Apple TV is the best streaming device on the market, but it has plenty of flaws, and the remote is the biggest one.
First, I'll go over the five main problems with Apple TV’s Siri remote, then offer five potential solutions, one of which is the new Function101 remote.
Five Problems with the Siri Remote
- Apple TV's user experience relies on taps, swipes, and gestures with the remote's trackpad, but it's hard to operate. If the trackpad was as smooth or responsive as the touchscreen on your phone, it'd be fine, but it gets laggy when you swipe with your thumb. The experience feels off. Directional buttons are more suitable for a streaming device.
- The Bluetooth connection between the remote and Apple TV gets worse as you move further away from the TV. I usually sit about 13 feet away from the TV, and the remote occasionally loses connection or becomes not as responsive as it should be. And I don’t advise putting your Apple TV in a cabinet because it’ll block the connection.
- The remote is made of aluminum and glass. Apple put a lot of care into the looks of the remote, but it doesn't fit in your hand well and your fingers can't easily find the buttons without looking. It's not intuitive.
- Due to its size and slipperiness, it falls between the couch cushions easily.
- I love that the Siri remote charges with the iPhone lightning cable because I save money on batteries and it only needs to be charged a few times per year. But it annoys some people because it's one more thing to worry about.
- You can buy a third-party cover. The $8 Elago silicon remote cover forms to your hand better and provides a grip. The case doesn't fix the usability issues, but it fixes most of the design flaws.
- You can skip the physical remote altogether if you have an iPhone. Just tap on the remote icon once you’re in the control center. You can choose between the trackpad or directional buttons if you go into the accessibility settings. The best part is that what you're watching takes over your phone's playback controller and ready to be interacted with. The downsides include: inconsistent volume control, random bugginess, and your phone needs to be by your side at all times.
- According to rumors, Apple is set to release a new version of Apple TV (codename T1125), potentially this fall. The Siri remote has been a huge complaint from Apple TV users, so I’d be surprised if Apple doesn’t listen to the feedback and make an improved version.
- You can buy a Logitech Harmony remote. The Harmony 600 Series sells for around $50. I've owned many Harmony remotes and loved them all. Harmony's biggest advantage is its gigantic product database. It'll control your Apple TV, TV, soundbar, and other audio equipment.
- You can buy the Function101 Apple TV Button Remote. Now, let’s break this solution down in greater detail.
- It came automatically paired to my Apple TV.
- It fits the hand better. It’s more than twice as thick and longer than the original Apple TV remote. I usually agree with Apple when they brag about the thinness of their devices, but a remote needs something to hold on to. It doesn’t fit your hand as nicely as a Roku remote, but the Function101 remote feels better in the hand than the Siri remote, and once you’re used to the button placement, you can locate the buttons without looking.
- It uses directional buttons. Rather than a trackpad, it uses directional buttons and skip forward and backward buttons, which make scrubbing through a timeline, and skipping commercials with your DVR easier compared to the trackpad.
- It doesn't come with instructions. But I found a page on their site with information.
- It's not compatible with all TVs. I want to control my streaming device and TV volume with one remote. Unfortunately, I couldn't get the Function101 to work with my TCL TV. I pressed the Menu and OK button for three seconds, then I pressed the P+ button many times with no luck. They have a list of remote codes too, but the remote doesn't have a number pad, so I don't know what to do with the codes. I sent an email, but I haven't heard back after two weeks. The good news is the remote comes automatically paired to Samsung TVs.
- It uses IR signals to communicate. You need a direct line of sight between the remote and the Apple TV, and it’s not as responsive as an RF signal or using your iPhone as the remote.
- It doesn't have a home button. You can go home by holding the menu button for a full second, but you lose out on the other essential functions of the home button. The home button brings up the control center, where you can switch profiles, change the AirPlay settings, get quick access to search, power down the Apple TV, jump into the app switcher with a double-tap. It seems like the people who made the remote have never used an Apple TV before.
- It doesn’t have a Siri button. Siri, in general, sucks. But it’s great on Apple TV. It's great for search, and I use Siri’s skip feature often too. Because I know exactly how long the NBA commercial breaks are, I can say “Skip three and a half minutes,” when I’m not watching the Celtics live.
Who is this for?
The Function101 remote has directional buttons and fits in the hand well, but the Logitech Harmony remotes are a better and more reliable option.
Even if my Function101 remote paired with my TV correctly, I wouldn’t buy it again or recommend it to anyone. The home and Siri buttons are essential, and I don’t want to live without them.
What do you do if you’re an Apple TV owner and hate your remote?
I'd buy the $8 case from Elago to improve your grip.
Rewinding and fast-forwarding shows still won’t be easy with the case. To fix this, go to your iPhone's accessibility settings, and enable the directional buttons. This will give you two different remote options depending on what your needs are at the time.
The best bet for Apple TV fans is to wait until Apple releases a new version this fall.