Don’t Reach for That iPhone | You Can Now Approve Apple TV Purchases on Your Apple Watch

Authorize Apple TV Purchases on Apple Watch Credit: Jesse Hollington
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Although Apple’s watchOS and tvOS releases typically include less interesting stuff than their iOS and iPadOS counterparts, every once in a while Apple tosses in a small enhancement that’s genuinely useful.

Such is the case with watchOS 8.5 and tvOS 15.4, released earlier this week. Neither of these updates offer much to recommend them on their own, but paired together, they feature a nice quality-of-life improvement for anybody who regularly makes purchases on Apple’s set-top box.

Whether it’s buying apps, subscribing to streaming services, or even just renting movies from the iTunes Store, you’ll no longer need to worry about tapping in your password on the Siri Remote or reaching for your iPhone to do so.

Instead, once your Apple TV is running tvOS 15.4 and your Apple Watch has watchOS 8.5, you should feel a near-instant vibration on your wrist as soon as you attempt to complete a purchase. To confirm, you merely need to double-click the side button on your Apple Watch, just like you would for Apple Pay.

While the ability to confirm purchases from another device in this way isn’t entirely new — it’s worked with the iPhone and iPad since iOS 15 and tvOS 15 — its appearance on the Apple Watch makes it even more useful.

Since you’re probably already wearing your Apple Watch, this puts quick purchase confirmations virtually as your fingertips. Of course, the iPhone and iPad method still also work, but that doesn’t help if there are no other devices nearby.

It was also possible to use an iPhone or iPad to assist with Apple TV purchases before tvOS 15. In that case, your iOS device simply acted as a remote keyboard, with support for either typing the password in or autofilling it from your iCloud Keychain or a third-party app like 1Password.

This new feature makes the process more seamless even on an iPhone or iPad, since all you have to do is double-click the side button. More importantly, however, it allows you to use the Apple Watch entirely on its own, which wasn’t previously possible at all.

How to Authorize Apple TV Purchases on your Apple TV

To use this feature, first make sure that you’ve updated your Apple TV to at least tvOS 15.4 and your Apple Watch to at least watchOS 8.5. Once that’s done, it should just work by default, provided your Apple TV normally requires a password for making purchases. Here’s how to check that:

  1. Open the Settings app on your Apple TV.
  2. Select Users and Accounts.
  3. On the next screen, select your name.
  4. Scroll down to the Require Password section.
  5. Ensure that Purchases is set to either “Always” or “After 15 minutes.”
  6. Turn on the next setting for Free Downloads if you also want these to require authorization.

In fact, this is one of the biggest benefits of being able to use your Apple Watch for purchase confirmations. Many folks have set the “Require Password” options to “Never” just to avoid having to key in their Apple ID password using the Siri Remote, or pull out their iPhone every time they want to make a purchase.

Now, however, Apple Watch owners can turn these options back on for better security, since it’s so easy to confirm a purchase right from your wrist. Here’s how that works:

  1. Go to the App Store, Apple TV app, or the iTunes Movies or iTunes TV Shows apps and find something you want to buy or download.
  2. Select the Buy, Get, or Rent button, as appropriate.
  3. On the next screen, click Buy, Get, or one of the rental options to confirm.
  4. You’ll be shown a screen summarizing your purchase, with buttons on the side to Confirm with Apple Device, Confirm with Password, or Cancel.

You don’t actually need to click the Confirm with Apple Device on this screen. Within a second or two, a notification should appear on your Apple Watch, plus any iPhones or iPads that are signed in with the same Apple ID, asking you to confirm the purchase. Once you hold up your Apple Watch to look at it, the Apple TV will also update to reflect that this is the device you’re using.

Double-click the side button on your Apple Watch to confirm, or tap Cancel to decline.

Note that you may be required to enter your Apple Watch passcode as an additional confirmation step; for whatever reason, Apple doesn’t support Wrist Detection for this feature. When confirming on an iPhone or iPad, you will be able to use Face ID or Touch ID, however, depending on what’s supported by your device.

If you don’t have an Apple Watch, iPhone, or iPad handy, you can also still click Confirm with Password on your Apple TV and proceed to make your purchase the old-fashioned way.

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