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Concept: The Apple TV remote solution was right in front of us

It’s no secret that the Apple TV Siri Remote is controversial. It’s a powerful remote that many believe is poorly designed. It’s not easy to use in the dark, and it has very few distinct buttons. Lots of folks turn to their iPhone or Apple Watch to use as an alternate remote. That’s in part because the user interface can change. So this had us wondering what a better stand-alone Apple TV remote could look like. Turns out, the solution was in front of us all along.

As the Apple TV tries to differentiate itself, the remote needs to be differentiated from other manufacturers’ remotes. One way they can do that – and it’s a very Apple thing to do – is to turn it into a full multitouch display. We turned to the seventh-generation iPod Nano for hardware inspiration and to watchOS for software inspiration. Here’s what an all-new, much more powerful Apple TV remote might look like if it had a display and tons of unique features you don’t typically find in a television remote.

Easy to pair, easy to use, and easy to charge

The buttons we need to control an Apple TV are already there on the classic iPod Nano casing. There are side-mounted volume buttons to control the audio output level. There’s a side button that could be used for going back. If you held it, it could take you home.

The sleep wake button on the top could put the remote to sleep to save battery on command. When pressing it to wake the remote up, you could swipe up on the display to wake your actual television.

Another key change we’d like to see is USB-C. Game controllers like the Xbox Series S/X controller use USB-C to charge. Why not use the same I/O for the Apple TV remote? They could also introduce a new USB-C dock for your living room.

Users would want quick access to the remote app, so with a simple double click of the home button you could launch right into the remote, even if the device is locked.

One of the most frustrating aspects of a tv remote is how easy they are to lose. So with this Apple Remote, because it connects to wifi, you could use Find My on your other devices to play a sound on it. If Apple wanted to incorporate the U1 chip in the remote they could even try and show it’s precise location in your home.

Making the remote way smarter

With a full multitouch display, the size of the touchpad could change on the fly and let the device show different button arrangements – which is one major benefit of the buttons not being hard-mounted to the casing. It could include a “now playing” screen so that no overlays take over the content on your Apple TV.

Third-party apps could display custom remote layouts that add new buttons or change the touchpad into a simple d-pad. All remotes could use Siri through a built-in microphone. Results could even appear right on the remote rather than the TV itself if you choose to do so.

Perhaps the best part of this remote concept is a dedicated “continue watching” screen. You’d be able to start playing a show right on the remote rather than having to navigate through screens in tvOS.

Using watchOS as a base

Since this remote would act like an Apple Watch does to an iPhone, it could theoretically run a unique version of watchOS custom tailored to the remote itself. It could bring along all of the necessary components that make different actions possible on Apple platforms. For example, you could authenticate purchases and rentals right on the remote with Touch ID and Apple Pay.

You could launch apps right from the remote rather than swiping through them on the TV itself as well. With a Home app, you could turn different HomeKit devices on or off just like you can on Apple Watch. In fact, it could be the exact same app as the watch currently has.

What do you think about this idea? How do you think Apple could improve the Apple TV remote? Let us know in the comments below!

Update at 11:40am EST

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Avatar for Parker Ortolani Parker Ortolani

Parker Ortolani is a marketing strategist and product designer based in New York. In addition to contributing to 9to5mac, he also oversees product development and marketing for BuzzFeed. A longtime reader, Parker is excited to share his product concepts and thoughts with the 9to5mac audience.