disable the Siri Remote.

How to pair Remote app with 4th generation Apple TV

Step 1: Download Remote from the App Store and launch it on your iOS device.

Step 2: Choose Add a Device. A four-digit code should appear on the screen.

Remote app pairing Apple TV iPhone screenshot 004

Tip: If you don’t see this option, tap Settings in the Remote app, turn off Home Sharing and try again.

Step 3: Go to Settings → Remotes and Devices → Remote App on your fourth-generation Apple TV with tvOS 9.1 or later. Wait for the name of your iOS device to appear under the Parable Devices heading, and select it.

Remote app pairing Apple TV fourth-generation tvOS screenshot 001

Step 4: When prompted, either the four-digit code on your Apple TV.

If all goes well, the name of your device should pop up below the Paired Devices heading on the Apple TV.

How to pair Remote app with 2nd and 3rd generation Apple TV

Step 1: Launch Remote on your iPhone, iPod touch or iPad.

Step 2: Choose Add a Device to generate a four-digit verification code. If the option isn’t present, hit Settings, turn off Home Sharing and try again.

Step 3: Go to Settings → General → Remotes on your second or third-generation Apple TV. Wait for the name of your device to appear at the bottom of this screen, under the iOS Remotes heading.

Remote app pairing Apple TV third-generation screenshot 001

Step 4: Select your device and enter the four-digit code.

That’s it, you can now control your Apple TV with the Remote application.

How to pair Remote app with Apple TV using Home Sharing

Home Sharing is a feature designed for personal sharing of your iTunes library across up to five devices enabled with the same Apple ID. With Home Sharing on, Remote automatically connects with local Home Sharing-enabled iTunes libraries and Apple TVs.

Step 1: Launch Remote on your iOS device.

Step 2: Tap Settings and turn on the Home Sharing option. You will need to sign in with the same Apple ID that you use in iTunes or on your Apple TV.

Remote app pairing Apple TV iPhone screenshot 005

If you don’t see Home Sharing in the menu, it’s already turned on.

Step 3: Lastly, enable Home Sharing on the Apple TV and/or Mac that you want to control via Remote apps:

  • 4th generation Apple TV: Go to Settings → Accounts → Home Sharing and enable Home Sharing.
  • 2nd or 3rd generation Apple TV: Go to Settings → Computers and ensure that Home Sharing is on.
  • Mac or PC: In iTunes, hit File → Home Sharing → Turn on Home Sharing.

How to pair Remote app with iTunes

Step 1: Launch Remote for iOS.

Step 2: Choose Settings → Home Sharing and sign in with the same Apple ID that you use in iTunes.

Step 3: Launch iTunes on your Mac or Windows PC, select File → Home Sharing → Enable Home Sharing.

Remote app pairing Apple TV iTunes screenshot 006

Step 4: Click the Home Sharing button on the new screen and log in with the same Apple ID you used to enable Home Sharing in Remote for iOS.

Remote app pairing Apple TV iTunes screenshot 007

You can now browse your iTunes library in Remote like a boss.

Tip: If you optionally turn on Home Sharing from Computers on the Apple TV’s main menu, you’ll be able to browse iTunes libraries on your telly.

How to control Apple TV with Remote app

Upon successful pairing, an Apple TV icon appears in Remote for iOS and Apple Watch.

Remote app pairing Apple TV iPhone screenshot 006

Tap the Apple TV to begin navigating. If you’re taken to a blank screen, tap Control at the bottom to bring up the virtual trackpad, which looks like this.

Remote app pairing Apple TV iPhone screenshot 003

Remote is smart enough to sense when a text field is selected on the Apple TV and takes over text entry with the one keyboard you’re very familiar with: your iPhone’s, which really speeds up typing a lot.

To hide or show iOS’s keyboard in Remote, tap the keyboard icon (when available) in the upper left corner or choose Hide to hide it.

