Explained: How Does Apple TV Work?


If you’ve ever wondered how Apple TV works, we’ve got answers for you.

The streaming media box that connects to your TV is really nothing more than a stripped down iPhone without a screen. It runs Apple’s A5 processor, the same as the iPhone 4S and iPad 2. It runs a modified version of iOS, which is why it has a similar look and feel as your iPhone or iPad.

The streaming services that run on Apple TV are “apps” of their own that access their respective hosts the same as they would on your smartphone or tablet. When you launch Netflix on Apple TV, you can search and browse the entire Netflix instant streaming catalog and start streaming a title with the click of a button, the same as you would on any other device.

Apple TV connects to the Internet via WiFi or a wired Ethernet connection to your home network.

The latest version of Apple TV also supports AirPlay mirroring, which lets you cast your iPhone, iPad, or Mac screen onto your TV via your wireless network. You can also use AirPlay to wirelessly stream music from your iDevice to your TV’s speakers in the same way.

Currently, Apple TV has content deals with Netflix, Hulu Plus, HBO Go, Disney, PBS, ABC, Bloomberg, ESPN, MLB, NBA, NHL. MLS, RedBull, YouTube, Wall Street Journal, The Weather Channel, VEVO, Vimeo, and Flickr. You can also purchase (or rent) movies and TV shows directly from iTunes.

Recent reports have suggested more content deals are in the works, which would expand Apple TV’s digital media options greatly.

If you’re interested in expanding your TV’s functionality with Apple TV, you can pick one up on Amazon, including an HDMI cable, for under $100. Alternatively, they’re available directly from Apple (without the necessary HDMI cable) for $100 and include a $25 iTunes credit.


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  • Dan

    So, what are the differences between it and roku?

    • Bren

      I haven’t really looked into it that much but I’d say the apple tv has a few more streaming options like the sports things. And air play. Put simply, if you have an idevice and/or Mac, you probably would enjoy the apple tv more than the roku. If you don’t have those things than you can probably get the roku and save some money. You may also want to look into Chromecast. It’s pretty great for $35