Excellent Description of Apple TV Remote Design Issues

revmacian

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Oct 20, 2018
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The only issue I have with the Apple TV 4K remote control is the trackpad - it often overshoots my intended target on the screen. I can understand why Apple used a trackpad instead of buttons - fewer moving parts results in fewer mechanical problems - but I feel that Apple needs to understand there are times when a mechanical button would be the better solution.

Just my $0.02
 
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bruinsrme

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Oct 26, 2008
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I somewhat agree.
Mixed feelings on it.
It a pain to find and slips in between cushions easily.
I have a samsung tv and the remote has a similarly minimalist designed.
I’ve gotten used to it.
Most of the time I use my iPad as the Apple TV remote
 

colodane

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Nov 11, 2012
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I forgive the author for not mentioning the lack of a mute button. Apple, after all, forgot about it also.

And, because it is so thin, you can't pick it up on a hard surface unless you have long fingernails.
 
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Michelasso

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Feb 20, 2012
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The only issue I have with the Apple TV 4K remote control is the trackpad - it often overshoots my intended target on the screen. I can understand why Apple used a trackpad instead of buttons - fewer moving parts results in fewer mechanical problems - but I feel that Apple needs to understand there are times when a mechanical button would be the better solution.
Exactly my feelings. The trackpad can do an excellent job scrubbing through a video (and I do miss it on Fire TV, especially with the awful Prime Video app for Android TV/FireOS), but for going into the menu or moving between icons sometime it's a pain in the neck. I often end up selecting the wrong elements.

Then it's slippery, but I solved it buying a very cheap case. €10 for two of them in Amazon. They also partially solve the symmetry issue. Although both problems could be easily solved leaving the 4 circular buttons in their place and adding the touchpad.
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I forgive the author for not mentioning the lack of a mute button. Apple, after all, forgot about it also.
Well, given the type of content, "Pause" would usually do. When exactly would you need to mute otherwise?
 

BODYBUILDERPAUL

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Feb 9, 2009
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What an ignorant piece of silly journalism. My God, don't some people bitch about first world problems! Seriously! Get a life guy!

I love the ATV remote. I have the trackpad on fast and I find it works very well now.

Design wise, I find it to be the most beautiful remote control on the market. My standards are high in design as I always thought that my BANG&OLUFSEN BEO4 remote was the best design BUT the ATV replaces it for design. I can't fault it and my word, what a refreshing change from the plastic rubbish the all of the other manufacturers do.

Do you remember wayyyy back in the real olden days when people bought those DVD players and often, the remote had 50+ buttons on them? Even though you'd only use 5 maximum. That was a true disgrace. Gosh, DVD players were ghastly things. The Apple TV remote is just beautiful in comparison.

In the days gone by when we had Apple TV 2 and 3, i'd use the remote app on the iPhone 4 and then 4S and it did a great job.
 
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Michelasso

macrumors 6502
Feb 20, 2012
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What an ignorant piece of silly journalism. My God, don't some people bitch about first world problems! Seriously! Get a life guy!
Oh, c'mon. Let's be honest, the guy specified that it was a rant and not a review.

Design wise, I find it to be the most beautiful remote control on the market.
Sure it has great beauty. But that's not accompanied by good usability. It may depend on how one uses it. I, for example, keep switching between Italian (in the kitchen) and English language (with subs) in the bedroom. I find myself swiping down even 3 times to access the video's top bar menu. And navigation between menus (or icons) isn't that consistent. Swiping I may skip a menu/icon because it somehow accelerates, others I have to swipe again. It would work fine tapping, but tapping is boring. :D

Then don't make me start about that (useless in Italy and many other Countries) Siri button I keep pressing by mistake, that in here just opens a new - useless again - search window, which makes the TV switching between one mode and another wasting seconds each time, interrupting the vision. I wish I could at least disable it!!
 
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s15119

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Nov 20, 2010
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I read that and wondered how this person makes it thru life. Really? He can't figure out a remote. In my view, the ATV remote is by far the best remote I've ever used. It's small, simple and works every time. I don't have any of the issues he describes. The problem is not with the remote.
 

Tozovac

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Jun 12, 2014
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But the lesson here is: just because you can make something tiny doesn’t necessarily mean you should.
These issues all lead me to one conclusion: the design priority here was to make something that would encourage sales by looking great on a screen but which isn’t that great at manipulating content on said screen. Which is unfortunate, since that’s the one thing a remote is meant to do.
Sigh. So true of the majority of decisions at today’s Apple since 2013. Flat/vague iOS uIX, Fisher Price My First Computer-looking OS X, and various mobile/MacBook design “improvements” centering on reducing an interface element in some fashion that look great in ads and make engineers’ jobs more interesting but leave lingering frustrations for actual consumers on the back end.

