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Apple TV Plus: 9 tips and tricks to get the most out of the streaming service, app and box

What you need to know about Dark Mode, watching offline, subtitles and more.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Apple launched its subscription streaming service Apple TV Plus last year in over 100 countries and regions. The service, which resides in the Apple TV app, costs $5 per month and includes a number of exclusive shows. Apple TV Plus has firmly planted Apple in the streaming service game alongside competitors like Netflix and Disney Plus

Here are a few hacks to make sure you get the most out of the Apple TV app and the Apple TV Plus service.

Get Apple TV Plus for free (or cheaper)

Normally Apple TV Plus costs $5 a month or $50 for an annual subscription. There are two ways to get the service free though. You can take advantage of the standard seven-day free trial. In addition, if you happen to buy a new (or new to you) iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, iPod Touch or Mac, you'll qualify for a free subscription for one year. However, that free year does have some caveats, including automatic renewal and immediate loss of access if you do cancel before the year is up.  

To get the seven-day free trial, download and open the app, or go to the Apple TV website. In the app, tap Watch Now to get signed up with your Apple ID. If you've purchased a new device, the option will say Enjoy One Year Free. It's important to note that if you bought a new device, you have three months to take advantage of the one-year free trial. 

Apple also built a bundle that makes the streaming service free for those with the Apple Music student-discount plan. It offers both services for $5 a month with no extra cost. 

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Angela Lang/CNET

Dark mode for days

Dark mode gained serious momentum over the last year and it seemed like every app was adding the option. The Apple TV app is no different. You can put the app into Dark Mode or choose Automatic, which makes Dark Mode activate at night only. To set it up on your Apple TV or another device, choose Settings > General > Appearance > choose Dark or Automatic

Keep it down, will ya? 

Yes, we know about volume controls, but the Apple TV app's Reduce Loud Sounds option does only that -- reduces loud sounds. This way, if you've bravely chosen to watch a horror movie alone or a war film with dozens of thunderous explosions, you won't be constantly raising and lowering the volume. On your Apple TV, choose Settings > Video and Audio > Reduce Loud Sounds.  

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Hailee Steinfeld stars as Emily Dickinson in her new Apple TV Plus show, Dickinson. 

Apple

Watching offline or on the go

When you know you're going to be away from Wi-Fi, you can download shows and movies in the Apple TV app to watch offline later. You can do this on iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch and Mac. Simply open the app and select the movie or show you want to download. Tap the cloud-shaped download button. The icon will appear next to each individual episode of a show and will be next to a movie's title. When the download completes, you can find the content in the Library section of the app. 

When you're finished with the content, go back into the Library section of the app and tap Edit. You can select which titles you want to get rid of and then tap Delete Download. 

Accessing iTunes Extras

ITunes Extras is a feature that lets you go behind the scenes of your favorite movie. Certain titles will have "extras" like trailers, gag reels, deleted scenes, alternate endings and more. To find out if a film you want to watch in the Apple TV app has iTunes Extras, open the Movies app and select a title. Scroll down past Viewers Also Watched. If the title has iTunes Extras, it'll be in a preview section next to the trailers. 

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For All Mankind is another show to check out on Apple TV Plus. 

Apple TV Plus

Sleep mode

If you like to doze off with the TV as background noise, you can customize Apple TV to "go to sleep" when you're ready. On your Apple TV, go to Settings > General > Sleep After to set a time frame for the app to turn itself off. 

Subtitles 2020

Subtitles virtually eliminate the risk that you might miss an important plot point, even if you're not watching a foreign movie or you're hard of hearing. To get subtitles on Apple TV, you can swipe downward while watching a show or movie and turn them on. If you're not a fan of keeping subtitles on throughout a movie, you can also ask Siri "What did he just say?" if you can't understand a character. The title will rewind to where the last person spoke and turn on subtitles temporarily. 

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Reese Witherspoon (above), Jennifer Aniston and Steve Carell star in The Morning Show.

Apple/Screenshot by Joan E. Solsman

Follow your favorite shows

Although I'm perpetually adding movies and shows to my watchlists that I'll probably never watch, I like being able to know when a new season of a show is out. The Apple TV app can track shows you watch automatically under the Up Next section in Watch Now. It pulls the shows from across multiple streaming services, except for Netflix. For example, mine shows several titles I was watching on Hulu. 

When new episodes become available, they'll jump to the front of the queue. Along the same lines, if you're not sure what to start watching, you can ask Siri "What should I watch?" for some suggestions. You can also ask to see popular movies or what shows are trending. 

PIN-protect adult content

You probably don't want your kids watching everything you do on Apple TV, so the app has a way to make sure there's no content overlap. You can assign a PIN code to movies or shows with a specific rating so your kids can't access it. It only applies to iTunes content though, so that means shows and movies you've bought or rented through Apple. On the Apple TV, you can set a PIN code by going to Settings > General > Restrictions. Set the code and then you can decide what counts as Allowed Content.

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