Apple had an opportunity for a fresh start with the Apple TV 4K Siri remote and flubbed it.
The Siri remote that launched with the 4th (1080p) generation Apple TV in 2015 has been roundly criticized. And with good reason. It’s a shame that Apple didn’t remedy the worst issues as part of the new Apple TV 4K.
My opinion has been that the Siri remote is the worst Apple product since the hockey puck mouse that shipped with the original iMac in 1998. That was a truly awful mouse that drove people crazy with its physical ambiguity.
The user interface defects of the Siri remote have been well documented. It’s too symmetrical. As a result, if you pick it up in the dark, you might end up trying to swipe the wrong end—which feels just like the touch surface. Moreover, it’s all too easy to inadvertently brush your finger, or something else, over the touch surface and bring up a menu that distracts from viewing. Next, it’s just too small and easy to lose. The keys are not backlit. There’s no battery LED indicator, so you have to know how to go to the Apple TV Settings to dig that info out. When the battery is depleted, it won’t be obvious what went wrong.
I am not alone in these observations. Before the page was removed, an average of 213 customer reviews gave it a 1.5 out of 5 rating. No less than Ken Segall, who worked with Apple in product strategy has blistered the Siri remote: “The beautifully annoying Siri Remote.” A scan around the internet produces many expressions of annoyance. Noted author Kirk McElhearn wrote me: “Abysmal. I still use an older remote.” It’s hard to find is effusive praise for this remote.
A Fresh Start Called For
Someone, however, at Apple must think this remote is the cat’s pajamas. Otherwise, why else would Apple stubbornly retain the design? This remote abuses the customer and annoys, and that should be enough to get Eddy Cue to make some waves. Details matter.
It took some time for Apple to fix the hockey puck mouse, even when the very critical and fussy Steve Jobs was the CEO. Big companies have a certain amount of inertia, and it might take Apple some more time to acknowledge the Siri remote design flaws.
Concerning is that the Siri remote that ships with the Apple TV 4K has a new, white ring around the MENU button. A visual orientation cue. That seems like a tacit recognition that there has been a problem, but the best the company could do was a half-baked paint job that doesn’t address all the other issues.
Legacy of Excellence
Apple has its work cut out for it when it comes to original TV content creation. Its Apple TV has fallen to the bottom of the pile in 4K OTT box market share. Roku is the go-to 4K/UHD/HDR box of choice. Apple can’t win this battle unless it’s on top of its game.
As this 4K/UHD juncture, Apple should be showing renewed signs of aggression, brilliance and attention to human interface design excellence.