Swiss Fiber TV Service 'Salt' Launches Alternative Apple TV 4K Remote Control for Frustrated Customers

tookitogo

macrumors newbie
Jun 8, 2013
6
2
Zurich, Switzerland
Hey everyone, I'd like to get a Salt remote for my Apple TV. Is anyone from Switzerland (or nearby) interested in shipping one to me in the states? I'd me happy to discuss payment terms. If so, please message me. Thanks!
If the ”MD” in your username happens to stand for “Maryland”, I visit the Baltimore-Annapolis-DC area once or twice a year and could bring you one. (I’m a Marylander living in Switzerland.)
 

tookitogo

macrumors newbie
Jun 8, 2013
6
2
Zurich, Switzerland
Something about the SALT remote disclaimer about latest version of Salt software suggest to me that remote might be fine tuned for SALT TV and not totally appropriate for Apple TV. Anybody in Europe using one for the Apple TV environment, not specifically SALT TV ?
Me. I just picked one up, after receiving an Apple TV 4K for my birthday last week and finding the Siri Remote hard to use. (I have RSI in my right thumb, and in my left thumb I simply don’t have the dexterity, being a righty.) I don’t use Salt TV.

Having played around with it with various video playback apps, I’ve come to the following conclusions:

1. The Salt Remote is infrared, and uses no custom IR codes whatsoever. It works out of the box on an ATV4K that does not have the Salt TV app installed. (I verified that it uses standard Apple IR codes by testing it with a 3rd gen Apple TV, see below.)

2. The Power, Volume, and Mute buttons control the TV directly. Out of the box, it’s set to send Samsung TV IR codes, but can be set to others. It appears to have 25 sets of IR codes. It works with my Panasonic plasma TV from 2008 (I found four different code sets that work), but like many universal remotes, it does not repeat the power button code when held, so it is unable to turn on the Panasonic, which requires a long press to turn on. (It turns it off fine.) It does not appear to be able to control my Denon receiver at all. (Luckily, since the ATV4K supports HDMI-CEC fully, pressing the Menu button on the Salt remote will turn on the TV and receiver.)

3. The only buttons that do not visually correspond to the playback commands available in the ATV’s “learn remote” setting are the P (program?) up/down buttons, which I guess are used in the Salt TV app for changing channels. A bit of experimentation shows that their IR codes, however, are simply those for “next track” and “previous track”, respectively. Most Apple TV apps simply do not react to those two commands. Youtube does, allowing P up (i.e. next track) and down (i.e. previous track) to skip among videos in a playlist, queue, or history. The P up button works for skipping ads, too. Doesn’t seem to do anything in Netflix or when playing purchased TV series in the iTunes TV shows app.

4. My hunch is that the “required” Salt TV app update is simply to teach the Salt app what to do with those two commands.

5. Generally speaking, app support for remote commands beyond the commands found on the Siri remote is spotty. For example:
a) In Netflix, using the Siri remote, tapping the touch area once brings up the timeline, and tapping again changes the elapsed time and remaining time to the current time of day, and the time of day at the end of the program. Using any other remote (be it a learned IR remote, HDMI-CEC control, or an IR remote using the Apple IR codes, like the Salt remote and Apple’s own IR remotes), pressing Up brings up the timeline with elapsed and remaining times, but will not switch to the time of day display.​
b) In iTunes movies and TV shows, as well as AirPlay, tapping the touch area on the Siri remote brings up the timeline, and tapping again changes to the time of day view. Using any other remote, however, pressing Up causes the timeline to quickly flash on the screen and then disappear immediately.​
c) Additionally, in AirPlay, the fast-forward and jump-10-seconds buttons do not work at all with any remote other than the Siri remote.​
6. What I really miss on all remotes other than the Siri remote and the remote in iOS is the Home button. By default, a single press goes right into the Apple TV app (and a second press to the home screen), but it can be set to go to the home screen directly. So far, no big deal — a long press of the Menu button does the same thing. But what one cannot simulate is a long press of the Home button, which brings up a little control center sidebar that lets you quickly switch accounts, put the Apple TV to sleep (automatically turning off the TV and receiver if they support HDMI-CEC), control AirPlay, and show the time. There is no Apple IR command for this command, nor can it be learned in the Learn Remote function. It’s available strictly on the Siri remote and iOS’s virtual remote. (It seems likely that it is available via Bluetooth, somehow. So maybe in theory someone could make a third-party Bluetooth remote.)

7. The Salt Remote works flawlessly with older, pre-tvOS Apple TV’s. In fact, arguably better than on tvOS, since tvOS app developers design primarily around the Siri remote’s commands, and not the IR commands, whereas in the older units without tvOS, the IR commands were the only ones available. (The Bluetooth support still sent the apps the IR commands.) As such, the P up/down acts as next/previous chapter, and the jump-10-sec buttons are the Skip Back (10 secs) and Skip Ahead (30 secs) commands. Had I known that it works so well on old Apple TV’s, I would have bought one right away for my 3rd gen one! The only potential “gotcha” is that the Salt remote is unable to turn on TVs (like my Panasonic) that require a long press, and since the old Apple TV’s can’t turn on TVs, either, one would still need the original TV remote to turn everything on.

