Apple TV users are extremely positive about the changes between the first generation (2015) and second generation Siri remote control Siri Remote (2021). There are a few improvements that could be made through software, but the hardware won Apple’s Most Improved Product award this year.
I’m still a few days away from receiving my updated Siri Remote, and my original Siri Remote is long gone in the hands of a certain toddler in my house. This means that I spent a lot of time controlling my Apple TV with the virtual remote control for iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch.
After shipping a remote that’s prone to accidental input and a knack for getting lost, Apple has enlarged the new Siri Remote for Apple TV with a thicker shape and redesigned input method. The diving board trackpad is out. A more deliberate iPod-style clickwheel with four D-pad buttons and a center button for dragging and selecting replaces it.
The first surprise about the new Siri remote is the newly added power button. The remote’s volume input relies on IR like standard TV remotes, but the Siri remote’s power button does not speak IR. Instead, it works through HDMI-CEC, which lets you turn your TV on when you turn your Apple TV box on and off.
If your TV does not support HDMI-CEC or if you choose not to use it, the power button will not actually turn off your TV. Not sure whether or not it is possible through the software to support a toggle for infrared power switching with the new Siri remote. In theory, this would turn the screen on and off without turning off the Apple TV. Apple TV can stay on or wake up by clicking any button on the Siri Remote.
Less elegant but not a bad preference to offer.
The other behavior Siri Remote (2021) users run into is how the click wheel swipe works for lists. Pause your video and the Click Wheel seems like a good method for scrolling forward and backward in a movie or TV show.
Try to use the round touch surface as an input method to navigate through a list and it gets awkward. The 12 o’clock to 6 o’clock half of the wheel currently invokes down navigation while the other half calls up swipe.
The correct behavior that users expect is to call clockwise down a list and counterclockwise to invoke up the list.
Aside from each of these behaviors, people really love the new Siri Remote. Apple even took the redesigned remote’s design and made it the new Apple TV Remote tile icon in Control Center on the iPhone and iPad. This tile allows you to control your Apple TV without a physical remote nearby. Just swipe up from the top right corner of your iPhone or iPad, long press the Apple TV Remote icon, and you have a very functional virtual remote control for your Apple TV.
And just like the icon, this virtual remote control can be redesigned and updated via software. Too bad you can’t say the same for the first generation Siri Remote.
I’m not sure the Click Wheel interface would translate well to the Apple TV Remote on iPhone and iPad, but it might still take some clues from the new remote. For example, the HDMI-CEC based power toggle would absolutely work on the virtual remote. Add a power button to the layout and you can turn the TV / Apple TV on and off with just a touch. It’s possible today with a long press and a tap, but a power button on the virtual remote would do for the iPhone and iPad exactly what it did for the Siri remote: create a shortcut.
The second generation Siri remote has replaced the MENU button with a simple arrow
Siri input on the new Siri Remote goes from a button among the layout of other buttons to a side button that calls up voice search, just like on the iPhone. The virtual remote has a dedicated voice input method and this may very well be the best solution without a hardware remote. I’m wondering if it might be useful to replace iPhone or iPad Siri with Apple TV Siri when you press the hardware button while using the virtual remote. I think the behavior would be natural and consistent when the focus of the iPhone or iPad is already on the Apple TV Remote interface.
Apple added a mute toggle to the physical Siri remote this year, but volume controls have yet to arrive on the Apple TV virtual remote.
You can control connected speakers like the Sonos Beam (and maybe HomePod stereo pairs, I haven’t tested this recently) with the physical volume buttons on the iPhone or iPad when using the remote in Control Center. The virtual remote is just software, after all, so it would seem logical to feature volume controls and a mute toggle if the Apple TV box knows it is sending audio through a caught speaker system. charge and not the TV’s built-in speakers.
In short, these are ways in which Apple could mirror the behavior of the new Siri Remote with the Apple TV Remote Control Center. The new icon is already in use for the thumbnail and it is only a software update. Maybe iOS 15 and iPadOS 15?
Meanwhile, on the Apple Watch, the original Remote app hasn’t changed for a while (if ever). It was originally designed to control the pre-tvOS Apple TV box. Revisiting this app on watchOS in a way that mirrors the Apple TV interface of 2015 and later would be welcome.
The digital crown can support scrolling a list and scrolling forward and backward in a video. Siri on Apple TV can be summoned with a virtual button or perhaps by pressing a physical button. And the idea of a power button could definitely fit into the app. (By the way, the MENU button is also active in this app.)
Do you have your own feature requests for the Apple TV Remote Control Center? Sound off in the comments!
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