I forgive the author for not mentioning the lack of a mute button. Apple, after all, forgot about it also.

And, because it is so thin, you can't pick it up on a hard surface unless you have long fingernails.
A most frustrating thing about my iPad Air 2 continues to be that I can’t pick it up when found face-down on a smooth surface without first finding a piece of paper to slip underneath it. #designgenius
 
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priitv8

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Sigh. So true of the majority of decisions at today’s Apple since 2013. Flat/vague iOS uIX, Fisher Price My First Computer-looking OS X, and various mobile/MacBook design “improvements” centering on reducing an interface element in some fashion...
Didn't that cancer start to spread from Windows Phone??
 
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Tozovac

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Didn't that cancer start to spread from Windows Phone??
Oh yeah, it started there as a result of Microsoft attempting to safely copy Apple’s class-leading operating system and uix but not too closely, and everybody laughed it off as inconsequential and ridiculous. I know I sure did. Until Jony used aspects of it to match his vision of what an operating system should be, and then the world’s lemming designers further copied it from there, since if Apple did it, it must be good.
 
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steve23094

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Apr 23, 2013
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Oh yeah, it started there as a result of Microsoft attempting to safely copy Apple’s class-leading operating system and uix but not too closely, and everybody laughed it off as inconsequential and ridiculous. I know I sure did. Until Jony used aspects of it to match his vision of what an operating system should be, and then the world’s lemming designers further copied it from there, since if Apple did it, it must be good.
Or... just maybe you’re in the minority and the new design language is better for more people. Crazy thought, huh?

But I guess based on your avatar and sig that would never cross your mind.
 
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Tozovac

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Or... just maybe you’re in the minority and the new design language is better for more people. Crazy thought, huh?

But I guess based on your avatar and sig that would never cross your mind.
I wouldn't call your thoughts crazy. :) But I do think you're wrong.

It's very hard to agree that a more simplified, less obvious, and more plain design language that purposely deviated wholesale from an interface based on decades of refinements and research could possibly be better for a majority, just like it's very hard to agree that a design language full of intuitive accommodations based upon decades of learning was worse for more people.

Until someone can present concrete examples of how apps & UIx elements in the prior UIx (let's say, iOS6) were broken and in need of clean-sheet reinvention, followed by how the iOS 7-12 counterpart fixed the broken design and dramatically improved functionality, statements like yours fall to being based solely on preference and acceptance, which is great if it works for you.

As for the worsened/broken design language we're stuck with now:
  • I still can't consistently enable the speaker in voicemail every time since the "button" is so frustratingly tiny.
  • For those of us who aren't 12 years old, I'm still wondering why we can't un-show the unnecessary "photos circles" in contacts that instead default to the person's initials and add zero aid but just take up space.
  • Is it really better to tap 2-3x to enable commonly-used functions that used to be out front in the open (one of the worst trends in this new language).
  • Is a white background for photos really better? (I hate having to click twice on photos to get to a black background which should be the default)
  • As far as the functional "fun" aspects, I miss thoughtfully designed and beautiful icons like the old Instagram icon that got ruined from following Apple's lead. I never needed the whimsical green felt, woodgrain, stitched leather, and 1800's compass but boy were some of them beautiful to look at, which, even if they didn't add significantly to function, sure made things fun and pretty to look at. And I continually lament the cold, simplified, borderless and overall lifeless white presentation that still feels random and half-baked rather than thoughtfully polished.
Given that iOS 7 changed nearly every way of seeing and doing things, is it really likely that everything was completely broken before and needing reworked?

My avatar/sig are most definitely a result of my missing intuitive design based on decades of learning and not some random closed-minded foolishness.
 
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steve23094

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• I still can't consistently enable the speaker in voicemail each time since the "button" is so frustratingly tiny.
I don’t know which button you’re referencing, so can’t comment.

• For those of us who aren't 12 years old, I'm still wondering why we can't un-show the unnecessary "photos circles" in contacts that instead default to the person's initials and add zero aid but just take up space.
I have photos for most of my contacts, so appreciate their use. It would be an inconsistent layout to have those without to not display a ‘placeholder’.

• Is it really better to tap 2-3x to enable commonly-used functions that used to be out front in the open (one of the worst trends in this new language).
Probably not. But I don’t know which functions you are referring to. Are they commonly used functions by everybody, or just a minority?

• Is a white background for photos really better? (I hate having to click twice on photos to get to a black background which should be the default)
Given that the rest of the UI is white it’s consistent. Use Smart Invert if it’s a problem. Dark Mode rumoured for iOS 13 will change this for you. I’m looking forward to Dark Mode, but likely for a different reason than you. It will help with battery life on my XS.

