The Siri Remote fits in your hand well and the touchpad is responsive (sometime a little too responsive).
Unfortunately there are quite a few things we don’t really like about the Siri Remote, and these features can be seen to hold back the Apple TV experience. Probably top of the list is the fact that entering passwords and search terms using the trackpad and the onscreen keyboard is painfully frustrating.
Entering a password also highlights another issue with the Siri Remote: swiping on the trackpad can be a little tiring on the finger, although you can use Siri to spell out your password if nobody else is around.
It’s not all bad, however, for example you might be thinking that the Siri Remote has a lot of wasted space, the track pad could have been bigger if the buttons were further down, but this design allows the remote to sit comfortably in your hand.
You’ll also be glad that the main controls are central if you are holding the remote horizontally for gaming.
Whatever the failings of the Siri Remote, you will get more out of it if you know which button to use when. To avoid the frustration of pressing the wrong buttons, here’s a guide to the buttons on the Siri Remote.
You can also use your iPhone to control an Apple TV using the Apple TV remote control built into iOS, handy if you have lost your Apple TV remote! Find out more here: How to remote control Apple TV with iPhone.
Apple TV remote: the basics
The top third of the Siri Remote is a touchscreen surface. You can scroll around the Apple TV interface using this trackpad. When you want to select something press the trackpad - pressing the trackpad is similar to the selection button in the centre of the old Apple TV remote. (It took us a long time to get out of the habit of pressing the Menu button when we wanted to select something, which would takes us back a step).
When you’re watching a video, you can swipe down on the trackpad to access other options, like turning on subtitles, or choosing an AirPlay speaker to send audio to.
If you are listening to music, hold down the right side of the track pad to fast-forward, and the left side to rewind. You can also press the left side twice to go back a track.
It’s a similar process when you want to skip forward or back during a TV show or movie on the Apple TV (see the next slide).
If the trackpad is to sensitive for you, you can't adjust the sensitivity but you can change how quickly it scrolls. The default is Medium, but if you go to Settings > Remotes and Devices > Touch Surface Tracking you can change it to Fast or Slow.
This might be useful if you are really struggling with inputting characters on the onscreen keypad as you can slow down the response a bit and hopefully be a little more refined in your letter selection (we have more tips for entering characters below).
Another useful tip for selecting characters on the onscreen keypad: to swipe straight to the end of the alphabet you can swipe a little harder on your Apple TV remote touchpad and the “cursor” will fly across the screen in either direction.
The Home button is signified by a TV symbol and when you press it you will go straight to the Home page.
If you press it twice in quick succession, like when you perform a double-click on your iPhone, the App Switcher will open allowing you to move between open apps.
You can also put your Apple TV to sleep by holding down the Home button until you are given the choice to Sleep or Cancel.
Make the Siri Remote trackpad more or less responsive
You can change the speed of the touch surface tracking if you are finding it rushes away from you or feels a little laggy.
Click on Settings > Remotes and Devices > Touch Surface. The options are Fast, Medium or Slow.
Fast forward and rewind
You can fast forward or rewind a movie or TV show by sliding your finger left or right on the track pad.
Alternatively, rest your finger on the left or right edge of the track pad to jump forwards or backwards 10 seconds.
Voice recognition on the Apple TV
The Mic symbol on the remote is for Siri You need to press and hold it while you speak.
You can search by title, actors, year and categories, but you can’t be more specific; for example, you should be able to ask Siri to show you films and TV shows about a particular topic, however, Siri's limited by the database right now so when we searched for “History Documentaries” we got a list of random ‘documentary selections made by History’ which included Top Gear and The Universe.
Siri seemed to be quite good at understanding us though. You can also ask things like ‘what will the weather be like tomorrow’.
What you can do with the Play/Pause button
There’s a Play/Pause button on the Siri Remote but this isn’t only for play and pause, you can also press it to change between upper and lowercase on the keyboard (a handy tip given how annoying the keyboard is to use).
Also when you want to delete an app after you click and hold on the icon you can press the Play/Pause button to delete the app. You can also hold down Play/Pause for seven seconds to jump to the Apple Music app.
Using the volume controls on the Siri Remote
New to the Siri Remote is the ability to control the volume of your TV without having to dig out the TV remote. The +/- buttons let you control the volume on your TV via HDMI as long as if you have an HDMI-CEC (Consumer Electronics Control) equipped TV - otherwise you might need to fiddle around in settings.
If you have an older TV, you can manually teach the Siri Remote to control the volume. To do so you need to go to Settings > Remotes and Devices > Volume Control. Now choose Auto, TV via IR (if it’s available) and if your TV is capable to accepting the connection you should be able to link it to the Siri Remote. If this isn’t an option, it’s still possible:
Go to Settings > Remotes and Devices > Home Theatre Control > Volume Control.
