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by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Jason Snell

The Apple TV remote strategy

Note: This story has not been updated for several years.

So tvOS 9.1 came out yesterday, adding support for the old Apple Remote app. As someone who criticized the Apple TV set-up process, I was happy to see support for the Remote app come to the new Apple TV box.

Then today we got the news from Eddy Cue that Apple is working on “the full functionality of the Siri Remote on the iPhone,” and that’s coming next year.

I don’t know what it all means, but I’ve got a couple of guesses.

First, there’s plenty that the iPhone app could emulate that the Remote app doesn’t. Finger swipes on the Remote app are emulating a simple d-button layout, so there’s no support for the finer control that the Siri Remote can provide. The Siri Remote also has an accelerometer and gyroscope, which can be useful in games—and the iPhone has those sensors, too. And the Siri remote has several hardware buttons, while the Remote app only emulates the Menu and Play/Pause buttons.

So there’s plenty of room for improvement in how the iPhone emulates the Siri remote. Ideally, it would support everything the Siri remote does, essentially turning your iPhone into a second Siri remote for the Apple TV.

Now this next part is just speculation on my part, but bear with me: Once the iPhone can emulate a Siri remote, it might be the perfect time for a tvOS update that enables support for multiple Siri or iPhone remotes at once1. Right now, multiplayer gaming requires a paired iPhone running a specific app as a counterpart for the on-screen Apple TV app. Imagine a future software update where you could play a two-player game on an Apple TV with two Siri remotes, or a single remote and an iPhone running the remote app, rather than a specific app counterpart.

A lot of Apple TV games remind me of nothing more than the Nintendo Wii. The Wii handles four controllers (the Wii U, eight) with aplomb. Adding support for even a second generic controller would be a big boost to the Apple TV gaming experience. Here’s hoping that we’ll get that in 2016.

  1. If you buy Bluetooth remote gamepads you can use several at once, which is nice, but that seems like a bigger investment than a casual game player would make. Lots of people have iPhones. 

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