Thanks for the memories, Siri Remote


The Apple TV remote is gone, and a new remote – with the exact same name, significantly more buttons, and a two-tone color scheme straight from 2010 – has replaced it. The majority of people have welcomed this move, but I’m here to mourn a remote that had nothing to do with as engaging to my thumb as it was.

Technically called the Siri Remote, the super-slim minimalist remote that launched in 2015 alongside the fourth generation Apple TV (now known as the Apple TV HD). It was the third remote designed by Apple to control your TV and the first with a touchpad or microphones. Named for the large Siri button below the touchpad, the Siri Remote was intended to make the digital assistant a more natural part of the way you interacted with your television. It didn’t do that for me personally, but I might be an outlier in all things Apple remote. I’ve just used as a remote control for my TV to operate.

Loved the Lightning port it used for charging. It was too thin to use the tiny coin-cell batteries that the previous Apple remotes used (and which I never had around the house). I was able to let it go for months between charges then I just had to plug it in using the same cord I used to charge my phone. It was a nice convenience that I appreciated, and much more expensive and capable remotes, like Logitech’s recently discontinued line of Harmony remotes, felt outdated next to it.

The Siri Remote was also one of the first set-top box remotes I used that allowed me to store my TV’s remote. The fourth generation Apple TV was the first to offer volume control via HDMI CEC. That meant you could use the included Siri remote to control your TV. While it didn’t have a dedicated power button like the new remote, it was easy for me to turn on my TV by pressing any button on the remote. I could even control my Sonos soundbar with the volume buttons. Turning off the TV required an adventure to the Settings menu on the Apple TV if you were like me and didn’t know there was a shortcut to put all devices to sleep. Being able to control everything with one small remote was a welcome change from juggling multiple remotes.

But I didn’t just love the Siri Remote because it gave me limited control over my TV or had a Lightning port. It was also down to the touchpad, which made browsing content on Netflix or Plex or fast forwarding through a show on Hulu a breeze.

At least I think.

While some (maybe it was just me again!) Have praised the Siri Remote’s touchpad, the majority of people – including most of the staff here at The edge, every Apple TV user on Reddit, and my mom – absolutely hated it. Many complained about the touchpad’s sensitivity, which allowed you to fly across the screen with a swipe, but needed a much softer touch if you just wanted to jump across a row. They also complained about how easy it was to accidentally select something or lose the remote due to its size. My mom even complained because she somehow managed to break her remote by accidentally falling on her tile floor.

It has not been good.
Screenshot: Alex Cranz / The Verge

I loved it, just because it was so sensitive. I use my trackpad and mouse at similarly high sensitivity levels and love the ability to swipe across a screen with a flick of the wrist. The Siri Remote allowed me to fly from one place to another or rewind exactly 10 seconds with a very gentle swipe of the remote. The tvOS UI worked perfectly with the touchpad, and the appearance of each app icon changed slightly as you dragged your finger back and forth across the remote. More than once I returned to the home screen when someone called, and I used the remote and the app icons on my TV like a digital fidget toy while chatting.

The touchpad sensitivity also solved the other big problem naysayers have with the remote: its size. I loved how it could fit in my extremely small hands and made me feel like the rest of you feel when you hold a regular sized remote control. Many people complained that it could slip between cushions on the sofa or disappear under an entertainment center or chair. But I lost it exactly once, and that was because I put it in a jacket pocket and then threw the jacket in the wash. I never lost it when it slid between or under pillows. It only took minimal pressure on the sofa to press the touchpad button. Just sitting down would reveal the location of the remote whether I wanted to find it or not. It was also easy to find under furniture. I just squatted down and reached out blindly. If things changed on the TV, I knew I would be in contact with part of the touchpad.

I can only hope that the touchpad built into the directional pad of the new remote is equally sensitive.

And it’s really all about the new remote that makes me miss the old one (which technically survives even now in a basket of remotes near my couch). The new remote looks so drastically different and is such a big improvement on others’ complaints that I kind of feel how that dad who never accomplished much after high school must feel when he sees his big son dominate in the popular sport of their birthplace. “Oh,” I think, “this is what it should have been.”