Remote: Making Your Apple TV Better

No matter what generation of Apple TV you own — first gen, 720p or 1080p — the preferred method of input has always been this tiny remote that’s as minimal as you can get. Sure, it’s great to work with and all that, but if you’ve got a decent sized collection of movies and television shows to navigate through, things can get a bit tricky.

Remote solves that problem and more, plus does it all from your iPhone or iPad. Don’t believe me? Then sit back and find out how Remote takes the Apple TV and kicks it up a notch. 

A Word About the Apple TV

Let me take a moment here and sing the praises of the Apple TV. Back when it was expensive, I convinced my wife that it was the best way we could watch our movies in the living room without having to deal with scratched DVDs. We used it for a bit, but it wasn’t until our son was born that we really found out exactly how awesome it is.

Selecting your library and which Apple TV you want to use is pretty straightforward.

Selecting your library and which Apple TV you want to use is pretty straightforward.

Movies recorded for the Apple TV or downloaded from iTunes just play. There’s no preview, no 30 seconds of warnings, nothing — it plays, and plays right from the start. That alone is worth it, but having hundreds of films at your fingertips without having to flip through a stack of DVD cases is just awesome. Seriously, if you don’t have one, get one — it’s the best $99 you’ll ever spend.

Then There’s The Remote

OK, so the Apple TV is pretty sweet, but if you do have a pretty decent sized library, flipping through all those movies can get to be a pain. The remote that comes with the little black hockey puck is nice and minimalistic, but it sucks when you have to scroll through page after page of films just to find what you want. It’s just not a perfect solution.

Yeah, this thing kinda sucks.

Yeah, this thing kinda sucks.

Remote (the app, not the silver sliver that comes with the Apple TV) makes the entire process substantially easier by providing a touchable, searchable interface that’s not only fun to use, but also intuitive.

Using Remote

There is a little bit of work to do before you can actually use the app. First, you have to fire up the app and turn on Home Sharing, which involves entering in your account information. Once that’s done, you’re pretty much ready to go. The screen will display the Apple TV(s) in your household, and now you’re ready to get things going.

Hunting through your library is easy as can be.

Hunting through your library is easy as can be.

If you do have multiple Apple TVs, you first have to pick which one you’re using (you can also pick a library if you like, and control that remotely as well). That then fires up the appropriate Apple TV and lets you navigate through the system. I’m going to assume that you have your Apple TV turned on and your television tuned in from this point on, because that’s pretty much required from here on out.

Getting Going

After the app has connected to the appropriate box, you’re shown what library or libraries you can connect to. In my house, we have a main library that holds pretty much everything, and my local library for my MacBook Air, which has much less. Since they’re both on the same Home Sharing account, both can be seen by the Apple TV and the Remote app.

Navigation is a swipe away.

Navigation is a swipe away.

Once you’re in the library, things are pretty straightforward — it’s just like the Music or Videos app. Pick your choice of Music, TV Shows, Movies or other options, then select what you want to see. Tap it, and it starts playing on the Apple TV — it’s just that easy.


Let’s say that you don’t want to go the easy route with Remote and want to flip through things yourself. No problem, you can do that as well. Select the Control icon and you can navigate by swiping and tapping through each screen. It acts just like the regular physical remote, except now it’s a touchscreen instead of a series of buttons. There’s even a Menu tab on the bottom if you need to back out of the system.

So Why Do I Need This?

Ultimately, this only comes in handy if you have an Apple TV — and you really should, by the way. If you do, then you’ve probably experienced the frustration that comes with working your way through your library and have looked for another option.

Not only is Remote free, but it adds an excellent layer of control to what is an imperfect system. That, by itself, is why you should download the app now. Until the Apple TV interface gets updated, this is your best option.


Control your Apple TV from your iPhone or iPad