Select the Learn New Device. If you have the option Auto or TV via IR that means your TV does support HDMI-CEC so you can automatically set it up. If not, take your normal TV remote control and point it at the Apple TV.
Press and hold the Volume Up button until the on-screen progress bar is full. Do the same thing with the Volume Down button. Your Apple TV should recognise these Remote commands and program your Siri Remote accordingly.
Note, HDMI-CEC could be referred to as SimpLink, Anycast, EasyLink, Bravia Link, Regza Link, Aquos Link, Bravia Sync, CEC or a similar name ending in “Link” or “Sync in your TV set up. If you don’t see something likely in your TV’s menus, try searching Google for “[TV manufacturer] enable CEC.”
Turn your TV on and off with your Remote
You can do more than control the volume with your Siri Remote, you can also use your Siri Remote to turn your TV off or on. To turn on your TV you only need to wake up your Apple TV, assuming you have HDMI-CEC.
If it doesn’t work straight away, go to Settings > Remotes and Devices and choose to have your TV turn on as soon as you wake your Apple TV. Alternatively, choose: Turn On Your TV with Your Remote from the options under Home Theatre Control. This setting will also mean your TV will turn off when you put your Apple TV to sleep.
This only works if your TV is HDMI-CEC compliant. If it isn’t the Turn On Your TV with Your Remote option will be greyed out.
How to tell how much battery life is left on your Remote
Apple says that the Siri Remote charge should last a good few months and charging it up via a Lightning cable shouldn’t take too long. It’s not obvious how much battery is remaining on the Remote though, so if you’ve been using yours for a while you might want to check how much charge is left.
To check how much charge your Remote has, go to Settings > Remotes and Devices > Bluetooth. Here you will see a graphical display of how much battery life is left in your Siri Remote’s battery.
The rechargeable remote charges via your lightning cable. Apple says you should only have to charge it about once a year and that charge will take a couple of hours.
What to do if you break your Siri Remote
Unfortunately having a glass trackpad means that it you drop your Apple TV remote it might break. A new Siri remote will set you back £59, you can buy a Siri Remote from Apple here.
Alternatively you could sync any infrared remote or Bluetooth games controller with your Apple TV, as we demonstrate on the next slide.
(Image from appadvice.com - here)
Sync any infrared remote with your Apple TV
The infrared remote that came with your TV, DVD Player, or Sky Box can actually work with the fourth-generation Apple TV. You might have to configure it though.
You need to make sure that you don’t map keys that perform an important function though.
On the Apple TV go to Settings > Remotes and Devices > Learn Remotes. Select Start.
You will see a set of icons corresponding to the buttons on the Siri Remote. The onscreen instructions will indicate what you should do. You need to press and hold the button on your infrared remote to assign its function to one of the buttons on the Siri Remote.
You can program Play, Pause, Fast-Forward, Rewind, ext Chapter and other functions by choosing Set Up Playback Buttons.
You will now be able to navigate the Apple TV using your infrared remote.
If while you are trying to set up the remote you receive a message saying ‘No Signal Received” that means your Apple TV hasn’t detected the infrared signal. You need to make sure your Apple TV is in the line of sight.
If you get a “Button already learned” message you are probably trying to program a button that already has a function assigned to it, this is unlikely to be the case if you haven’t previously set the remote up to learn buttons associated with an older Apple TV.
Add a games controller to your Apple TV
The games available for the Apple TV are impressive, sure they aren’t PlayStation or Xbox standard, but Apple TV games cost a fraction of the price.
We think that if you love gaming on the iPhone you will really love it on the Apple TV - but for some games you might like to use a third party remote for more flexibility and precision rather than the Siri Remote.
Unfortunately the controllers you use for your PlayStation or Xbox won’t work with the Apple TV. However, there are a variety of MFi (made for iPhone) certified Bluetooth controllers available for use with the Apple TV.
To pair a compatible games controller requires a few steps in the Apple TV’s settings. Start by going to Settings > Remotes and Devices. Next put the controller into pairing mode and wait for the Apple TV to find the controller. When the controller is listed as an available device select it.
Now you have paired your games controller look out for games on the App Store that say “Game Controller Optional”.
We have a round up of the best games for Apple TV here.
Typing on the Siri Remote
The most frustrating thing you can do with the Siri Remote is attempt to add a password or email address using the onscreen keyboard, which rather than being in a grid as was the case with the older Apple TV - making it quicker to scoot from one letter of the alphabet to another is now a long row of letters - in fact there are five separate onscreen keyboards to switch between: "abc", "ABC", "#+-", "123", and “Recent", meaning users have to do a lot of swiping back and forth using Siri Remote's touchpad.
