Can You Use Amazon Prime with Apple TV?

amazon prime on apple tv?
Apple TV copyright Apple; Amazon Prime copyright Amazon

This article was written with the 2nd and 3rd Generation Apple TV in mind. Since then, Apple has released the 4th Generation Apple TV and Apple TV 4K, which both support third-party apps. In late 2017, Amazon released a Prime app for the Apple TV. Subscribers can now stream all Amazon Prime to their Apple TVs with that app.

One of the easiest ways to bring the universe of streaming entertainment into your living room is to buy an Apple TV.

With an Apple TV, you can stream music with ​​Apple Music or Pandora, watch videos from YouTube, and catch up on premium cable series with HBO Go and Showtime Anytime.

You can also watch your favorite movies and TV from three of the major streaming video services: iTunes, Netflix, and Hulu. But there's a fourth major player—Amazon Prime Video—and there's no app pre-installed on the Apple TV for it. So does that mean Prime and Apple TV can't work together?

As of this writing, yes—with one exception that I'll explain at the bottom of this article.

Apple Selects the Apple TV Apps

There are multiple reasons for Prime's exclusion. Getting apps onto the Apple TV isn't the same as getting an iPhone app into the App Store. For iPhone apps, as long as developers comply with Apple's rules, they can feel fairly confident that their apps will be available to users. Not so on the Apple TV.

There is no formal app development and submission process for Apple TV apps.

In fact, the exact process that goes into getting an app on the Apple TV is somewhat mysterious—Apple hasn't ever made it public (having an iPhone or iPad app that demonstrates quality user interface and a streaming infrastructure sufficient to support a large number of users streaming a lot of video is an important step, but not the only requirement).

Instead, it seems that Apple works with selected partners, presumably partners who offer content Apple thinks its users will enjoy, to create Apple TV apps and launch them on the device.

Users Can't Install Apps

It stands to reason that Amazon would probably like to have a Prime Instant Video app on the Apple TV, since that might lead to more subscribers, sales, and rentals. But even if Amazon did make a Prime app available for the Apple TV, there's no way for users to install their own apps on the Apple TV (though the second generation model, running certain versions of the OS, can be jailbroken). Given that, whether Amazon appears on the Apple TV is entirely in Apple's hands.

Why Is There No Amazon Prime App for Apple TV?

Good question. Any answer would be speculation, since neither Apple nor Amazon has released an official statement on the matter. Speculation though it may be, coming up with an answer isn't too difficult: Apple probably doesn't want the competition.

Netflix and Hulu compete with the iTunes Store, sure, but having them available on Apple TV makes the device more useful, and thus a more attractive purchase. It's hard to imagine buying a streaming-video device that doesn't support those services; Amazon Prime is less essential.

Apple's general strategy is to use content to drive sales of its devices. Neither of those services sell ​hardware; Amazon does, in the form of its Kindle Fire tablets and Fire TV set-top box and streaming stick. While Apple sees the value of providing a wealth of content on its platforms, it may not want to help a hardware rivals expand its customer base.

While this may seem like a hard line for Apple to take (or the "typical closed Apple" narrative), it's worth noting that Apple is far from alone in this policy. You can't rent or buy movies from iTunes on Amazon's Kindle Fire or Fire TV, or on Android devices from Google.

A Workaround: AirPlay Mirroring

Despite there not being an official app, there is a way to watch Prime Instant Video on your Apple TV: AirPlay Mirroring.

This feature allows iPhone or iPad users to broadcast whatever is on the screen of their device to their Apple TV (assuming they're on the same Wi-Fi network). So, if you're watching Prime on your iPhone, you can send it to Apple TV and enjoy it on your HDTV. Here's how:

  1. Begin by downloading the Amazon Instant Video app (these instructions assume you already have a Prime subscription).
  2. Find the movie or TV show you want to watch.
  3. Open Control Center.
  4. Tap Screen Mirroring.
  5. Tap Apple TV.
  6. You may be asked to enter a passcode for the Apple TV. If so, enter it.
  7. Your device's screen should appear on your Apple TV. Press play and start enjoying your video. 
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