• As far as the functional "fun" aspects, I miss thoughtfully designed and beautiful icons like the old Instagram icon that got ruined from following Apple's lead. I never needed the whimsical green felt, woodgrain, stitched leather, and 1800's compass but boy were some of them beautiful to look at, which, even if they didn't add significantly to function, sure made things fun and pretty to look at. And I continually lament the cold, simplified, borderless and overall lifeless white presentation that still feels random and half-baked rather than thoughtfully polished.
I hated skeuomorphism. You mentioned the word ‘childish’ in your post. I think skeuomorphism is childish and was glad to see the back of it. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Given all operating systems have now adopted this style to a greater or lesser extent it’s just possible you’re the last vestige of a dying breed.
 

priitv8

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Jan 13, 2011
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As far as the functional "fun" aspects, I miss thoughtfully designed and beautiful icons like the old Instagram icon that got ruined from following Apple's lead. I never needed the whimsical green felt, woodgrain, stitched leather, and 1800's compass but boy were some of them beautiful to look at, which, even if they didn't add significantly to function, sure made things fun and pretty to look at. And I continually lament the cold, simplified, borderless and overall lifeless white presentation that still feels random and half-baked rather than thoughtfully polished.
Given that iOS 7 changed nearly every way of seeing and doing things, is it really likely that everything was completely broken before and needing reworked?
I hated skeuomorphism. You mentioned the word ‘childish’ in your post. I think skeuomorphism is childish and was glad to see the back of it. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Given all operating systems have now adopted this style to a greater or lesser extent it’s just possible you’re the last vestige of a dying breed.
Skeuomorphism had its extreme bad examples, especially in OS X (GarageBand and Calendar, was it?), but current monochromatic and flat design makes me think they assume that I as a user, am suffering from cognitive disabilities. They look like drawn by a 2-year old. That makes me sad.
 
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Tozovac

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Skeuomorphism had its extreme bad examples, especially in OS X (GarageBand and Calendar, was it?), but current monochromatic and flat design makes me think they assume that I as a user, am suffering from cognitive disabilities. They look like drawn by a 2-year old. That makes me sad.
I agree. In fact, I contend that the iOS 7-12 uIX is worse for those with cognitive disabilities. Using the calendar as an example, the iOS 6 calendar I recall smartly used shading, color, and gridlines to smartly define zones and differentiate Calls to Action vs. FYI info-only.

E64CBAD3-BC08-48CA-B849-CCA1319B06D4.png

The post-iOS 6 calendar minimized away as much as possible to a bare minimum, seemingly stopping short of providing just a white screen. That certainly served the purpose of providing something “new” and announcing a new design czar ruled, but it stripped away layers of uIX elements that most definitely served to subconsciously organize a user’s mind, no matter how often or “memorized” a person becomes after continual use of an app or operating system. Note we’re not discussing green felt or brass or wood grain.

If Apple’s and especially iOS 7-12’s rationale of “the user no longer needs these cues and affordances, so keep simplifying and stripping away as much user interface details and tools as possible BUT while providing the user a minimum of alternatives or adjustment” held any water whatsoever outside of a minimalism design contest, then I think that’d be reflected more in our natural “real life.” Heck, as people age and advance and become smarter and earn more wages, seems to me that we/they generally add more detail and opulence into their own lives and house and cars. And I’ve yet to see parking lines, highway stripes, crosswalk grids painted over (or painted a medium dark grey so as to not have the interface detract from the road “content”) since, clearly by now, any fool knows where to park, drive or walk.

Like everything, there should be balance. Jony Ive shifted the teeter totter so much to one side for both hardware and software, and across the board with limited options. Sure it’s great for some with similar preferences. And if Jony needed to win design minimalism contests daily to keep food on the table, my outlook might be different. It’s awful hard to be convinced that uIX cues, using the calendar example above specifically, that organize things clearly and cleanly/simply, no longer have a place. It just doesn’t hold. It’s mostly personal (Jony) preference.
 
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MistrSynistr

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May 15, 2014
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Once you add a case for it (they're all over amazon and it's all the same one) and realize you can tap to select stuff in each corner to move the cursor and don't have to swipe, it's life altering.
 

Tozovac

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Jun 12, 2014
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I don’t know which button you’re referencing, so can’t comment.
Really? Look up any voicemail message; underneath are 3 options: speaker, call back, delete. It's actually the delete "button" that I take issue with. 90% of the time, trying to tap "delete" results in closing that message and opening the one beneath. The “button” is too small. It's maddening, along with the general new way of interfacing with voicemail messages compared to the old. Previously the control functions stayed atop the screen, in one place. Now, you must first open a voicemail just to see the control functions, and when you do that, the entire screen dances around to a new configuration (the selected message expands) and you have a new frame of reference to take a millisecond to adjust to. It's these frequent milliseconds of adjustment that are much more frequent with iOS7-12 than iOS6 & prior due to new, made-up interfaces that are just different than before but often characterized by hiding functions behind taps that are maddening to some, including me.

