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Using an iPhone to Configure and Control an Apple TV

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Apple has developed a reputation over the years of producing products that “just work” and are easy to configure and use. With the introduction of iOS 7, Apple has provided a quick and painless way for you to configure your Apple TV using just your iPhone. This article explains how you can use your iPhone (or other iDevice) to easily configure your Apple TV. You also learn two different ways you can control your Apple TV without using the remote that ships with it.

Automatically Configuring an Apple TV with an iPhone

Apple has developed a reputation over the years of producing products that “just work” and are easy to configure and use. With the introduction of iOS 7, Apple provides a quick and painless way for you to configure your Apple TV using just your iPhone.

The third-generation Apple TV enables you to stream a variety of content from the Internet or an AirPlay-enabled device that is connected to the same network. For example, this means you can load a video on your iPhone and transmit it to your TV through the Apple TV.

To facilitate easier set up of the Apple TV, Apple added iBeacon, a new feature to any iDevice using the iPhone’s iOS 7. Using the iDevice’s built-in Bluetooth wireless technology, iBeacon enables an iPhone or other current iDevice (iPhone 4s or later, iPad third generation or later, iPad mini, or iPod touch fifth generation) to connect with a third-generation Apple TV that is running the 6.0 version of the operating system. It also uses Bluetooth to transfer all the information needed for the Apple TV to connect to your local wireless network. And iBeacon transfers the information needed to connect your Apple TV to the iTunes Store, so you can purchase music, movies, and TV shows and display them on your TV through the Apple TV.

After you unpack your Apple TV, use an HDMI cable to connect it to your television and then plug it in to a power outlet. Your Apple TV then powers on for the first time. A setup screen appears that prompts you to choose which language you want to use during configuration (for example, English, Spanish, and so on).

Now you’re almost ready to use your iPhone to configure your Apple TV. First, you need to make sure your iPhone is unlocked (swipe the lock bar on the bottom of the screen and, if necessary, enter your passcode) and is connected to your local wireless network.

You also need to enable Bluetooth. If you haven’t already done so, open the Settings app on your iPhone, tap Bluetooth, and then move the slider to the right so that the background becomes green.

The next step is to lightly tap your iPhone once on the top of your Apple TV. After you do this, move your iPhone where you can still see the screen, but make sure it is within 8 inches of your Apple TV. After tapping wait for a prompt to appear on your iPhone asking you if you want to proceed. Tap Yes.

On your iPhone screen you should now see the prompt to enter your Apple ID and password. Enter those and then click the OK button in the dialog box. You now see two prompts: The first asks if the Apple ID should be saved on the Apple TV, so you can make purchases from the iTunes store, and the second asks if the Apple TV can send diagnostic information from the Apple TV back to Apple. After you answer those questions, the Apple TV begins the configuration process. Though your setup screen won’t change and it may look like nothing is happening, configuration is happening; just be patient. It should take roughly 1 minute. When the configuration is done, your Apple TV is connected to your local Wi-Fi network and your iTunes Store account is set up. When this automatic setup is complete, your Apple TV is ready to use.

If your chosen wireless network is hidden (that is, not publicly broadcast), or if several Wi-Fi networks are in range that your iPhone can connect to, you may get the following message during setup: "There was a problem connecting to the network. The Wi-Fi network you are attempting to join cannot be found." If this happens, just press Menu once on the Apple TV remote, select Other, and then, using the remote, begin to enter the name for the wireless network you want to use. When the Apple TV recognizes the network you enter from the ones available on the iPhone, it automatically proceeds with the setup.

Remote Alternatives – Or Other Ways to Control Your Apple TV

Now that your Apple TV is ready to use, you can choose between using the remote that came with it or one of two alternatives that make it easier to operate.

The small remote shipped with the Apple TV offers a range of services but it isn’t very user-friendly. If you read the reviews for the Apple TV, one of the complaints you see most often is that the Apple TV ships with a minimalstic remote control. It has only three input buttons and four directional arrows that make it hard to quickly set up or navigate your system. Because the remote doesn’t have a keyboard, inputting passwords and moving through menus is clumsy and time-intensive. Using the remote, you see four tabs on your TV screen that you need to bounce back and forth between to enter required information like network names, passwords, and so on. Needless to say, this process can be incredibly frustrating when entering complex words or phrases (like a password with uppercase and lowercase letters, numerals, and symbols)!

But don’t despair…there are two available options that can improve the remote’s usability.

Bluetooth technology comes in handy again because you can use it to improve the control of your Apple TV. Just about any Bluetooth-enabled keyboard can be used. If you don’t already have one, you can buy Apple’s wireless Bluetooth Keyboard, which works well.

