Published on October 28th, 2017 | by Kirk Hiner


5 reasons the Apple TV Remote app is more useful than you think

Did you even know an Apple TV Remote app existed? The majority of Apple TV users I know didn’t, which I guess speaks well of the Siri Remote; it’s good enough for people to not seek an alternative.

Apple TV Remote appIf you did know it existed, are you using it? I ask because, as you can see in the screen capture to the right, the basic interface simply mimics the Siri Remote surface. That’s good for continuity, but it hardly begs a need except as a replacement for when your Siri Remote is lost in the sofa cushions or the battery is depleted.

As we’ve come to expect from Apple, however, there’s plenty of functionality hidden behind the sparse design. Here are my favorites:

  1. Keyboard Input – The speech recognition of the Siri Remote is fine, but there are times when it’s not optimal to use or simply doesn’t work. In that case, the Apple TV Remote app keyboard is a great alternative once you discover it’s there. The only way to get to it is through a text field on your Apple TV (like a search box or when entering user information). Select that using the touch area of the app, and the keyboard comes right up. Just having this for usernames and passwords is worth the download.
  2. Game Control – Yes, I play games on my Apple TV. A lot. I prefer to use my SteelSeries Nimbus when playing, but many games play better with swipe controls or simply don’t require that much hardware. In this case, my iPhone is a happy medium between a MFi gamepad and the tiny Siri Remote. It’s comfortable to hold and easy to use; simply tap the gamepad icon after launching a game on your Apple TV, then hold your iPhone horizontally. You’ll get a couple game buttons on the right and a touch area on the left (see the lead image above). If you don’t have a MFi controller, this app is an absolute must.
Apple TV Remote app

Screen capture provided by Apple. My iPhone is black.

  1. Details – If you’re watching TV or listening to music you can get to more information by tapping “Details” in the upper right of the app screen. You can use details to select movie chapters, view song lyrics if they are stored with the file, access captions, etc. If you swipe up on the screen while listening to music you’ll access a list of your entire library, and can even drag the songs around to set up what’s next. This will be pretty unwieldy if you have a lot of songs, but it may get some mileage from you nonetheless.
  2. Intelligent Use of the iPad – I don’t get much use out of this because I’m never going to consider the iPad a replacement for a remote control. However, if you do have your iPad handy, some of the functionality I’ve mentioned above—mainly the details you can access by swiping up on the screen—can be viewed to the side of the main screen interface. It’s not the prettiest user interface I’ve ever seen, but it gets the job done if you want it.
Apple TV Remote App

Screen capture provided by Apple. Their taste in music is more photogenic than mine.

  1. Control Center Access – Not so much a function of the app, of course, but a simple way to get to it. Launch the Control Center system prefs and you can add Apple TV for easy access by swiping up from the bottom of your screen.

Of course, the Apple TV Remote app does need some help. Volume control is non-existent if you don’t have a CEC receiver, for example, and there’s no ability to customize the layout. My use of the Apple TV is fairly precise right now, and the ability to store my frequently use games and shows right in the app for tap access would be great. Even something as simple as a handy button to put the Apple TV to sleep would be appreciated.

As it stands, though, I now find myself using the app on my iPhone more often than I use my Siri Remote, and that’s something I didn’t expect when I first downloaded it. The Apple TV Remote app is available now for free in the App Store.

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About the Author

has been writing for the Apple web since 1997, having served as editor of Applelinks and the Technology Tell Apple Channel. In addition to his work with BEST Apple TV, Kirk currently contributes to Mac Gamer HQ and Pure Nintendo. He lives with his wife and three children in small-town Ohio where the land is cheap and the air is (relatively) clean.

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