How to get the most out of Siri on your Apple TV

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tvOS changes the default scrubbing behavior of your Siri Remote, and we couldn't be more glad.
tvOS changes the default scrubbing behavior of your Siri Remote, and we couldn't be more glad.
Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac

Use the power of your voice to watch TV. That’s not something out of Star Trek, but the promise of Siri on the fourth-generation Apple TV.

Beyond basic commands to find your favorite TV shows and movies, you might not know how much Siri can actually do for you. But using Siri Apple TV voice commands will unlock loads of helpful features, including reading onscreen labels, getting more in-depth info about whatever you’re watching, navigating various screens, and even playing music on demand.

And it’s bound to get better yet, as the new tvOS beta is bringing Siri dictation to search fields and the App Store.

Here’s how to get the most out of Siri on your Apple TV.

Getting the good stuff

Press and hold to speak.
Press and hold to speak.
Photo: Apple

Pressing and releasing the Siri button on your Apple TV remote will show you a list of all the helpful commands Siri will accept. To issue a command, simply press and hold the Siri button, then start talking. (Siri won’t talk back to you on Apple TV the way she does on an iPhone or iPad.)

You can ask Siri to help you find something to watch with the Apple TV’s universal search, which will locate TV shows and movies from any service you have installed on your Apple TV, like Netflix, HBO, Hulu and iTunes.

Ask Siri, “What should I watch?” to get some recommendations, or get more specific with commands like “Find The Boxtrolls” or “Play Episode 3 of Season 1 of Homeland.”

"Find me some popular comedies, Siri."
“Find me some popular comedies, Siri.”
Photo: Apple

If you’re looking for something in a specific genre or featuring a particular actor or director, try a Siri Apple TV search phrase like “Show me popular comedies” or “Find Benedict Cumberbatch movies.” Got kids? Try, “Find me some TV shows that are good for kids” or “Show me PG-13 movies.”

You can even mix and match with commands like “Find me some funny horror movies,” “Show me independent foreign films” or “Search for crime documentaries.”

If you request something specific, Apple TV will go right to the detail page for that video. If your request is more general or there’s more than one result, you’ll see a row of search results to choose from. You can refine your search right there, telling Siri, “Just show me the ones from this year,” or “Only the dramas,” or “Just the best ones.”

See more details with a simple swipe down.
See more details with a simple swipe down.
Photo: Apple

Once you find what you’re looking for, you can click through to see the detail page, then swipe down to view more details (like ratings and reviews) about your chosen video.

Talk during the movie

So much easier with Siri.
So much easier with Siri.
Photo: Leander Kahney/Cult of Mac

Your friends and family might object to you talking in the middle of a tense moment during your favorite thriller, but you can totally get Siri to help out when watching shows or movies. You can ask Siri to “Pause this,” even though pressing the play/pause button might be faster (and quieter).

More usefully, you can do cool stuff with Siri that would take some extra effort with swipes. Try “Play from the beginning,” “Skip forward 90 seconds” or “Jump back 10 minutes” to move around the video timeline. Turn on captions or subtitles with “Turn on closed captioning” or “Turn on French subtitles.”

My favorite command, though, has to be “What did she say?” Apple TV will skip back a few seconds and temporarily turn on captions so you can finally figure out what that mush-mouth detective was revealing.

Looking for information about whatever you’re watching? Siri makes it easy with commands like “Who stars in this?” or “Who directed this?” You can even find out “What’s this rated?” and “When was this released?” instead of arguing about it or pulling out your iPhone to prove your couch-mate wrong.

Other Siri Apple TV powers

Aw, poor Royals.
Aw, poor Royals.
Photo: Apple

While you can swipe and click your way through all of Apple TV’s menus, Siri can help you get where you want to be even faster. Use your voice to open or switch to any app you have installed.

Simply say things like, “Open the App Store,” “Launch HBO Now” or even “Go to Photos.” You’ll go right to where you want to be, avoiding the Home screen and saving several swipes and clicks.

You can totally play music with Siri, too, if you’ve got Apple Music signed in on your Apple TV. Just say, “Play ‘Learning to Fly’ by the Foo Fighters,” or “Play the song from Frozen” (as if you haven’t heard that earworm enough yet). You can even add songs or albums to Your Music with a quick command like “Add ‘The Waterfall’ by My Morning Jacket to my collection.” Digging the groove you’ve got on already? Try “Play more like this” or “Play the live version of this song.” Siri’s got you covered.

Even if you have questions about non-media things, Siri can deliver the goods. Try “Who won the Super Bowl?” or “How’s the weather?” or “When is sunset in Abu Dhabi?” or “How’s Apple’s stock price?” Just be careful on that last one.

Regardless of whether you want to find something to watch or listen to, or just want some stock information, Siri on the Apple TV is pretty darn useful. Which Siri Apple TV command is your favorite?

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  • UZ

    So can I now use Siri on AppleTV in South Africa, or is it STILL only for the US?

    • Lucus Bendzsa

      Bud South Africa will be low on the list. UK and other important countries first.

      • UZ

        Correct, and that is the reason Google is winning over the rest of the world. They have a very strong global presence and deployment, and that’s Apple’s Achille’s heel.

      • Lucus Bendzsa

        I think the 11people in your country with an Apple TV matter?

      • UZ

        You’d be surprised. We have an affluent upper middle class here, and even though only 20% of our poplation of 50 million would be able to afford it, that’s still 10 million….

  • WilloSF

    Siri is great for searching for content on AppleTV…except of course your *own* content. Until the 4th gen can operate with HomeSharing iTunes libraries, it will be only pay-to-play.