A new remote app designed for the Apple TV addresses most of the remaining points of friction between the fourth-generation TV box and the increasingly long-in-the-tooth Remote app designed for controlling iTunes and previous models of the Apple TV. The new app effectively simulates a Siri Remote and features a game mode that sits somewhere between a Siri Remote and a physical game controller. It’s also free, as opposed to $80 for a Siri Remote made of atoms.
The new Apple TV still feels unfulfilled, and that’s partly to do with it being released in what felt like an incomplete form. The new app and tvOS 10 may help take it all the way.
A long time coming
The default Apple TV Remote app functions just like a differently shaped Siri Remote.
When the fourth-generation model shipped in October 2015, the original Remote app couldn’t work with it, Bluetooth keyboards were unsupported, and Apple said third-party game controllers had to be optional for games, not mandatory.
Adding to that malaise at release, the Siri Remote remains one of the least well-designed Apple products in recent memory, with no easy way to determine which end is up by feel without brushing its touch pad, which could scrub the active video or audio. Apple also changed the simulated keyboard entry in tvOS, using an absurdly wide line of letters and numbers instead of a grid.
Given the number of passwords and other data that needed to be entered when setting up an Apple TV, this all combined to make the interaction side of things half baked, even when the device and tvOS were just fine. In December 2015, Apple added Remote app compatibility, and in March 2016, it fixed some of the Siri Remote touch issues and added Bluetooth keyboard support.
But a full-fledged Apple TV app for iOS remained on the horizon. In fact, until the Apple TV Remote appeared on August 1—so far, not optimized for an iPad—the expectation was the app would only be available for tvOS 10, which will be released later this year in conjunction with updates to all of Apple’s other OSes. Instead, we have it now, and it’s backwards compatible to the second- and third-generation Apple TV models. (You still need the Remote app to control iTunes, however.)
How it works
The app pairs to an Apple TV just like other remotes, requiring the entry of a code displayed on the screen connected to an Apple TV. Once paired, the screen looks like a slightly wider Siri Remote with a different arrangement of the buttons.
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