What it is: The Apple TV Remote offers a much simpler interface for controlling the TV than existing remote controls.
Apple is rarely the first company in any market. The iPod wasn’t the first MP3 digital player, the iPad wasn’t the first tablet, the iPhone wasn’t the first smartphone, and the Apple Watch wasn’t the first wearable computer. What Apple does is look at an existing market and then decide what’s wrong and how to make it simpler. The next major disruption coming this summer will be the Apple TV.
Not only will the Apple TV offer new ways for access TV channels, but it will offer its own app store so you’ll be able to play Apple TV games, which will essentially make dedicated video game consoles obsolete. (Goodbye Xbox, Playstation, and Wii). More importantly, the Apple TV should dramatically simplify the idea of a remote control for the TV.
Look at existing TV remote controls and you’ll see a variety of buttons that serve one function only, much like early mobile phones offered keyboards that flipped open, slid open, or simply gobbled up space at the bottom of the smartphone face. Those early smartphones were dramatically complicated with so many buttons everywhere just like today’s remote controls for TV are way too complicated with dedicated buttons for everyone. Do TV remote controls really need so many separate keys that are barely used? The user interface of TVs and their remote controls are nothing short of bizarre so they’re ripe for simplification, but how will Apple do it?
With the Apple Watch, Apple cleverly used the Digital Crown as a way to interact with the device along with Force Touch. instead of trying to create a unified user interface across multiple devices (like Microsoft is trying to do with Windows 10), Apple tries to optimize the user interface for each particular device. Notice the Apple Watch has a slightly different user interface than the iPhone? That’s because the Apple Watch is smaller so it needs its own unique user interface, not a transplanted user interface that’s not appropriate for the device.
So when looking at Apple’s current remote control, you can see that its click wheel closely resembles early iPods. Since the click wheel interface is less than intuitive and kind of clumsy despite its simplicity, it’s likely that tomorrow’s Apple TV remote control will look less like an iPod and more like an iPhone with a virtual user interface that can adapt to the task at hand.
Today’s remote control devices have to offer a multitude of buttons because it can’t modify itself based on your current actions with the TV. Thus it needs to provide all possible options for all possible types of interactions with your TV.
In comparison, a well-designed remote control with a virtual screen interface can adapt to the task at hand, simplifying the interface and optimizing the interface for that specific task. Apple already has plenty of experience working with touch screen interfaces so it’s not a stretch of the imagination to see how they could apply their expertise to a remote control for the Apple TV as well.
Perhaps you could also pair up an iPhone or iPad to control an Apple TV too. That way you can get the larger screen of an iPad for displaying more controls, which can be particularly useful for game playing on the Apple TV.
What’s certain not to happen is that Apple will introduce an overly complicated remote control with a multitude of single-purpose buttons. Watch for Apple’s announcement of the Apple TV the first week of June. When you see Apple’s design for a remote control, you’ll realized how remote controls should have been designed all along.