The Apple TV is a fantastic set-top box. You can effortlessly stream your iTunes library straight to your TV, can view your Photostream, access Netflix, rent or purchase iTunes content, and more right from the comfort of your living room sofa! Even more amazing is that you can control all of these features with the bare bones remote control that comes with the Apple TV. However, for as simple and elegant as the remote is, the number one complaint about it is that it is too small for its own good and it gets lost way too easily! Here are a few things that you can do about it, if you actually do lose your remote.
The first thing that you can do is to substitute your iPhone or iPad in as your remote control, by downloading the free Apple app from the App Store called Remote. This essentially turns your iOS device into a fully functioning Apple TV remote control, with a bit of extra convenience thrown in for good measure that could make it arguably an even better remote control than the stock one. The Remote app is composed mostly of a large gesture-control area that mimics the Apple TV remote’s directional pad: swipe up = click up, swipe down = click down, etc. Where you would normally click the select button on the remote, you do this on the app by simply tapping on the gesture-control area, as it indicates. Furthermore, there are three buttons along the bottom of the app, representing the Menu and Play/Pause buttons from the remote, and a new options button. If you tap on the Done button, you also gain the functionality of directly accessing your playlists, albums, etc, so you don’t need to necessarily navigate through the Apple TV menus onscreen to find what you want. The best part about the app, however, is text input: on any screen of the Apple TV interface where you would have to manually click on each letter to spell out a word, such as entering your password or in a search box, the Remote app presents you with the familiar iOS keyboard, which is infinitely quicker to use to enter text.
Overall, the iOS Remote app makes a great substitute for the Apple TV remote, and in many cases is actually better. But you inevitably will want to control your Apple TV while doing something else with your iPhone. Are you out of luck? Of course not.
Apple has built into their Apple TV an amazing yet lesser-known feature that allows you to use any third-party programmable remote control that you may have on hand! This may include your TV remote, or the one with your BluRay player, or maybe your home theatre controller. Any remote capable of controlling multiple devices can be programmed very simply to be able to control your Apple TV as well.
To take advantage of this handy feature, you will first have to use either the stock Apple TV remote or the iOS Remote app to navigate through the Apple TV menus to Settings -> General -> Remotes. Once there, select the option to Learn Remote.
This will take you to a brief explanation screen, where you will be instructed to set your remote to an unused device setting before selecting Start. In other words, if your remote has an Auxiliary setting, but you don’t actually have that setting tied to any other device, you could set it in this mode and thereafter use that mode to control the Apple TV. Similarly, if you have a DVD mode setting on your remote control but you don’t actually have a DVD player, then feel free to set it to this mode instead. Once you have set your remote appropriately, select Start.
The following setup screen will allow you to customize precisely what buttons on your third-party remote control that you want to map to the indicated buttons of an Apple TV remote. Simply follow the instructions shown on screen to set your remote exactly how you want it. For example, it will highlight a button on screen and ask you to press whichever button on your remote that you would like to “be” that button, and to continue pressing this button until the blue indicator progress bar has filled. It will then advance to the next button, where you can choose a different button to map to it, and so on. Continue in this manner until you have programmed all six of the onscreen buttons. You will also be given the option to program buttons on your remote to be responsible for specific playback functions, such as fast-forward, rewind, etc.
After completing these simple steps, you will finally be able to control your Apple TV with the remote control of your choosing! It takes next to no time at all, and you can be sure that it will be programmed exactly how you like it. Give it a try and let me know how it goes; you never know when your Apple TV remote might finally slip down between the couch cushions forever!