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Many apps work across your iPhone, iPad and Apple TV. Here are our favourites
When the iPad made its debut, Apple hit upon the concept of the universal app. Buy once and the app would work, optimised, on all your devices.
As Apple’s hardware and software ecosystem has grown, the universal app has continued to evolve. Apple Watch apps are bundled with iPhone apps. And now, Apple TV apps can be grouped with their iOS siblings.
This means that if you’ve already bought certain iPhone apps or games, you can fire up a new fourth-generation Apple TV, sign into your iTunes account, head to the Purchased tab in the App Store app, and have loads of great products ready and waiting to download — for no extra outlay.
In this round-up, we’ve scoured the App Store to bring you our selection of 25 apps and games we reckon are essential downloads for your iPhone but that will also prove entertaining and informative on your television.
The best iPhone apps for your Apple TV
Apps can be very different beasts on the iPhone and the telly, to the point you never quite know what you’re going to get. This selection is superb on both.
With automated back-ups of your photos and 1TB of free storage, Flickr’s a no-brainer on the iPhone (although be aware Live Photos are only saved ‘flat’). On the Apple TV, the app becomes a beautiful way to explore your — and other people’s — photography on the big screen.
Infuse Pro ($9.99)
FireCore’s been working with the Apple TV for years, but its apps required jailbroken units or AirPlay. Now, Infuse can be installed on a vanilla Apple TV just like any other app. It provides fast access to video stored on your network, re-encoding on the fly as necessary. And it’ll do the same to your iPhone, saving you having to take up loads of storage space with movies and TV shows.
Kitchen Stories (free)
On the iPhone, Kitchen Stories is the most usable and beautiful cookery app. It serves up great-looking recipes, but also step-by-step instructions with photography. On Apple TV, there’s no search, but you can browse a selection of tasty treats and also delve into videos to improve your kitchen skills.
Based on a professional weather broadcasting tool used by TV presenters, MeteoEarth gives you insight into current meteorological conditions around the world. You can choose between several layers (wind, temperature, and so on), and find seasonal averages for any location. On the telly, it’s more about the browsing than specifics, but looks great.
myTuner Radio (free)
If you suffered the risible radio app on the previous Apple TV, you’ll be grateful for myTuner Radio’s simplicity and elegance. Quickly search for stations and start playing, in seconds. On your iPhone, the app’s similarly impressively straightforward.
King of the streaming services, Netflix is more reliable and feature-rich than its rivals. Assuming you’ve a subscription, you can sign in on any device and start watching. If you’re a newcomer, create an account and you’ll get a month’s free viewing.
This ground-up rewrite has proven a touch divisive on iPhone, but for our money, it’s the most beautiful of RSS readers. You might question whether it’s an appropriate TV app, but the reworked interface is well-considered for the big-screen, enabling you to catch up on important news without squinting across the room.
Plane Finder (£2.99/$3.99)
This app gives you insight into the constant hell of air-traffic controllers, mapping the thousands of planes in the air at any given moment. On either device, it’s handy for tracking the progress of loved ones, or simply marvelling at everything that’s flying overhead.
Perhaps the most famous video organiser of them all, PLEX utilises a local server that converts video on-the-fly. Client devices can access these files and also browse artwork and descriptions. For free, you can check out the app and get time-limited playback. For £3.99/$4.99, unlimited playback is unlocked. Go for a PLEX pass subscription (£3.99/$4.99) and you get mobile sync, camera uploads, and other goodies.
Star Walk Kids (£2.29/$2.99)
One for the nippers, Star Walk Kids helps kids make sense of the vastness of the heavens. You can navigate the sky and watch short films about the planets. The friendly, approachable nature of the app works equally well on a small or big screen.
Brain food by way of video, TED gives you access to talks by fascinating people. One of the nicest touches — on both iPhone and Apple TV — is the manner in which you can select a random talk based on the kind of thing you want to see, be it jaw-dropping, courageous, inspiring or funny.
The world’s biggest video site shows no sign of slowing, and it’s pretty much an essential download on any device. From strange videos by individuals in their bedrooms to trailers for major motion pictures, YouTube has more new video uploaded every day than you could feasibly watch in a lifetime.
The best iPhone games for your Apple TV
Plenty of games are a blast both on the iPhone and the Apple TV. Although for best results on the latter, we do recommend investing in a Nimbus games controller.
