Apple’s new TV appliance brings Siri to your living room. This article covers essential Siri commands for Apple TV 4.
The new fourth generation Apple TV is a big step forward. In addition to the new tvOS operating system and an App Store, Apple’s new streaming device offers a Siri Remote. The Siri Remote can be used to control Apple TV, find content, and look up information. Although Siri for tvOS lacks many of the features found in iOS, Apple’s digital assistant will still make your life easier.
How to Use Siri with Apple TV 4
The new Siri Remote for Apple TV 4 makes it easy to use Apple’s personal digital assistant. Two microphones are located at the top of the remote — one on the front and one on the back. This helps with noise cancellation, although Siri functions better in a quiet room. Initiating a Siri request temporarily reduces the volume on your TV. This helps Siri interpret your request. Even with these features, Siri will often misinterpret what you say. Make sure to speak slowly and enunciate. This will improve Siri’s voice recognition capabilities, but expect a fair number of requests to be misinterpreted.
The Siri button is located just below the Menu button on the remote. There’s an image of a microphone on the button. Simply hold down the button until you see a multicolored line on the bottom of your TV screen and the text “What can I help you with?”. Continue holding down the button while slowly and clearly voicing your request. You will see your spoken words appear on the screen as text. Siri will either immediately handle your request without feedback or display a message and execute the command.
Certain Siri requests will display a panel at the bottom of the screen. This panel can be dismissed by swiping one finger down on the trackpad or pressing the Menu button. You can also swipe up on certain panels, such as current weather, to obtain more detailed information. You’ll see a “^” symbol at the top of the panel if it can be expanded. This will display a full screen of information that can only be closed by pressing the Menu button.
Siri for Apple TV 4 is completely silent by default. I asked Siri why it doesn’t make sound, and it replied that “silence is golden”. It’s a snarky reply and Siri is well-known for its “wit”. The real reason is that most people don’t want to hear Siri when they are watching a video or listening to music. You can actually make Siri speak by turning on the VoiceOver feature (Settings > General > Accessibility > VoiceOver : On). Unfortunately, this turns on VoiceOver for everything. The feature is intended to describe user interface elements for visually impaired users. Perhaps a future update will allow Siri to speak without VoiceOver.
If you are holding down the Siri button but do not see anything, the feature may be turned off. It’s possible to do this accidentally during initial setup. Maybe you turned it off because it interfered with a game, and forgot to turn it back on. You can turn Siri on by going to Settings > General > Siri : On.
Getting the Most out of Siri Dictation
Siri Dictation can be a frustrating feature. Trying to dictate an uncommon word often produces unexpected results. Sometimes you just need to spell it out, but that doesn’t always work either. For example, if I dictate “CNN”, I see “see and and” on the screen. It doesn’t matter how clearly I speak. Siri Dictation has difficulties when users attempt to spell something out.
There’s a simple workaround for this problem. Simply insert the word “capital” before each letter. Instead of saying “CNN”, say “capital C capital N capital N”. Unfortunately, if you say “lowercase” Siri will literally interpret that as the word “lowercase”. If you’re just searching for a movie or YouTube video, the “capital” workaround is adequate.
General Siri Commands for Apple TV 4
Siri offers several commands that work just about anywhere within tvOS. These general commands offer a convenient way to adjust settings, find content across multiple providers and look up information.
“show me something new” – A list of new TV shows and movies is displayed at the bottom of the screen.
“what should I watch tonight” – Siri will recommend a movie or TV show.
“show me new releases” – Newly released movies are displayed.
“show me new TV shows” – Siri provides a list of TV shows with new episodes.
“show me something funny” – Siri displays a list of comedic TV shows and movies.
“show me something scary” – A collection of horrifying TV shows and movies is displayed.
“show me something dramatic” – Siri provides a list of TV and movie dramas.
Tip: You can repeat the “show me something” command with almost any other genre — independent, romance, science fiction, etc. Not all genres will work. I tried “show me something in music” to no avail.
“find [TV show/movie]” – One or more TV shows or movies is displayed. This is a great way to find content in iTunes, HBO NOW, HBO GO, Netflix and Hulu. Expect more content partners to be added in the future.
“find movies with [actor]” – Siri displays a collection of movies featuring the actor. You can also do this with TV shows. Unfortunately, Siri could not find the episodes of Seinfeld with Bryan Cranston!
“find episodes of [tv show] with [actor]” – A list of TV shows featuring the actor is displayed. This was able to find episodes of Seinfeld featuring Bryan Cranston as Jerry’s dentist.
Tip: When searching for content, it’s also possible to refine your criteria. For example, if you have a list of movies, you can say “show me the ones from the 90s”, “only top rated” or “only the new ones”. You can also filter for specific genres, by saying something like “only dramas”.
“find the series premier of [TV show]” – Siri will find the first episode of the specified TV show
“find the series finale of [TV show]” – The final episode of the named TV show is displayed.
“find episode [number] of season [number] of [TV show]” – Siri will display the TV show matching the specified episode and season. Unfortunately, this does not work with the title of an episode.
“open [app name]” – Your desired app will be opened. Unfortunately, Siri cannot close apps. Don’t expect this to work with every app. Siri was unable to open Asphalt 8, which is one of the most popular apps in the App Store.
“light mode” – Turns on light mode, which is the default display mode for Apple TV. Light mode features a bright, off-white background suitable for daytime viewing.
“dark mode” – Invokes dark mode. This is a darker display mode which is appropriate for night-time and dark lighting environments.
“battery level” – Siri displays the current battery level of the Siri Remote, in percentage.