To pair your keyboard with your Apple TV, make sure the keyboard is in “pairing” mode by pressing and holding the power button until the small light on the top right of the keyboard blinks.

Then, use the arrow and select buttons on the Apple TV remote to go to Settings -> General -> Bluetooth, and the Apple TV looks for and displays any Bluetooth devices within range that it can pair with. You should see the Bluetooth keyboard in the list. Select it using the remote. You see a four-digit code appear on the TV screen. Enter the displayed code on the Bluetooth keyboard and press the return key. This pairs your Bluetooth keyboard to your Apple TV, and you can now use it when you need to control the Apple TV.

Although the arrow keys on the Bluetooth keyboard perform the same function as the keys on the remote, they are much faster and precise because they communicate directly to the Apple TV through the Bluetooth radio instead of through an infrared transmitter. The arrow keys on the remote are slower than the arrow keys on the keyboard to respond to your input. For example, if on the remote you press the down arrow key six times to move down six items in a menu, it doesn’t always move six items. But the Bluetooth keyboard arrow keys move exactly six items when you press the key six times.

The Escape key on the Bluetooth keyboard functions as the Menu button on the remote, and the Return/Enter key take the place of the Select button. You can use the media controls on the Apple Bluetooth keyboard for Play/Pause, Rewind, and Fast Forward to control the media displayed through the Apple TV. If the Bluetooth keyboard used is one designed for an iOS device, the Home button on it automatically brings up the Apple TV home screen.

Using a Bluetooth keyboard makes it much easier to input names, passwords, and so on by simply typing them without having to search through the four screens of keyboard options with the Apple TV remote. Another great feature that is only available with a Bluetooth keyboard connected to an Apple TV is when you’re at a menu of artists, music, TV shows, and so on; all you need to do is start typing whatever you’re looking for and the menu jumps directly to what you’re searching for.

Setting Up Your iPhone to Control Your Apple TV

Because you used an iPhone or other iDevice to configure the Apple TV, you can also use that device to control your Apple TV. Apple has a free iOS application called Remote that enables you to control your Apple TV through an iPhone or other iDevice as long as the Apple TV and iPhone are on the same wireless network.

You can search for Remote in the App Store app on an iPhone or in the iTunes Store section of iTunes on the computer the iPhone is synced with. If Remote is downloaded through iTunes, the iPhone needs to be synced to the computer for Remote to be transferred to it.

For Remote to function, you need to make sure that Home Sharing, which is what Apple uses to allow music and media to be shared between up to five devices that are on the same network, is enabled. To enable Home Sharing on a computer, open iTunes and then under File -> Home Sharing, select Turn on Home Sharing from the menu choices. Enter your Apple ID and password. Now, any device you have enabled Home Sharing on can access and use the media on any other device as well as display and control it through the Apple TV.

You need your remote for these next steps. Navigate to Settings -> General -> Remotes -> Remote App and make sure that Home Sharing is enabled. If Home Sharing is not enabled, go to Computers -> Turn on Home Sharing. In the Turn on Home Sharing menu, enter the Apple ID and password you use to purchase items from iTunes and then select Done. When you’ve enabled Home Sharing on your Apple TV, open the Remote app on the iPhone, and select your Apple TV from the choices shown on the screen of your iPhone in theRemote application. On the screen that appears after you select your Apple TV, press the button with four arrows pointing in different directions in the top right of the screen to take control of the Apple TV.

When the Apple TV is selected the screen switches to a minimal interface with the majority of the screen becoming a touch surface. The screen of the iPhone can be swiped in any direction to move the selector around, and you can tap the iPhone screen to select whatever is chosen. Pressing Menu on the iPhone screen moves up one level; pressing and holding calls up the main menu. Unlike most apps on the iPhone, Remote works only in portrait mode.

Granted, neither of these alternative methods is perfect, but they provide easier ways to control your Apple TV. Using a Bluetooth keyboard gives much greater and faster control of the Apple TV and makes searching and navigating your music and movies much easier by just typing what you’re looking for. The Remote app enables you to access and better navigate through the larger interface of the touch surface and with a device you are much less likely to lose.

Apple continues in its quest to provide a better user experience by using the new iBeacon technology to enable you to easily set up your Apple TV and start using it faster than ever before. Using the built-in Bluetooth technology also enables you to connect a Bluetooth keyboard to your Apple TV, which makes your experience faster and better. Using the Remote app gives you an easier alternative to control your Apple TV.

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