3 Methods to Build an Apple TV App

Frankly, Apple TV may not be the most popular streaming platform. It is, however, among the most promising. All the more believable with a giant like Apple behind it and the ecosystem it finds a place in. First and foremost, it’s about how easy it is to plug Apple TV in and use it. As mentioned before, it shares the ecosystem with other Apple devices and thus fits right into your home if you already own some of these products. Seeing as it is an environment with many engaged and eager to pay users, adding Apple TV to your content distribution channels seems like the right move. Meanwhile, Apple TV apps are gaining more and more variety with every update.

Apple TV

This article shows how you three ways you can go about building your application, either by exploring the platform yourself first or by bringing in an Apple TV app development company.

What can your app do on Apple TV?

Firstly, Apple TV is powered by tvOS. How is it different from probably familiar to you iOS or macOS? Well, it is a derivative of iOS, yet has a bunch of unique features exclusive to it. That makes for a great environment, because it supports a shared experience at its core, yet provides platform-specific ways to engage with your audience.

tvOS features

This operating system makes jaw-dropping entertainment possible like never before, thanks to all the technologies available for applications. These include Dolby Vision and Atmos, HDR support, as well as, of course, 4K resolution. A recently renewed remote controller for Apple TV gives devs access to gyroscope data and a directional pad for precise controls, thus even making adequate gaming possible. Don’t forget Apple’s Siri, which now has its button on the side of the remote.

New possibilities

The most recent SDK version enhances gaming even further, allowing for multiple users and advanced input options. Updates to the SwiftUI framework even provide a way to integrate HomeKit camera footage. You may already see how that opens the doors for more creative apps to get on Apple TV. There is no reason to believe these updates will stop anytime soon. However, entertainment or home systems aren’t Apple’s only concern. The previous SDK version already took advantage of the CryptoKit to work with digital signatures and cryptography in general.

How do you build an Apple TV app?

If you were looking to make an app before, you surely are sold on the idea by now. So, what are the options?

Method 1: Make a new app yourself

Use a generic platform

Some platforms provide a generic pre-made design for entrepreneurs on a budget. All a customer has to do is supply content, whereas the rest is handled by the service. The biggest pro is, obviously, not having to deal with development. Your app would fit into your marketing pipeline and the provider would take care of supporting and maintaining it. It is, however, also the biggest con of such an option. You generally have little control over your app’s features, besides the standard design. The app itself usually also has a look to it that gives away the fact that it wasn’t custom-made for your project. How much does this cost? Expect to spend a couple of hundred dollars on a package.

Do it from scratch

Without any prior experience, you would have to scour endless documentation pages and probably enroll in a couple of online courses. Well, perhaps this pandemic has freed up just the right amount of time for you. In any case, solo development is the most rewarding, if you’re up for it. How do you go about it?

First, familiarize yourself with the platform. What are the most recent practices of using tvOS? Next, find out more about the tool you will be using – Xcode 12. If you’ve developed apps before, you know that it has SDKs for all of Apple’s operating systems. However, to build a truly Apple TV app you must build it for tvOS specifically. In general, Apple TV development will probably send you down the rabbit hole of client-server app research, adding JavaScript into the mix. There is ample documentation out there, but it is a big help to get used to the basics beforehand.

Follow the guidelines

Apple is quite strict on what they allow on board. Thus, it is paramount to be in line with the guides to have a better chance of getting featured on the main page. It is better to make as much of your app as possible into these so-called on-demand resources. Why? It makes your core app smaller and it’s much more likely your users will be able to install it faster. There are also a bunch of differences when it comes to developing Apple TV 4K, which are freely available on Apple’s website for developers.


Working on your project alone or with a small team of friends is exciting and rewarding. However, it is always tempting to overlook taking the project to the masses to see if they like it before the release. Make sure to obtain as much feedback as possible. In that regard, Apple provides a TestFlight opportunity to conduct your quality assurance and user-tests with up to ten thousand people.

Method 2: Turn an iOS app into an Apple TV app

Perhaps you already have an iOS app that you would like to expand for tvOS. The good part is, you don’t have to duplicate your project in Xcode. It is much simpler – just add a new target. That allows you to keep your entire codebase and work on both apps simultaneously.

The biggest hiccups occur in the UI. Apple TV doesn’t act like a touch screen, hence a different user experience. Perhaps you would have to come up with a new login option and change some sliders and switches. However, the most frustrating part is resizing content for a widescreen view. It could mean a different user journey, so expect to redesign your flow accordingly. A great deal of attention and experience is required at this stage.

Porting an app is easier than making one from scratch. However, it means knowing tvOS all the same, so the same difficulties from Method 1 carryover. If you’re after results on a more reasonable timeline, working with professionals is your best bet.

Method 3: Partner up with a development company

Finally, the third method is the most trustworthy of them all. The right company will work closely with you to bring your vision to life in a truly custom way. Where you have the idea, they fill in the tech gaps. In a fast-moving world, not everyone has the time to learn an entirely new operating system over the weekend, so people with the right knowledge will translate your complex needs into a polished product according to your budget. There is no shame in outside help.

The same applies if you already have an iOS app – a development company will take it to the big screen with their UX and tvOS SDK expertise.


To sum up, there are three ways you can get your app idea to Apple TV. Either you do it yourself from scratch, port an iOS app, or hire professionals, you can pick the option that suits you best. The most rewarding path is one most difficult, yet development doesn’t always need to be such a dramatic sacrifice. Figure out how much time you have, what your budget is, how complex your idea may be, and you will be this much more equipped to follow one of the three Apple TV development methods.

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