8. The Salt remote does not use rubber buttons sticking out of a plastic frame like most inexpensive remotes. Its front panel is actually a continuous silicone membrane with the buttons molded into it, with tactile buttons underneath. The feel of the surface is very nice (silky, not gummy or sticky), the buttons themselves are reasonably easy to find by touch, and the haptics of button presses are quite lovely, almost as clicky as the premium remote my Panasonic TV came with. There are no gaps around the buttons for gunk and liquids to get in through. It uses two AAA batteries. The overall build quality is quite nice. The only thing I don’t like is that the front edge of the remote (the hard plastic frame around the silicone membrane) is quite sharp.

9. Fun facts about the IR codes on the infrared Apple Remotes: The original white Apple Remote had no play/pause button and relied solely on the Select button to start or pause playback. When they released the aluminum Apple Remote that added the separate play/pause button, they wanted the play/pause button to work out of the box with every older, non-updated Mac, Apple TV, iPod with IR dock, and iPod Hi-Fi. So what they did was to make the play/pause button send the same, existing IR code as the Select button, but followed by a suffix IR code that was unknown to the old devices. So the old devices would simply see a Select press and ignored the unknown suffix code, while the newer, updated devices would know that the Select code alone meant the Select command, while the Select code followed by the suffix code meant the Play/Pause command. The infrared Apple Remotes use a similar scheme to allow for pairing of IR remotes. Each remote had a (user-changeable!) ID number, which the remote would send as a suffix code appended to every single IR code it sends. When you paired a remote to a Mac, Apple TV, iPod with IR dock, or iPod Hi-Fi, you were simply telling the receiver to ignore all IR codes that weren’t immediately followed by that specific ID suffix code. It’d actually be more technically accurate to say that you were pairing the receiver to a remote. Rather elegant, IMHO.


If you have any questions, I’ll do my best to find an answer!
 
Last edited:

tookitogo

macrumors newbie
Jun 8, 2013
6
2
Zurich, Switzerland
Meh mine won’t pair for some reason.
There is no pairing. It’s not bluetooth, nor does it have the IR pairing the old Apple IR remotes used.

Is it possible you previously paired your Apple TV to an infrared Apple Remote? This would cause it to ignore the Salt remote. (I tested this.)

(Interestingly enough, the ATV4K still supports pairing the infrared Apple Remotes, even though it no longer has menu commands for it, nor even on-screen confirmation of the pairing. But there’s definitely no way to pair a Salt remote, so no way to use several of those in the same room to control different devices.)
 

tookitogo

macrumors newbie
Jun 8, 2013
6
2
Zurich, Switzerland
Addendum to #6 above: I also just discovered that on the Siri remote and iOS remote, double-clicking the Home button brings up the App Switcher. I don’t think any other method exists to summon it, so one more thing Apple should really add to its IR remote abilities.
 

tookitogo

macrumors newbie
Jun 8, 2013
6
2
Zurich, Switzerland
Update after another week:

It remains frustrating how many tvOS apps clearly have not been properly tested with IR remotes. So it remains impossible to eliminate the Siri remote entirely. Many apps don’t even support fast-forward and rewind with the right/left buttons!

I also wish the Salt remote designers had put just a smidgen more thought into the layout. In particular, all Apple remotes have the Menu button below the direction pad, so after using those since literally 2006, it’s tough to get used to the Salt remote having Menu above the direction pad. And this also places it closest to the power button. Also, they put the volume up/down on the left, program up/down on the right — the exact opposite of every remote I could find in my house, and of most I looked at in pictures. Not a dealbreaker in any way, just something I would have done a bit differently.

Other than that, it’s a great remote. The buttons feel nice and don’t grab dust and lint the way a lot of rubber/silicone things do. Despite being optimized for the Siri remote, the ATV4K has a far better IR sensor than the old 3rd gen, with it really never missing IR commands.

I can definitely say that if not for the apps having crappy IR support, the Salt remote would 100% replace the Siri remote for me, and that without it, I’d probably have unplugged the ATV4K and put back the old one. I don’t regret the Salt remote purchase for one millisecond. It remains the remote I grab first, only resorting to the Siri remote when I bump into an app problem, or if I want to dictate into a search box. (Or I use the iPhone or iPad for typing.)
 

OddyOh

macrumors 6502
Nov 29, 2005
271
51
Regina, SK, Canada
Yeah the Disney+ app doesn’t support the Play/Pause/Skip Back/Skip Forward buttons on my IR remote...too bad.

Now that Johnny Ive has left the building maybe we can get a decent remote next Apple TV update.