The Apple TV may not have topped our list of the best streaming boxes you can buy, but it’s still a great piece of hardware, especially if you’re all-in on the Apple ecosystem or just want to control your TV from your iPhone (which is handy if you lose the Apple TV’s tiny remote). While early models were somewhat hamstrung by a lack of features, the App Store — available on the fourth-generation Apple TV and the more recent Apple TV 4K — opens the door to a whole new level of usefulness. The only problem is that the sheer number of apps to sort through can be daunting, which is why we put together this guide.
Editor’s note: You’ll notice a few notable exclusions from this list, like Netflix and Hulu, as well as the apps for various streaming services like Sling TV and DirecTV Now. This is because not only are many of these apps no-brainers, but a lot of them will be dictated by which services you’re subscribed to already. Aside from that, if something offers a feature or function that your Apple TV would be sorely lacking without, we’ll include it below. Because of that, we’ve included PlayStation Vue, which offers tighter integration with the Apple TV than other services.
Movies & TV
Yes, we just said that we’re not including this type of service, but this is a notable exception. Why? In October 2018, PlayStation Vue became the first live TV streaming service to integrate with Apple’s TV app. This not only lets you see your favorite shows all in one place, but lets you access upcoming sports games airing via Vue right from the TV app. This isn’t a big deal for everyone, but if you frequently use the TV app as the hub for all your viewing, the integration may make PlayStation Vue the ideal live TV streaming service for you.
If you’re not familiar, Movies Anywhere is a service that lets you link multiple accounts used to digitally purchase movies and watch them anywhere from one location. Apple’s own iTunes supports the service, as do Google Play, Amazon Prime Video, Vudu, and most recently, Microsoft Movies & TV. With this app, you’re able to watch movies purchased through any of those services all in one place, which makes it a must-have for those who already possess a personal film collection in the cloud, or are looking to build one.
Amazon Prime Video
Not only does Amazon Prime Video give you access to the library of movies and TV shows available to Prime subscribers, it also grants access to Amazon’s Channels feature, and it’s finally available on the Apple TV. Many Amazon Channels, like HBO and Starz, are available as stand-alone Apple TV apps, but not all of them, so this is a very handy feature. Lack of Alexa integration aside, Amazon’s Prime Video on the Apple TV is basically a mini Fire TV in app form, which makes it a great option for any Amazon Prime subscriber.
Launched in 2016, Turner’s FilmStruck streaming service is a great option for movie buffs. Offering movies from the Turner Classic Movies catalog, as well as the heralded Criterion Collection, you’ll have a hard time finding more classic films in one place. It’s not exactly cheap at $7 to $11 per month depending on the plan you choose, but if you wish the world was still in black and white, it’s worth the price.
If you’re sick of paying for live-TV streaming services you find yourself never really watching, Pluto TV should be perfect for you. A completely free live-TV streaming service, Pluto curates content from several sources across the internet. On-demand content, including movies, is available as well, and though the selection is limited, it rotates frequently, so you should always be able to find something to watch.
If you’ve got a collection of media sitting on a PC or home server, Plex is likely already a familiar name to you, but it has come a long way since its inception. Once a simple media service and client, Plex now offers DVR functionality and support for cloud storage, as well as a recently introduced news feature that lets you easily access news from several sources all within one app. You’ll need to install and configure the Plex media server, which can be an involved process, but the Apple TV app is one of the better clients available.
Formerly known as WatchESPN, the ESPN app is a no-brainer for any sports fan with a subscription to a cable, satellite, or streaming service that features the network. While the sheer amount of content is much of the draw, one of the coolest things about this app is the MultiCast feature, which lets you stream up to four live events at once. If you want to keep an eye on multiple games without heading to a sports bar, this app is just the ticket. If you pay for an optional ESPN+ account, you can even get your SportsCenter fix.
This app could have gone in a few different sections in this article, including news, but one of the biggest features for Apple TV users is Twitter’s focus on sports. It might have forfeited the rights to live Thursday Night Football streams to Amazon, but it still has plenty of NFL content, plus the company recently signed a three-year deal with Major League Soccer to show at least 24 live games this year alone.
