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Apple has always had a penchant for minimalist design, and one of the places this can best be seen is in the remote controls the company has released over the years, which have always been small, sleek, and devoid of too many buttons, in stark contrast to the monstrosities that often accompany most consumer electronics.
In fact, Apple first released its own remote control well over a decade ago, even before the original Apple TV made its debut in 2007. Its first remote was bundled with iPod docks and even some Macs, which back in those days included infrared receivers so that you could remotely control audio or video playing on your MacBook, iMac, or Mac mini. It featured only six buttons, with five of them arranged in a circular design reminiscent of the early iPods.
This remote also shipped with the original first-generation Apple TV, but was subsequently replaced with a much sleeker aluminum version with an only slightly modified six-button layout when the second-generation Apple TV arrived in 2010. By then, Macs had moved on from including IR receivers, so it became almost exclusively used with the Apple TV, although it remained compatible with older Macs.
Of course, nobody expected these early remotes to do much, and most serious Apple TV users quickly replaced them with more robust universal remote controls, relegating Apple’s remotes to the pile of other unused accessories that usually accompany most home electronics.
This changed when Apple released the fourth-generation Apple TV in 2015, and the diminutive Apple TV remote became a lot more important thanks to the addition of Siri support in many countries, along with a touchpad for navigating the Apple TV. The new remote remained slim, but also gained buttons for volume control — something that the earlier Apple TV models didn’t support — plus Siri and Home buttons. The directional navigation buttons from the earlier remotes were replaced by the touchpad, which also added some extra gesture controls. It was also Apple’s first Bluetooth remote, removing the need to maintain line-of-sight to the Apple TV in order to control it.
A few people loved Apple’s new Siri Remote, but most people simply tolerated it at best, and there were some who downright hated the design outright. It was a controversial design, and a definite departure from the more traditional hard-buttoned remotes that most people are much more accustomed to.
Last year a cable company in Switzerland that offers the Apple TV set-top box to its customers actually teamed up with Apple to design its own version of the Apple TV remote that it could offer to its customers who wanted something that looked and felt more like a traditional remote.
The cable provider, Salt, wasn’t able to go so far as to bundle it with the Apple TV — its customers still got the Apple TV Remote by default — but for an additional 20 Swiss francs (~$20), they could purchase the new remote separately, and it was designed to work with the Apple TV right out of the box, without the need to go through any kind of pairing process.
However, the Swiss version did have one deficiency, and that was the lack of a Siri button, since the Apple TV doesn’t support Siri in that particular region, and much to the disappointment of Apple TV users elsewhere, the remote was never designed to be sold outside of that country (although of course quite a few still showed up on eBay).
Now there’s a domestic option for those who want a replacement for the Siri Remote but would prefer not to pay the premium that most of the Swiss versions are commanding on eBay. The new Button Remote for Apple TV by Function mimics the design of Salt’s remote, while coming in at only $30.
Like the one by Salt, Function’s remote works over infrared, so you can also program it to control a TV or home theatre receiver alongside your Apple TV, but this also means it lacks any Siri capabilities. Apple’s own Siri Remote incorporates the microphone into the remote itself, not the Apple TV, and naturally requires a Bluetooth connection in order to transmit your voice from the remote to the set-top box — something that’s not realistically possible over infrared.
To be clear, it’s always been possible to use just about any infrared remote with the Apple TV, and even Apple’s Siri Remote can be programmed to blast infrared commands to other home entertainment equipment. Apple still sells its older aluminum Apple TV remote, and you can train your Apple TV to respond to other remotes, although this can be tricky to set up depending on what remote you’re using.
The main benefit of Function’s Button Remote is that it has all of the necessary controls to map directly to the Apple TV, while also working right out of the box so you won’t need to “train” your Apple TV to recognize it. While Function’s remote won’t be any replacement for a more sophisticated universal remote, it could very well be the solution you’re looking for if you find using Apple’s Siri Remote to be a frustrating experience. Foundation’s Button Remote for Apple TV is expected to begin shipping later this month.