The Apple TV remote is gone and a new remote — with the exact same name, considerably more buttons, and a two-tone color scheme straight out of 2010 — has replaced it. The majority of people have rejoiced this move, but I am here to mourn a remote that had no business being as captivating for my thumb as it was.
Technically called the Siri Remote, the super-slim minimalist remote launched in 2015 alongside the fourth-gen Apple TV (now known as the Apple TV HD). It was the third remote designed by Apple to control your TV and the first one to include a touchpad or microphones. The Siri Remote was named for the big Siri button below the touchpad and was meant 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 may be an outlier on all things Apple remote. I just used it as a remote to control my TV.
I loved the Lightning port it used for charging. It was too thin to use the tiny coin cell batteries the previous Apple remotes used (and that I never had lying around my house). I could let it go months between charges, and then I just had to plug it in with the same cord I used to charge my phone. It was a nice little convenience I appreciated, and far more expensive and capable remotes, like Logitech’s recently discontinued line of Harmony remotes, felt old-fashioned next to it.
The Siri Remote was also one of the first set-top box remotes I used that let me put away my TV remote. The fourth-generation Apple TV was the first with volume control over HDMI CEC. What that meant was you could use the included Siri remote to control your TV. While it didn’t have a dedicated power button like the new remote does, 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 the TV off did require an adventure to the Settings menu on the Apple TV if you were like me and didn’t know there was a shortcut for sleeping all devices. Being able to control everything with one tiny remote was a welcome change of pace from juggling multiple remotes.
But I didn’t just love the Siri Remote because it gave me limited control of my TV or had a Lightning port. It was also because of the touchpad, which made skimming through content on Netflix or Plex or fast-forwarding through a show on Hulu an absolute breeze.
At least I think so.
While some (again maybe it was just me!) have praised the Siri Remote’s touchpad, the majority of people — including the bulk of the staff here at The Verge, every Apple TV user on Reddit, and my mother — absolutely hated it. Many complained about the sensitivity of the touchpad, which let you fly across the screen with a swipe but required a far gentler touch if you just wanted to pop over a row. They also complained about how easy it was to accidentally select something or lose the remote due to its size. My mother even complained because she somehow managed to shatter her remote with an accidental drop onto her tile floor.
I loved it precisely because it was so sensitive. I run my trackpad and mouse at similarly high sensitivity levels and like the ability to yeet across a screen with a flick. With the Siri Remote, I could flit from place to place or rewind back exactly 10 seconds with a very careful swipe of the remote. The tvOS user interface worked perfectly with the touchpad and every app icon’s appearance shifted 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 up on my TV as a digital fidget toy while I chatted.
The sensitivity of the touchpad also resolved naysayers’ other major problem with the remote: its size. I loved how it could fit in my extremely small hands and make me feel like the rest of you feel when you hold a normal-size remote. Many people complained about how it could slip in between cushions on the couch or disappear under an entertainment center or chair. But I’ve lost it exactly once, and that was because I stuck it in a jacket pocket and then tossed the jacket in the laundry. I never lost it when it slipped between or beneath cushions. It took just the barest of pressure on the couch to depress the touchpad’s button. Simply sitting down would reveal the remote’s location whether I wanted to find it or not. Finding it under furniture was easy, too. I just squatted down and blindly reached. If things changed on the TV I knew I’d come in contact with some part of the touchpad.
I can only hope the touchpad built into the directional pad of the new remote is as sensitive.
And it’s really everything about the new remote that has me missing the old one (which technically survives even now in a basket of remotes by my couch). The new remote looks so drastically different and is such a major improvement on others’ complaints that I feel sort of how that dad who never amounted to much after high school must feel when he sees his large son dominate in the popular sport of their hometown. “Oh,” I think, “this is what it was supposed to be.”