Have an Apple TV? Use your iPhone to optimize your picture and make movies look better

A new Apple TV with an improved Siri remote is finally on the way, but this color tuning feature is something you can use on older Apple TV models right now.

Jason Cipriani Contributing Writer, ZDNet
Jason Cipriani is based out of beautiful Colorado and has been covering mobile technology news and reviewing the latest gadgets for the last six years. His work can also be found on sister site CNET in the How To section, as well as across several more online publications.
Jason Cipriani
3 min read

You can now use your iPhone's front-facing camera to tune your Apple TV's color for a better picture.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Last week, Apple announced a bevy of new hardware, including a new iPad Pro, new iMac, AirTags, a purple iPhone 12 and a new Apple TV along with a new Apple Siri remote. Among the updates and flashy new features is one that made me say "whoa": Being able to tune the color of your TV using just your phone. Of course, for Apple, it works just with your Apple TV and your iPhone.

TV optimization settings are an enormous part of any viewing experience, and usually involve diving into specific settings to fine-tune the picture. The right balance of settings can change depending on what kind of movie or show you're watching -- or a slideshow of your photos. Apple's idea is to remove a lot of these steps by using your iPhone's front-facing camera to do much of the work.

The new feature saves you time trying to tune the colors on your own and give you more consistent picture quality when using your Apple TV. Better yet? The new feature works on older Apple TV models, not just the shiny, new Apple TV 4K. 


It doesn't take long to get a better picture from your Apple TV.

Jason Cipriani/CNET

Here's what you'll need to use the new Color Balance feature

  • iPhone X or newer with Face ID running iOS 14.5 or later.
  • An Apple TV 4K running TVOS 14.5 (first-generation and later)
  • An Apple TV HD running TVOS 14.5

Apple released iOS 14.5 this week, so make sure you update your iPhone and Apple TV to access the new feature. 


It only takes a few seconds to get better performance out of your TV, thanks to Apple's newest feature. 

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

How to color balance your Apple TV using your iPhone

To color balance your Apple TV to match your TV's picture and color quality, you need to open the Settings app on your Apple TV. Go to Video & Audio and scroll down to the bottom of the screen, where you'll find a Color Balance option in the Calibration section. Select Color Balance. 

If your TV is using Dolby Vision, the option will be grayed out, and you can rest assured your TV is already properly tuned. However, if you can select the option, unlock your iPhone and bring it close to your Apple TV. An alert will show up on your phone, asking if you want to use it to color-calibrate your television. Tap Continue, and then follow the instructions on your phone. 

You'll see a giant rectangle on your TV. Hold your iPhone inside that square, with the front-facing camera facing the screen, about an inch away from your television. You'll feel a haptic vibration from your iPhone when you're close enough and the calibration process is about to begin. 

Hold your phone still while the screen flashes several different colors. Your iPhone measures and records those colors, giving your Apple TV the information it needs to tune the colors to look the best on your TV. When the process is complete, your TV will let you switch back and forth between a balanced and unbalanced preview to show you the difference and ask which one you prefer. 

It looks like an easy enough process to fine-tune your TV color settings, right? 

Video from Apple/Animated image by Jason Cipriani/CNET

The entire process takes less than 30 seconds, start to finish. I turned off Dolby Vision on my TV to see how much of an impact the tuning feature had, and it was night and day. The balanced picture was preferred by every family member in my home.

Want to know more about iOS 14.5? We have plenty to share. Your iPhone has a new Face ID feature that's somewhat magical, and you can even change Siri's voice, or completely block apps from tracking you