Remote app pairing Apple TV iPhone screenshot 008

To navigate your Apple TV with the Remote app, use the following gestures:

Basic navigation

  • Move on-screen selection—flick or drag and hold
  • Select—tap to select
  • Menu—tap the Menu icon at the bottom
  • Home—hold the Menu icon at the bottom
  • Screen Saver—double-tap the Menu icon while on the Home screen

Audio playback

  • Play/Pause—tap the screen
  • Previous/Next—flick left or right
  • Backward/Forward—tap once on the Now Playing screen and then flick to highlight the playback marker and swipe left or right
  • Music options—tap once on the Now Playing screen, flick upward to highlight the ellipsis icon and tap again
  • Choose a song within an album—tap once on the Now Playing screen (or flick up/down) to show songs, then swipe left or right

Video playback

  • Play/Pause—tap the play/pause icon at the bottom
  • Backward/Forward—Swipe left or right
  • Fast-forward/rewind—Drag left or right and hold, swipe to increase scrubbing speed
  • Jump to a specific point—Tap, drag and tap again

These gestural shortcuts work in Remote for iOS and the Apple Watch’s stock Remote app. The app takes some time getting used to but once you get the hang of it you won’t be needing the Siri Remote much, except for gaming.

I wholeheartedly recommend enabling a high-contrast cursor with a white outline in order to better delineate focused content on your Apple TV, as depicted on the screenshot below.

Apple TV fourth generation high contrast cursor screenshot 001

How to control iTunes with Remote app

Ensure that iTunes is open on your Mac or Windows PC, or else Remote won’t connect with your library. Provided your devices are on the same Wi-Fi network and have Home Sharing enabled, launch Remote for iOS and tap the iTunes icon.

After some initial scanning, up pops a nicely done view of your iTunes music, music videos, purchased and rented movies, television shows, iTunes U downloads and more. In addition to the four shortcuts alongside the bottom (Genius, Playlists, Artists and Search), tap more to browse all iTunes sections.

Remote app pairing Apple TV iPhone screenshot 007

Again, Home Sharing is limited to five computers on a local Wi-Fi network.

Home Sharing tips

Aside of Home Sharing as a feature of Remote, it’s also available in iOS Settings → Music and Settings → Videos (scroll down to the Home Sharing section and tap Sign In).

As a nice perk, Home Sharing lets you view images from your computer on the big screen: open desktop iTunes and choose File → Home Sharing → Choose Photos to Share with Apple TV.

Remote app won’t connect?

Should you experience hiccups with Remote, the first order of business is to ensure that all your devices run the latest software and are connected to the same Wi-Fi network.

If Remote still won’t connect, check if Home Sharing is enabled with the same Apple ID that you use in iTunes or on the Apple TV:

  • 4th generation Apple TV: Go to Settings → Accounts → Home Sharing
  • 2nd or 3rd generation Apple TV: Go to Settings → Computers.
  • Mac or PC: Launch iTunes and choose File → Home Sharing → Turn on Home Sharing.

If none of this helps, restart your router by disconnecting the power cord for ten seconds. Another possible culprit: a firewall on your router, or computer, could be blocking traffic between Remote apps and the Apple TV.

iTunes should be set to “Allow incoming connections” in System Preferences → Security & Privacy → Firewall Options. Pay special attention that the firewall isn’t set to “Allow only essential services.”

Windows folks: manually allow iTunes to communicate through the firewall by following the instructions in Apple’s support document.

Apple clarifies that Remote uses TCP port 3689 and UDP port 5353 to communicate with iTunes and Apple TV. If you use a third-party firewall software or hardware, check the instructions for how to edit the port addresses.

Lastly, if you iTunes won’t show up in Remote, check that your computer is on and awake and that iTunes is open. If it’s already open, quit and open it again.

How do you like these Remote tips?

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  • Chris Wagers

    Thanks for the post. Very informitive!

  • Nikki Larsen

    How do you put Apple TV to sleep via the Remote app?