Apple finally fixes its Apple TV remote

(Photos courtesy Apple, Graphic by The Desk)

When Apple introduced its first-generation Siri-enabled remote for Apple TV, the company unveiled it to the same degree in which it announces similar hardware — as a revolutionary, breakthrough gadget that was going to change people’s lives and shake up the tech industry as we know it.

The remote was definitely ahead of its time — it had a microphone and offered almost instant feedback from Siri, which has been baked into Apple TV from that point on.

Today, remotes with microphones are pretty standard stuff — most smart TVs and streaming boxes have them. But few remotes cause you to actually think about user input as much as the Apple TV’s Siri remote does — and that’s not necessarily a good thing: Since it was introduced, users have complained about the remote’s glass touchpad, the primary way of controlling apps and content, which requires finger swipes instead of button pushes typically found on other remotes.

Revolutionary? Sure, but also a point of deep frustration for most users trying to figure out the precise speed at which to swipe in order to perform basic tasks. Ask anyone who has owned an Apple TV over the last few years, and you’ll find most put up with the annoying remote, while a select few have a standby Roku or Amazon Fire TV device for when the Apple TV’s Siri remote gets to be a bit too much.

This week, Apple executives had a proclamation for their Apple TV fans: We’ve heard you, and we’ve fixed it.

On Tuesday, the company announced a new Siri-enabled remote that combines traditional navigation buttons with the flexibility of gesture-based swipes. The new navigation circle functions similar to the touchwheel of an iPod — click up, down, left, right or center, or swipe your finger in a circular motion to activate a “jog” feature for scrolling, fast-forwarding or rewinding.

The button to activate Siri, which had been offered below the maddening touchpad on the prior remote, is now relegated to the side of the remote, making its placement familiar to anyone who has used a recent-generation iPhone or iPad where the sleep button of those devices also prompts Siri.

The Siri-enabled remote also swaps the “Menu” button for a dedicated “back” button, which will take users to the Apple TV’s home screen with enough pushes (or one long push). Apple says it is also introducing a “mute” button for quick silencing of audio on TV sets.

The re-designed Apple TV Siri Remote will come bundled with an improved Apple TV 4K device that will start shipping soon. It will also be available as a standalone accessory for $60.

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