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Apple's finally going to fix the Apple TV's awful remote

By Nathaniel Mott , written on May 5, 2015

From The News Desk

Apple is expected to fix one of the worst things about the Apple TV: its remote.

The New York Times reports that the remote, which currently has a circular dial and two face buttons, will be updated with a touchscreen at Apple's developer conference in June. It will also be thicker and boast the same physical buttons.

This report meshes with what BuzzFeed reported about the new Apple TV in March. The device is expected to have a new operating system, an app store, increased memory, and a smattering of features devoted to home automation.

Combine all that with the long-rumored Apple television service, which the company seems pretty desperate to get off the ground, and you have the most important update to the Apple TV since the set-top box was first introduced.

Of course, all those other features will have to be seen to be believed. An app store isn't worth much without killer apps, a television streaming service is only as good as its channels, and home automation can be notoriously frustrating.

But an updated remote is the one change an Apple TV owner won't have to see to decide if they'll like it, because it's hard to imagine a remote worse than the one Apple has been shipping with its set-top box since it debuted back in 2007.

As I wrote in a post about controlling various media devices with smartphones:

Hell hath no fury like an Apple TV owner forced to use the set-top box’s standard remote. The metallic sliver and its click wheel of misery are perhaps the most frustrating remote controls to ever torment a living room. It’s much easier to use the software version of the remote, which allows iPhone and iPad owners to control their televisions without invoking the wrath of ancient and terrible gods every time they have to search for 'Breaking Bad' on iTunes.
Some time between writing that post and moving into a new apartment, I lost the remote to my Apple TV for the umpteenth time. It's not just frustrating to use; it's also damned near impossible to avoid misplacing the itty-bitty device.

Could I use a smartphone, like I wrote in that post? Sure. But I'm already using my phone while I'm watching Hulu Plus -- "The Last Man on Earth" isn't that entertaining -- and it'd be nice to be able to use a goddamn remote that works.

If all these reports are to be believed, the new Apple TV is shaping up to be an interesting device. I'd like to see what developers are able to do with access to the product, and Apple's video-streaming service might be worth subscribing to.

But so far, this new remote seems like it's probably going to be the best thing to happen to the Apple TV since Apple first decided to release a set-top box.

[Illustration by Brad Jonas for Pando]