I have photos for most of my contacts, so appreciate their use. It would be an inconsistent layout to have those without to not display a ‘placeholder’.
But are those photos & placeholders truly necessary? If iOS7 was all about removing the supposed fluff and compressing down to only what's necessary, how was adding photos to contacts more than interesting fluff vs. true functional improvement, especially for those who don't need to add photos to contacts and are left with space-wasting initials?

Probably not. But I don’t know which functions you are referring to. Are they commonly used functions by everybody, or just a minority?
One specific example is iOS's default Music app. Play a song and you have to tap past the artwork to show the scrubber/marker (for song length & status position) as well as additional playback controls that used to be right out in the open. Is a Music app's main focus to play your music or look at album artwork? (Typical example of Apple's focus on fashion/form over function lately).

A general example is that popular/typically-used functions are either hidden offscreen or require tapping a hamburger, ellipsis, and/or gear icon to show them. Safari's dancing/hiding controls are excruciatingly maddening, as an example. Phones are getting bigger, but there's still a need to hide the interface that's used every 10 seconds or so.

Given that the rest of the UI is white it’s consistent. Use Smart Invert if it’s a problem. Dark Mode rumoured for iOS 13 will change this for you. I’m looking forward to Dark Mode, but likely for a different reason than you. It will help with battery life on my XS.
Consistency is one thing, but smart functionality is another. In fact, doesn't this beg the question of: is a stark white background for most every app across the board really a good UI choice? Why not start with a black/darker background for photos and other apps like was true before? Would also save battery power for a smarter, more well-rounded design? Oh, I remember - Jony needed to do as Think Different from Scott as possible. That's right.

And Smart Invert is still pretty jarring and not at all refined feeling or an improvements experience. Both inverts seem to be more “you don’t like bright? Well HERE’s your alternative” than anything else.

I hated skeuomorphism. You mentioned the word ‘childish’ in your post. I think skeuomorphism is childish and was glad to see the back of it. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Given all operating systems have now adopted this style to a greater or lesser extent it’s just possible you’re the last vestige of a dying breed.
Funny, I didn't mention "childish." :) Well I have news for you, we still have skeumorphism all throughout iOS. But instead of a button with an appearance that looks like it's pressable so as to intuitively prompt you, we have flat-design images. Instead of an attractive 1970's phone headset icon, we have a flat 1970's phone headset icon. Instead of skillfully-crafted clouds/sun on the Weather app icon, we have a cloud/sun that an 8 year old could have created. Instead of a calendar grid with defined interface areas, we have a minimized whiteboard of a calendar representation with the least amount of detail possible. Instead of mail icons in the Mail app with different colors/shapes for gmail, hotmail, iCloud, etc., we have all light-blue boxes that require a bit more cognitive work than before to get yourself oriented.

Once again, this topic is not missing skeumorphism elements such as green felt and old-looking compasses. It's missing a UIx full of cues that permit the use to subconsciously do their thing, being based upon decades of refinement and learning, not based on a hardware minimalist's desired vision.
 
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Cayenne1

macrumors member
Jun 21, 2016
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Knoxville, TN
I believe this post was "Excellent Description of Apple TV Remote Design Issues". I had to scroll to the 1st post to check.

On that topic, the Apple TV Remote was a disappointment to be kind. I bought a Harmony remote and configured it for the ATV to make the device usable. Also, the last thing I want to do is talk to a remote or iPhone to manage a TV.

What the designers of the ATV remote failed to account for is not all buyers have the dexterity to fiddle with it. I have Essential Tremors (ET) and working the ATV remote is impossible. So where is Apple's daunted accessibility commitment?

(FYI: ET affects many millions especially as you age. It's highly likely many of you will be affected as well as you age. Hopefully you do not need steady hands for your livelihood.)
 

archer75

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Jan 26, 2005
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I have no issues at all with the remote. Does everything I need quickly and easily. I guess I just don't get the complaints.
 

PinkyMacGodess

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Mar 7, 2007
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My complaint is with the trackpad, and how damned fragile it is.. I've broken 2 of those remotes by falling on our tile floor. Someone at a Genius Bar told me that Apple Care for the ATV covers the remote from breakage, but when I called to get it replaced, the 'agent' said oh no, not covered. 'Think about all of the other people that would be making claims. Get a case!'.

Trouble is, the best case ever made for the ATV remote was made by Griffin, and they discontinued it.

So I asked the 'agent' whether I'd need an ATV remote, and he said I did to 'restore it', and 'delete apps'. So Apple decided to make the damn thing fragile, and (most of) the functionality replaceable by their iPad and iPhone apps, but you still do need the damned thing to do a restore, and delete apps. AND the price of them is $70!!!
 
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