Alto’s Adventure (£2.29/$2.99)
This sweet-natured survival game is all about evoking the feeling of freedom, as your tiny snowboarder performs graceful stunts on snowy mountaintops. Dynamic lighting effects shift night to day and have you ride through inclement weather; and any thoughts regarding the relative ease of your quest soon vanish when an angry elder is in hot pursuit.
The little winged creatures in Badland have it tough. Trapped inside fairytale forests from hell, they must navigate their way past spikes, saw blades and other deadly hazards. Their one comfort: the ability to clone themselves on collecting gems, giving them a slightly better chance of success. Simple controls and gorgeous graphics ensure this is a hit on iPhone and Apple TV alike.
Bean Dreams (£2.29/$2.99)
Platform games are a tough sell on the touchscreen or Siri Remote, which is why the stripped-back controls in Bean Dreams are a smart move. Your bouncing bean is simply moved left and right, with you avoiding traps, bouncing on foes, collecting fruit, and locating lost pet axolotls. Achieving all your goals requires taking on each level with new tactics, boosting replay value.
The title that kickstarted one-thumb gaming, Canabalt might seem a bit simple today. You run across rooftops and jump through office windows, until an inevitable demise (falling to your doom or leaping gracelessly into a wall). But this one’s all about speed — that thrill of zooming along at an insane pace and surviving by the skin of your teeth. As such, it’s still an essential purchase.
The tvOS App Store has some decidedly dodgy old-school shooters troubling the charts, but you’re better off going for Chillaxian. It offers a beautifully designed take on classic blasters, and initially has a surprisingly laid-back vibe. But don’t get complacent — a dozen waves in and you’ll find these alien fiends have bite.
Crossy Road (free)
One of the most famous mobile titles of modern times, Crossy Road is an almost perfect time waster. Tap to avoid the cars, leap across rivers, and avoid getting run over by an intercity train. Collect enough coins and you can try your luck at the one-armed bandit, winning new characters that update the look and feel of the game. Apple TV goes one step further, with a knockabout head-to-head mode against a friend.
Edge Extended (£2.29/$2.99)
The original Edge made its debut on the App Store way back in 2009, and this sequel arrived two years later. Both games are fabulous, tasking you with leading a cube through dozens of increasingly tough to navigate levels. On the big screen, the minimal graphics look vibrant and gorgeous, and the controls are such that even the Siri Remote isn’t troubled.
Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions Evolved (£7.99/$9.99)
Dimensions Evolved takes the twin-stick shooter and wraps it around shapes hovering in space. So instead of being pursued around a rectangle by angry neon ships, you’re shooting and fleeing while traversing a space peanut or lurching cube. Visually, this is console-quality, and while the experience with the Siri Remote is very different — auto-aiming, with you using the touchpad to move — it’s not inherently worse, which is an impressive rethink to get around Apple-imposed limitations.
Mr. Crab (free+IAP)
This platform game is sneaky, in that it initially seems absurdly simple. The titular Mr. Crab automatically scuttles about, leaping when you tap. He’ll reverse direction on hitting a wall, and must scoop up his kids while avoiding enemies. But the layouts become increasingly devious, and wrapping them around a pole disorients, frequently forcing quick thinking and last-second escapes. You get a bunch of content for free, but can unlock all level packs for £4.99/$6.99.
One of the most ambitious games on Apple kit, Oceanhorn comes across a bit like a reimagining of The Legend of Zelda. It’s not quite up to Nintendo quality, but whether you’re playing on an iPhone or Apple TV, Oceanhorn will provide hours of beautiful adventuring, with some brilliantly designed boss battles.
Octodad: Dadliest Catch (£3.99/$4.99)
We’re usually against games that are borderline impossible to control, but that’s much of the point in Octodad. A dapper octopus masquerades as a human, and you must try to control unwieldily tentacles as he goes about life, trying to keep his nature a secret from a human family.
One of the more contemplative games for iPhone and Apple TV, Shadowmatic has you spin levitating shapes, in order to turn their cast shadows into something recognisable. It’s a simple concept, but the game’s hypnotic nature soon draws you in, lasting until you’ve finally beaten all 80 levels.
Another decidedly console-oriented experience on Apple kit, Transistor is an action-RPG that tells the tale of Red, a singer dumped into a strange science-fiction universe. Real-time and turn-based combat is married with exploration as you attempt to unravel Transistor’s mysteries.