Fix Flickering Apple TV 4

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Fix Flickering Apple TV 4

Apple TV 4 can sometimes cause the display to flicker during use. This article covers how to fix a flickering Apple TV 4.

Apple TV 4 is a relatively new product. Compared to other Apple products, it just doesn’t offer the quality one would expect. Some of the quirks are cosmetic, however, a TV appliance should be able to playback video flawlessly. Any defect with video playback, such as a flickering screen, is a “showstopper” bug. Apple engineers should make this a top priority, however, this problem has persisted across several updates. It’s yet another sign that Apple’s quality is in decline.

Why Does My Apple TV 4 Flicker?

I’ve owned my Apple TV 4 for less than a year, and this flickering issue has come up five times. It seems to happen when there is a network issue, but can also happen with certain video apps. Once the flickering problem starts, it usually gets worse and persists throughout the system. No matter what app I am using, video will flicker. It even happens on the Home screen and Settings menu. One may even see a blank screen for up to a second.

The first few times this problem arose, I was having problems with my Internet service provider. I wasn’t playing video. The problem started simply by navigating the Home screen and Settings menu.

The problem happened again recently. It prompted me to write this article. I was watching news on the CBS News app, and the video became glitchy during a commercial. The video started flickering and stuttering. The problem got worse. I exited and closed the app, but the flickering screen persisted on the Home screen and Settings screen. It got to the point that it was difficult to even navigate the menus. I started to get concerned that it may damage my television. The flickering was actually causing my TV to make a clicking sound.

I can only speculate as to the cause, based on my observations and experience as a software engineer. tvOS is not an open source operating system. I can only suspect that the video playback runtime is corrupted by certain network conditions. This doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a problem with the user’s Internet service provider. The problem I experienced with CBS News seems to be in their data center. I checked my Internet connection and it was fine. The problem with CBS News has been continuing for a few days now.

There is some speculation that this may be due to a faulty HDMI cable. In my experience, this is not the cause. It’s certainly possible that a bad cable could cause this problem, but I use top-of-the-line Monster cables. My solution to the problem did not require swapping out the HDMI cable.

I think there is a problem with the core video playback runtime in tvOS. Under certain conditions, the video runtime gets corrupted. While this can happen when watching video in an app, I’ve had it occur on the Home screen. Let’s take a look at how to fix it.

How to Fix a Flickering Apple TV 4

Restarting your Apple TV will fix the flickering problem, but there’s more to it. You must wait a few minutes after the Home screen appears. I learned this the hard way. After recently experiencing the problem, I restarted my Apple TV and started using it immediately. The flickering resumed, even though I didn’t even start watching video. The Home screen was flickering. It’s as if the video playback runtime didn’t have a chance to reinitialize. Perhaps the network overhead of connecting to the iTunes Store on start up caused the problem again? I can only speculate, as Apple TV 4 is figuratively and literally a black box. (continue…)

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  1. i have flickering with album choices in my music and when i search the results flicker and i cannot scroll to the album i would like to choose as the highlighted album skips back to the top before i can hit enter. i will restart the atv and leave it alone for a while as you suggest…..will get back to you later

    1. That may be a different problem. I don’t use Apple’s first-party Music app on Apple TV. I use Google Play Music via AirPlay.

      The flickering problem I experience is system-wide. It happens on the Home screen and every app.

      I had hoped tvOS 10 would fix the problem, but it happened again after I upgraded. My hunch is that it has something to do with problems in Apple’s data center. When my Apple TV has problems connecting to the iTunes Store, the problem crops up.

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