“what’s the weather like” – Siri will display current weather conditions. Swipe up on the touchpad for more details and an hourly forecast. You can also ask for weather in any location by adding “in [location]” at the end of the request. If you add “this week” to the request, Siri will display the extended forecast. Swipe up for more information.
“what time is [sunrise/sunset]” – The sunrise or sunset time and current weather are shown. Slide up on the touchpad to view hourly weather details, including sunrise and sunset times.
“what time is it” – The current time is displayed, along with a time-appropriate salutation.
“what time is it in [location]” – Siri displays the current time in the location (any city or nation around the world).
“what’s today’s date” – Siri displays the date formatted by day of the week, month, day number and year.
“stock quotes” – The current DOW, S&P and NASDAQ quotes are displayed.
“[company/symbol] stock” – Siri will display the current stock quote for the specified company. This doesn’t work with every company and symbol, as it is unable to fetch a DuPont quote using either the company name or symbol.
“who won [sporting event]” – Scores, teams (or players) and the date of the sporting event are displayed. Not every sporting event works. When asked “who won the Kentucky Derby”, Siri replies that it cannot help with that request.
“what’s the [league] schedule” – Siri shows a schedule for the specified sports league. You may be able to swipe up on the trackpad for a complete schedule. You can also refine search results by speaking another Siri request pertaining to the game schedule.
“who’s the [position] for the [sports team]” – The player’s name, jersey number and photo are displayed.
“who are the [sports team] playing on [day]” – Siri displays the matchup for the specified sports team. If they are not playing on that day, the next game is shown. The team logos and current standings are also presented.
“turn [on/off] reduce loud sounds” – The Reduce Loud Sounds feature will be turned on or off. This feature helps tame the volume of videos or music that have a wide dynamic range. It’s ideal for late nights when you don’t want to disturb others.
Siri Commands for Video Apps
Siri can handle more specific requests within video apps. These requests don’t work with every app, but are supported by major video apps like Netflix, Hulu and HBO NOW. More video apps will support Siri over time, so it may be worth trying these commands within other apps.
“play the episode of [tv show] with [actor]” – Siri will start playing the episode of a specified TV show with the named actor. You may be presented with options if there are multiple episodes fitting this criteria.
“play episode [number] of season [number] of [tv show]” – The specified TV episode will begin playing.
Siri Commands While Playing Videos
Siri’s responses and actions are contextual, based on which screen or app has the focus. The personal digital assistant can control playback, subtitles and other features while playing a video. You can also see information about a video, including actors and the release date.
“pause” – Video playback is paused. It’s easier to press the Play/Pause button on the remote. You can also say “stop”.
“play” – Starts or resumes playback of a video. Using the Play/Pause button is faster and easier. You can also say “resume” or “continue”.
“skip [back/forward] [number] [minutes/seconds]” – Skips video playback forward or backward based on the specified time. This is very useful for bypassing opening credits and reviewing a scene if you weren’t paying attention.
“what did [he/she] say?” – Skips back 15 seconds and turns on subtitles.
“start from the beginning” – The video will start playback from the beginning.
“turn on [language] subtitles” – Turns on subtitles for the video, if available. Specifying the language is optional, as Siri will default to the language configured in Settings.
“turn on closed captioning” – Siri will activate closed captioning.
“who directed this” – Siri displays the name of the director, if available.
“who stars in this” – An interactive list of actors with photos is displayed at the bottom of the screen. Use the trackpad to select and click on an actor. This will display more information about the actor, including a brief biography and related movies and TV shows. Press the Menu button on the Siri remote to dismiss the info panels.
“when was this [movie/TV show] released” – Siri displays the release date of the movie or TV show.
Siri Commands for Music Playback
The Music app plays iTunes purchases and Apple Music. Siri can control some features of Apple TV’s stock music app. You can initiate these commands just about anywhere in tvOS. If you are in an app, Siri may prompt you to open the Music app using an on-screen link.
Unfortunately, Siri’s music capabilities leave something to be desired. Asking questions such as “who wrote this song” or “when was this album released” do not provide a useful response. If you ask Siri to “play the top song in 2000”, it will only display this information. Siri cannot find more music by the currently playing artist. At best, you can select music and control playback using Apple’s personal digital assistant.
“play music” – Siri will shuffle and play all songs in your iTunes music library.
“play [genre/artist/playlist/album/song]” – The specified music selection is played.
“play [iTunes/Beats 1/genre/artist/album/song] radio” – Siri will play the requested radio station if you subscribe to Apple Music. Beats 1 is free and available without an Apple Music subscription.
“shuffle [genre/artist/playlist/album/song]” – Siri will shuffle and play the specified music selection.
“play [next/previous] song” – The next or previous song in the playlist will start playing.
“skip [back/forward] [minutes/seconds]” – Playback skips forward or backward by the specified time.
“start from beginning” – The song will start from the beginning.
“pause” – Music playback is paused.
“play” or “resume” – Paused music is restarted.
Siri Will Get Better
The fourth generation Apple TV was a massive overhaul over previous models. Apple had to catch up with competitors who were already offering personal digital assistants in their TV appliances. Although Apple had a few years to release this new model, it is still a little rough around the edges. Siri is no exception. It is far more capable on an iPhone than on Apple TV. This will, without a doubt, change over time. Apple is currently working with partners to make their content searchable with Siri. More commands will be added and Siri will get better at recognizing speech.
Despite its flaws, I find Siri to be quite useful. I use it all the time to turn on subtitles, control playback and turn on the Reduce Loud Sounds feature. I look forward to Siri’s evolution and refinement over time. It would be great if Siri could schedule reminders, set alarms, take notes, schedule calendar events and do other productivity features. Apple will first need to develop these apps for tvOS. For now, I will just have to keep my iPhone nearby.