At least previously you didn’t have to swipe so far from a to z, now you have to scoot from one side of the screen to the other, which is frustrating enough, but if your swiping isn’t very precise you will be fiddling around trying to select the right letter. It all amounts to a exasperating experience.
Thankfully, the Remote app for iOS works with the Apple TV so you can use that to enter characters rather than enter passwords and search terms using Apple TV’s annoying onscreen keyboard.
Scrolling on the Apple TV
Scrolling around the Apple TV interface is now a case of making swiping movements on the glass trackpad at the top of the remote.
When you have reached what you want to select, click the touch surface to select it.
You can also use the trackpad when you are watching TV shows and movies on the Apple TV. Fast forward or rewind by sliding your finger left or right on the track pad.
Alternatively, rest your finger on the left or right edge of the track pad to jump forwards or backwards 10 seconds.
Activate the Apple TV App Switcher
Just like the iPhone and Mac, the Apple TV has an App Switcher, also known as Multitasking menu, so you can easily switch between apps.
To access the App Switcher click the Home button twice. This will show you thumbnails of your recent apps and you can use the trackpad on the Apple TV Siri Remote to swipe between them.
Just like with iOS devices, you can also use the App Switcher to close and restart apps (typically when they are nonresponsive).
Here is how to close an app on the Apple TV:
- Use the Apple TV Siri remote to select an app.
- Double-click the Home button, to access App Switcher.
- Slide up on the Siri remote to quit the app.
You shouldn't quit apps for no reason (tvOS has effective memory management, and there is no advantage to quitting apps) but if an app is not working properly, or stuck, than closing it and reopening it will help.
Jump to Home screen
Like your iOS devices, the Apple TV has a Home button. It looks like a TV screen.
If you press and hold the Home button for a few seconds, you'll return to the Home screen in one step - no matter how deep within the Apple TV menus you are.
Put your Apple TV to Sleep
If you want to put your Apple TV to sleep, holding the Home button for five seconds places the Apple TV in sleep mode.
Don't hold the button down for too long if you are only wanting skip back to the Home screen (see previous tip).
The Apple TV remote enables you to select, move and remove apps from the Apple TV. It works via "jiggle mode", the jiggly app display that is familiar to iPhone and iPad owners.
Here is how to use "jiggle mode" on the new Apple TV:
- Use the trackpad to highlight the app you want to move (or remove)
- Press and hold the trackpad for two seconds.
- When the apps start to move around you are in "jiggle mode."
- Swipe the trackpad to move the selected app.
- Press the Play/Pause button if you want to remove the selected app.
- Press and hold the trackpad for two seconds to exit jiggle mode.
Quickly access Music app
You can use the Music app on the Apple TV to play music in the background while you use other apps, so it makes sense to be able to move quickly to the Music app (to switch or stop music).
To do so, hold the Play/Pause button for five seconds when music is playing, and you'll be taken directly to the Music app.
Activate Voiceover and Accessibility settings
Apple has made sure that the Apple TV is as accessible as possible for everybody. You'll find Voiceover and Accessibility options in Home > Settings > General. Here you'll be able to change the look of the Apple TV and make it easier to use.
Options in VoiceOver and Accessibility include VoiceOver, so the TV will read out what's on screen to you (for example the name of a film). The tvOS version of VoiceOver also incorporates VoiceOver gestures such as flicks, taps, and the rotor.
You can also benefit from Zoom, a built-in magnifier adjustable up to 15 times the native size, so you can navigate through magnified content on the screen. If you double-click the Siri button the focused content will be spoken to you while Zoom is on.
Other Accessibility options include Bold text, Increase contrast, Reduce motion, and Siri. Thanks to Siri you can speak to the remote in order to bypass onscreen navigation. Ask Siri to "Rewind exactly five minutes" or "Open Netflix," for example.
When switched on in Settings, Accessibility is accessed by pressing the Menu button three times. Be careful as this is also how you access the Screensaver. The trick is in the timing. Quickly tapping the Menu button takes you to the Screensaver, slowly tapping it opens Accessibility.
The triple-press accessibility shortcut can be changed in the Settings app under General > Accessibility > Accessibility Shortcut.
Adjust trackpad sensitivity
The Apple TV remote features a trackpad that you use to select the option on the screen. Just like trackpads on MacBooks, you can adjust the sensitivity of the Apple TV remote, making it faster or slower according to your preferences.
Adjust the sensitivity of the remote in Settings > Remotes and Devices > Touch Surface Tracking.
Fix an unpaired remote
You may find that the new Apple TV Siri Remote becomes unpaired from your Apple TV. If your new Apple TV Siri remote isn't working, first check that it is charged (plug it in to your Mac via Lightning).
If it's become unpaired, hold it close to your Apple TV and hold down the Menu and Plus buttons and it should reconnect.