Although the new Apple TV is in many ways an upgrade on older models, there is one feature that leaves much to be desired – the remote. After a long weekend indoors testing out the October release, the “Siri remote” made an anti-climax of an otherwise decent viewing experience.
What’s wrong with the new Apple TV remote?
For starters, Apple opted to replace its remote design with a less-than-sleek, smaller version. Although the appearance was a huge letdown, I quickly realized that it was just the tip of the iceberg.
Older Apple TV remotes were simple. They featured three buttons and a navigation pad with playback controls. The new remote has six buttons. The issue is not necessarily the number of buttons but that they allude to new features. Most of these extra buttons could have easily been merged for convenience.
The “Home” and “Menu” buttons are a good example. “Home” works as the on/off button. You can also press it to go back to the home screen or hold to sleep. “Menu”, on the other hand, reverts to a previous screen. These are functions that could have been built into one button instead of two.
The remote could have been simpler if the function of the “Menu” button was included in the “Home” button. Since “Menu” is essentially a back button, wouldn’t it be easier to click the “Home” button once to return to the previous screen, twice to jump to the home screen and three times to change to another app?
Apple could have solved many of its remote problems by bringing back the iPod wheel. The middle button would still be for play and pause, except users would press it down to give Siri voice commands.
The playback button and volume could have been worked into the click wheel while taking care of general navigation at the same time. The click remote is a smart, appealing design that is synonymous with the brand, and one that could have eliminated a few buttons.
Another element that makes the new Apple TV remote a headache to use is the time it takes Siri to translate voice commands. You’ll have no problems with the button itself because it works perfectly fine, but it takes Siri a long time to start searching for the content you want.
When it comes to voice search, Echo by Amazon remains the superior product. It converts voice commands into actions much faster than Siri and has fewer incidences of misunderstandings.
The new Apple remote has a feature that previous models did not have – a touchpad. It’s supposed to make navigation easier by incorporating swiping action similar to other Apple devices.
Unfortunately, the remote could have done without this feature. Firstly, it is made from glass but not the kind used on iPads and iPhones. As a result, it doesn’t have the same quality feel and has a slippery texture that makes it hard to control.
The glass touchpad, which feels more like plastic, also makes typing and manual searches a difficult task. Unlike the alphabet grid on previous models, you need to type letters in a single line on this remote. Typing in passwords and email address for apps is time- and energy-consuming.
Searching for content is equally challenging with the new Apple TV remote. This is one of the times when you miss the letter grid. You could search for content using Siri but sadly, it might not be any faster either.
Another point of improvement is the remote’s sensitivity. The new Apple remote is very sensitive to touch. If you want to avoid the TV springing to life when you least expect, keep and sleep with the remote far from you. It is so hypersensitive, it can be activated by even the lightest touch.
All in all, the Siri remote is a thoughtful design. Voice control is a pretty neat feature. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work fast or well enough to be impressive. The touchpad would have been a nice touch had it been made from the same glass as other Apple devices. Its inaccuracy and sensitivity overshadows its potential.
The good news is, the Siri remote is not the only way to control your new Apple TV. The iPhone Remote app works just as fine, if not better. It is compatible with the TV model and can interact seamlessly with its interface.
What the app lacks however, is the ability to let you multitask. This is where the Siri remote comes out top. Gamers also have one more reason to appreciate the new design – the accelerometer. Other than these two features, the remote design has little else to boast.
Hopefully, Apple will note the issues of their new remote design and update their software to improve user experience. Reinventing the iPod wheel might not be such a bad idea and reducing the sensitivity of controls can do wonders for their next release.