My biggest problem with the new Apple TV remote

I bought the new Apple TV last week. And so far, it seems like a major improvement over its predecessors.

But there’s one thing that still really bugs me: the new Siri remote control — more specifically, its glass touchpad.

I had to keep checking Apple’s website because the touchpad on the remote really doesn’t feel like glass. It doesn’t have that same friction as, say, the glass panels from the iPhone 4S. In the hand, it actually feels like cheap plastic.

This plasticky feel from the touchpad has negative repercussions on the navigation experience on the new Apple TV.

You probably don’t notice this, but when you scroll up or down on the glass screen of an iPhone, iPad, or iPod, you actually feel like you’re touching your content. That’s because of a feature called “inertial scrolling” (it was invented by the same Apple engineer who invented the app dock’s magnification effect in OS X).

Inertial scrolling is a delightful feeling: Depending on how quickly you swipe on the glass touchpad, the screen will continue gliding after your fingers have left the screen, letting you scroll past more content quickly. Once you put a finger back on the glass, the scrolling stops. It allows for simple, fluid, and precise navigation.

The Siri remote for the new Apple TV does not create the same effect.

Inertial scrolling does in fact exist on the Siri remote, but the effect is muted. The on-screen movement doesn’t accurately reflect your swiping — scrolling is staggered and it often stops abruptly, when you don’t intend to stop.

This makes aspects of navigation, like manual search or entering your email address or password, extremely cumbersome. In fact, manual search on the new Apple TV is one of the worst experiences on this new device, which is a shame, since this action actually felt easier with the old remote control (and much easier when you could use your iPhone as the Apple TV remote, but there’s no support for that just yet).

We’ve reached out to Apple to learn more about the glass touchpad in the Siri remote, and how it differs at all from the glass used in other Apple products. We’ll update this story if we hear back.

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