Red Bull TV
If you prefer your sports to be of the more extreme variety, then Red Bull TV might be for you — but that’s not all it has to offer. In addition to numerous biking, snowboarding, skiing, and surfing events, you’ll also find plenty of motorsports including the FIA World Rally Championships, the Dakar Rally, and a variety of non-Grand Prix Formula 1 events.
This app offers access to live college sports streams, as well as daily sports shows like Campus Insiders, which focuses on behind-the-scenes coverage of college sports and recruiting news. There’s also Inside The League, which offers NFL coverage including news, interviews, and viral videos. This app isn’t for everyone, but for $5 per month, it’s a great supplement to any of the other sports apps on this list.
News and weather
Reuters TV: Video News
Reuters TV made the list not only because it’s a respected name in news, but also because the app has respect for your time. Tell it how much time you have, anywhere from five to 30 minutes, and it gives you exactly that many minutes of news, which is great for catching up before your morning commute. Even better, the app is free, though an optional $2 per month subscription removes ads.
This service is starting to roll out to out other streaming services like Sling TV but can also be found on its own via Apple TV. Focused more on technology and business news, Cheddar broadcasts daily from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, with frequent interviews of CEOs and founders of companies. Cheddar offers either $3 per month or $30 per year subscriptions, with a 30-day free trial.
AccuWeather: Weather Tracker
There are plenty of weather apps available for the Apple TV, but AccuWeather’s combination of unique features and an easy-to-use interface make it one of our favorites. As soon as you open the app, your Daily Snapshot shows you what to expect for the day, while the MinuteCast gives you hyperlocal, minute-by-minute precipitation forecasts for the next two hours so you’ll never have to wonder whether to bring your umbrella.
This app may not be as feature-packed as some of the other weather apps for the Apple TV, but it makes up for it with one major strength — it’s gorgeous. All it takes is a simple look at the background of the app to get a general feel for the weather, whether it’s rainy, foggy, or bright and sunny. This app will set you back $3, but if aesthetics are as important to you as functionality, it’s worth it.
Music and radio
Even if you subscribe to another service like Apple Music or Spotify, it’s worth having Pandora on your Apple TV just for the variety. Simply tell the app an artist you like and soon it will create a custom radio station that becomes more and more tailored to you as you listen. The service is free with ads, while also offering tiered paid subscriptions, so there are multiple ways to get your groove on.
Sirius XM Radio for Apple TV
If you’re a SiriusXM subscriber, your plan probably includes streaming even if you aren’t aware of it, including over the service’s Apple TV app. As subscribers already know, you’ll find commercial-free music channels spanning nearly every genre, with talk, news, and comedy channels as well.
If you don’t subscribe to Sirius XM, don’t worry, as this $2 app provides very similar functionality with no monthly fee. More than 30,000 internet radio stations from all over the world are included, but Receiver Radio also serves up podcasts, with more than 25,000 feeds available. The app’s minimalist and intuitive design make it an easy pick.
If some other internet radio offerings seem like a bit much, Dash Radio might be more your speed. This service is completely free of charge and there are no ads. The selection is limited compared to other services, with a heavy focus on electronic music and hip-hop. There are relatively few stations for other genres and even fewer talk options. But Dash’s stations are hand-selected and presented by DJs, which many internet radio stations can’t claim.
Health and fitness
Sworkit: Workouts & Plans
While many fitness apps are targeted toward individuals — and Sworkit certainly can be, too — this app is unique in that it can let you plan a workout night for your whole family. Every family member can add a few exercises, and then everyone works out as a group. Individuals can also select different programs tailored for everyone from beginners to seasoned workout veterans. This app is free, but a subscription is required. It starts at $30 per quarter or $80 per year, with a 30-day free trial to help you make sure the app is for you.
If you’re looking to lose weight or get fit, Daily Burn offers more than 1,000 workout videos spread across more than 20 different fitness programs. Variety is the spice of life, and Daily Burn knows this, which is why it offers Daily Burn 365: A new workout every single day specifically tailored for fitness beginners. This app is free, but you’ll need a Daily Burn subscription, which starts at $13 per month. Fortunately, a 30-day trial lets you see if the app is for you before you pay.
While other apps are more generalized, the highlight of Runtastic Results is the Workout Creator, which lets you create your own daily workout. Runtastic Results also offers 12-week plans to help you get fit using bodyweight training, meaning all the exercises included in the program need no equipment at all. A nutrition guide even helps you make sure you’re eating right in addition to exercising. The app itself is free, but you’ll need a subscription, which starts at $10 per month. There is no free trial.
