How to use a Bluetooth keyboard with Apple TV

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With tvOS, your newer Apple TV can work with Bluetooth keyboards.
With tvOS, your newer Apple TV can work with Bluetooth keyboards.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

With this week’s release of tvOS 9.2 for Apple TV, the fourth-generation set-top box now works with Bluetooth keyboards. While the splash screen specifically calls out Apple wireless keyboards, the truth is that you might be able pair pretty much any Bluetooth external keyboard with your new Apple TV.

Here’s how. (And here’s how to upgrade to tvOS 9.2 if you haven’t already.)

Older Apple TVs have been able to pair and use Bluetooth keyboards for a while; the new tvOS version gives the newer Apple TV the same privilege. If you’ve got a Magic Keyboard, it will only work with the newer Apple TV.

Set up your Bluetooth keyboard for Apple TV

First off, you’ll need to put your keyboard into discovery (or pairing) mode. If you’re using an Apple wireless keyboard, you need to look at the little LED light. If it’s blinking, it’s in pairing mode. If it’s steady, then you know it’s paired with a different device. You’ll need to unpair it and start again. If there’s no LED – press the power button until you see it light up. If it still doesn’t work, try changing out the batteries.

Magic Keyboard
Magic Keyboard does a bit more with Apple TV.
Photo: Apple

For a Magic Keyboard from Apple, make sure it’s charged (via the Lightning cable) and then turn it on. A green LED indicates that it’s ready to pair.

For non-Apple Bluetooth keyboards, check the manual that came with the device. Usually, pairing mode is enabled with a long press on the power button, although some models will automatically enter pairing mode when turned on for the first time.

Pairing Bluetooth keyboard with Apple TV

Find your keyboard here.
Find your keyboard here.
Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac

Now, head into your Apple TV settings. For the newest, fourth generation Apple TV, click on the Settings app, then select Remotes and Devices, then Bluetooth. For earlier Apple TV models, go to Settings, then General, then Bluetooth.

Your Apple TV will then search for any nearby Bluetooth accessories in pairing mode. Select your keyboard and click on it. If you’re asked, enter the four digit code on the screen with your keyboard. Then press Return.

Using your keyboard with Apple TV

Using your keyboard with Apple TV is a snap.
Using your keyboard with Apple TV is a snap.
Photo: StockSnap/Pixabay

You can type into any field that allows text entry with your connected keyboard, including Search, username, email and password fields.

Navigate menus on the Apple TV with the arrow, Return, and Escape keys. Jump to any item, title, or name on the screen by typing in the first few letters of that item. When you’re viewing your music collection, for example, you can type in the name of the song to jump to that title.

If your keyboard has Play, Pause, Rewind or Fast-forward keys on it, they might work to control your music and videos; give it a try.

Secret Magic Keyboard shortcuts

If you’re using the latest, greatest Apple-made Magic Keyboard with your new Apple TV (and tvOS 9.2), you’ll be able to do the following cool things with it.

  • Press F3 to quickly switch to a different app.
  • Press F4 to go to the Home screen.
  • Press F7 to rewind and F9 to fast forward.
  • Press F8 or spacebar to play or pause content.
  • Press F11 to decrease volume or F12 to increase volume.
  • Use the arrow keys to navigate.
  • Press return to make selections.

Need a visual roundup of all these tips? Check out our full video below.