The new Apple TV is expected to arrive this week. But one of its centerpieces — the redesigned remote control — leaves much to be desired.
First of all, let’s talk about the design itself. Apple went from this:
While some who briefly tried the new Apple TV remote say it works well, the exterior of this “Siri remote” is not something I would have expected from a company that prides itself on its sleek, modern, minimalist designs.
That said, the remote is highly functional. The top portion of the remote is the touch-sensitive pad, which you can use to easily navigate the Apple TV’s interface. The middle button on the left, when pressed, lets you control the Apple TV with your voice.
But the remote is nothing pretty to look at. It has fewer buttons than most other TV remotes, but it has four more buttons than the previous Apple TV remote (if you include the single oblong volume rocker). The new Siri remote also has no symmetry across any vertical or horizontal planes.
In all, it looks pretty similar to others out there, like the Fire TV remote. There’s no “wow” factor, and it looks like a first-generation effort.
Not to harp on the issue, but again, keep in mind this is what the remote used to look like:
It feels like a step backward.
From a functional perspective, this remote is also a bit disappointing. Though I’m sure navigation is as great as it sounds thanks to the touchpad and Siri, Apple had actually patented an “advanced TV remote” that could’ve replaced any remote in your house, in addition to being a great, simple-looking remote for the Apple TV.
In other words, Apple’s patent looks way better than what the company has actually delivered.
The 2010 patent called for a universal remote control that could actually command any device in your house that uses a remote. It also looked simple, with just one physical button on the bottom and a big touchscreen on top.
Thanks to a small camera on the back of the device, Apple’s patented universal remote could take a picture of any remote control you have lying around your house and convert that remote into a virtual copy that you could use right on Apple’s remote. All of the buttons and controls would work the same as they normally do, but on the digital display.
In other words, you could throw away all the remotes around your house as long as you had a digital copy stored on your Apple TV remote. Even if you didn’t have an Apple TV, it would be the ultimate remote control — Apple said it could connect to TVs, DVD players, DVRs, and even audio equipment and home automation systems.
The Siri remote controls all navigate through the touchpad and voice commands. This patented Apple TV remote, however, would control the Apple TV like the Wii remote controlled the Nintendo Wii: With motion sensors, cameras and infrared technology, you could point the remote right at your TV and see the cursor move in real-time.
Unfortunately, like many patents, this one didn’t come to fruition. The Siri remote is what you’ll be using to control the Apple TV for the foreseeable future. That said, we really hope Apple revisits this great patent if it wants to add even more value to the Apple TV package.
The new Apple TV starts at $US150 and comes in two sizes, although there’s only really one reason to buy the more expensive model.
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