Staying healthy is about both body and mind. Zen is a guided meditation app that offers meditations for anxiety, stress relief, and even deeper focus at work, but also raises your spirits with inspirational quotes and reflections. The app offers three different subscriptions: $2 per week, $6 per month, or $36 per year.
If you’re a frequent viewer of TED talks, this app should be one of the first you install. TED is a nonpartisan nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks. The app not only gives you access to videos of TED talks, but it syncs up with your TED.com profile so you can queue up talks you want to watch later.
LinkedIn’s Lynda has become a go-to place for people who want to learn, well, pretty much anything. With the Apple TV app, you can watch from the comfort of your couch while taking notes on your phone, tablet, or laptop. To use the app, you’ll need a Lynda plan, which starts at $20 per month.
This is a relatively simple app, but if you’re looking to get your kids into astronomy, Planets is a great place to start. This completely free app offers a planetarium-style 3D view of the sky, as well as a 2D view that can be used to locate planets. A rotating globe also shows the planets and Earth’s moon.
If you’re into electronics, wearables, or 3D printing (and really, why wouldn’t you be?), this app belongs on your Apple TV. These videos show off open source products you can build at home, complete with all the tips and tricks you’ll need to make sure that your project works correctly the first time out.
‘Minecraft: Apple TV Edition’
It’s the second-most pricey app on this list at $20, and what can you say about Minecraft that hasn’t been said before? It’s Minecraft on the Apple TV. This is one game that may require a separate controller to fully enjoy, but it can be played with the Siri remote. Optional add-ons are available as in-app purchases, but you could go a long time without them and still never run out of things to do.
‘Risk: TV Edition’
If you have fond memories of marathon Risk sessions but never enjoyed cleaning up the board, this is for you. This $6 game supports up to six players in Pass & Play mode, as well as single-player and online game modes. The game even features a tutorial, so if you’ve never played before, you can get up to speed and then jump right in.
‘Monopoly Here & Now: TV Edition’
Another board game has gone digital, Monopoly Here & Now: TV Edition is a different take on the classic game. Players travel the globe, filling up their passports and buying properties while moving on a 3D-animated game board. Up to four players can pass the remote around, and there’s an option if you’re playing with fewer people. For $4, you can’t go wrong.
Jackbox Party Pack
By far the priciest game on this list at $25, the Jackbox Party Pack consists of five games: You Don’t Know Jack, Fibbage XL, Drawful, Word Spud, and Lie Swatter. While some of the games are fairly tame, others can get a little on the risqué side, so if you’re looking for a game to play with your kids, this may not be the best option. But if you’re looking to liven up a party, this is indeed a great option, and with two sequels available, you won’t run out of new games any time soon.
If you’re looking to relax with a quick game after work, this $3 app offers “the essence of golf, refined to a tee.” Already a hit on other platforms, OK Golf offers simple, intuitive controls — just aim, drag, and release to shoot the ball. No worrying about clubs or anything else. This simple game will have you hooked for a very long time.
Name a travel app or service, and chances are good it has an Apple TV app. The reason we chose TripAdvisor is the focus on photos and beautiful imagery. You may not be ready to plan your dream vacation just yet, but if you’ve got a few minutes, this is a good way to take a mini-vacation from the comfort of your home.
It’s not a given, but chances are good that if you own an Apple TV, you own another Apple device or two. If that’s the case, WWDC is a big event. Even though it is meant for developers who create apps and services on Apple’s platforms, it will often also see big hardware or software announcements from the company. You likely don’t want to take a trip to the convention, but the app can bring the big news to your living room.
Speedtest by Ookla
It’s a common enough problem with streaming: Everything is playing fine, and suddenly, the stream either starts buffering or becomes so low-resolution you might as well be looking at the first digital video ever recorded. Online speed tests aren’t error-proof, but they can be useful in helping you track down problems. With this tool, you’ll easily be able to check that your internet connection is working as intended.
Like checking your internet speed, tracking down Wi-Fi issues can help put an end to streaming issues. With the ability to check the status, speed, and latency of both Wi-Fi and LTE networks, this app lets you be sure that everything is working as intended on your end before you call your ISP.