Since the release of Xcode 7, you can sideload apps on Apple TV 4, running on tvOS, to iOS devices and Macs without jailbreaking your device and without having to go through the App Store procedure. Further more, you do not need to have a paid Apple developer account, the free one is enough to sideload apps. Side loading apps means to install apps on Apple TV 4 without downloading and installing the app via the App Store. You just download and install it locally via Xcode and a connected device. This method applies to tvOS 9, tvOS 10, Mac OS X 10.11 El Capitan, macOS 10.12 Sierra and macOS 10.13 High Sierra.
Originally, the option to side load apps is intended to be used by developers for testing beta software and projects that are planned to be released in the App Store. However, you can install apps with this method, such apps as PlexConnectApp, SNES/Game Boy/Sega game emulators (Provenance), a screensaver (Aerial), a web browser (tvOSBrowser), and some other apps that Apple won’t usually allow on the tvOS App Store.
Prerequisite to sideload apps on Apple TV 4
- An Apple TV 4 (4th generation) running the latest version of tvOS.
- An active free Apple Developer account. No need to pay $99 for it. How to get a free Apple developer account see the next paragraph.
- A Mac with Xcode 7 installed.
- A downloaded Xcode project that has been made available by the developer to side load on Apple TV 4 via Xcode.
- A USB-A to USB-C cable.
How to create a free Apple developer account
- Go to the Apple Developer Programm site and click ‘Start Your Enrollment‘.
- Sign in with your Apple ID (if you do not have one, create one).
- Check the first box and click ‘Submit‘.
- Select Entity Type and click ‘Continue‘.
- Enter your contact information and hit ‘Continue‘.
- Verify your information is correct and hit Continue‘.
Note: Do not proceed any further. Your account is created. You do not need to pay the $99 fee to continue the process.
How to sideload apps to Apple TV 4 (4th generation)
- Download and install Xcode from the App Store to your Apple computer. Note: The latest beta can be found in the download section of ‘Tools and languages‘ of the dedicated Apple Developer Program portal.
- Go to Xcode > Preferences > Accounts and click on ‘+‘ on the left down corner and add your Apple ID assigned with your free Apple developer account. After that, you can close the Window ‘Preferences‘.
- Connect the plugged Apple TV 4 to computer with USB Type-C cable.
- Open Xcode and go to Source Control > Check Out.
- Select an app from the Github resources, copy the URL, e.g. for PlexConnectApp, found under HTTPS clone URL in the right sidebar to the clipboard on your computer to the repository location field and hit ‘Next‘.
- If shown, select ‘Master‘ and hit ‘Next‘.
- Click ‘Download‘. The project will then download to your chosen location on the computer before loading up in Xcode.
- On the top bar of Xcode, right beside the Play and Stop buttons, select where it reads the name of your project > [projectname]TV-release, and from the corresponding drop-down menu, choose the connected Apple TV from the list of available devices.
- Click the play button for starting to install and then play the app. In this case: PlexConnectApp.
- The app will now be installed on the Apple TV 4. For checking that the app is correctly installed, go to Window > Devices and select your Apple TV 4. Under ‘Installed Apps’ you will find your app, e.g. PlexConnectApp.
- Once installed, disconnect the Apple TV from the USB slot of the computer and connect as normal to your TV, and invoke the sideloaded app. Enjoy!
- If there is no Apple TV connected via USB then Xcode will provide a simulator option. When connected, the Apple TV name will be displayed alongside this.
- If a window pops up with ‘Failed to code sign…‘ click on ‘Fix issue‘ and select on the next window your Apple ID name as Development Team and click ‘Choose‘. The app will then be installed.
How to update a sideloaded app on Apple TV 4
You will repeat the same exact procedure as the installation. The only thing you will need to verify is that the Bundle Identifier for your app is exactly the same as the first time you installed it. Otherwise, it will install new app to your Apple TV.
Note: ROMs and save files will be carried over to the updated app.
- If you forgot the original Bundle Identifier name, go to Window > Devices.
- Click on Apple TV and your Bundle Identifier will be displayed under ‘Installed Apps‘.
Now you learned how to sideload apps to Apple TV 4 without jailbreak and without a paid Apple developer account. This method can also be applied for side loading apps to other Apple devices like iPhone, iPad or Mac. This method applies to tvOS 9, tvOS 10, Mac OS X 10.11 El Capitan, macOS 10.12 Sierra and macOS 10.13 High Sierra.
Stay tuned! 😉