Apple Remote: Remote Control Done Right!


This morning, my software update queue was full of goodies.

Notably: iTunes 7.7, iPhone 2.0, and an Apple TV software update! And the App Store is live!

After the updates, the first App I downloaded was the Apple Remote.

Flat out brilliance.

Much like pairing the Apple TV with iTunes, you enter a 4 digit pin number displayed on your iPhone (or iPod touch) on the Apple TV.

Once paired, the user interface is very similar to the iPod UI. Playlists, artists, songs, etc… select what you want to play… displays art work, yada yada.

And in well fell swoop, every other remote (there are 5, if you include two Apple IR Remotes) was obsoleted.

Having bi-directional, fully stateful, communication between the remote and the media playback device is a gigantic game changer. It means that the remote can actually meaningfully tell you what is going on and and can provide UI pertinent to the context implied therein.

That is, you can touch your music, scrub a track with your finger, flick through a playlist and otherwise get your fingers right into your media playback.


You can even update ratings. For me, being able to update ratings is a huge feature. I have smart playlists that put together random selections of tracks over a certain rating, in a certain genre, that I haven’t heard in a while. It creates a set of personalized radio stations out of my music collection. And now it’ll be even more effective because I’ll be rating many more tracks much more quickly!

This changes the game in my living room. Completely. My media center’s remote is now more powerful than any computer I bought in the 1990s. And every one of my friends who has a similar device can now be a DJ.

It isn’t perfect. At the moment, it doesn’t appear that you can play rental material from the remote interface and you can’t create on-the-go playlists. Nor can you set ratings when controlling an Apple TV (but that is an Apple TV limitation).

Sure, as one commenter pointed out, there are other products that offer this style of remote control.

But I don’t want an expensive, dedicated, limited capability, complex remote with a shoddy user interface. I want the power of a computer to control my media playback. In my hand. Only I don’t want to know it is a computer — I want it to just work. With a high quality user experience and seamless network integration.

You people have dirty minds! The !Adult smart playlist merely filters out all songs for which the word adult appears in the comments. For example, Nine Inch Nail‘s Closer has adult in the comments and will never play when that playlist is selected.

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37 Responses to “Apple Remote: Remote Control Done Right!”

  1. goron says:

    18152 adult items??!!! 🙂

  2. kay says:

    !adult 😛

  3. David Evenson says:

    This is like a dream come true. Now if it will just let me type into the search screens on my AppleTV.

  4. nate says:

    That looks amazing!

    (And that’s a great, great album.)

  5. mogden says:

    This would be awesome if it would operate the full AppleTV interface (Movies, YouTube, etc.) but it appears like it just does the Music?

  6. Shawn Blower says:

    I’m confused. In iTunes, I clicked the “Check for Update” button and it still says that 1.1.4 is the current version for iPhone.

  7. DaveH says:

    Can it browse Shared playlists from other machines that iTunes is connected to?

  8. ssp says:

    This does look good.

    I also think that Apple’s lock down of access to iTunes by other software has to do with previous remote controls being not as good. It’s not a level playing field.

  9. Jeffrey W. Baker says:

    Wow, a statefull bidirectional media player remote which meaningfully tells you what’s going on. It’s incredible that nobody every thought of that before.

  10. bbum says:

    Sonos? Heh. $400 for a dedicated remote that doesn’t work with the media library that I — and 100 million + other people — already have.

    And the remote is bulkier, far less capable, and has a smaller display. Oh, and it can’t play games, chat with friends, take phone calls, play music in my car, know my location, or have access to an app store via which many many more new features are going to be constantly added.

    All that, and it is more expensive. A lot more expensive.

  11. Re Jeffrey says:

    It’s not that nobody ever thought of it before–it’s a great thing whether it’s totally new, or merely done BETTER than ever before, and accessible to FAR MORE people!

    Compared to Sonos, this is:

    Free for tons of iPhone and iPod users

    Identical to the normal touch music playback controls

    MUCH easier and simpler – touchscreen instead of rows of buttons and wheels

    Bigger screen

  12. JR says:

    But can you add tracks to a currently playing play list? Any play list on the go type features?

    This would almost be a requirement for me as the alternatives (Signal and RemoteBuddy) both offer this feature (yes, they’re pay apps, but still).

    Being able to browse through your music to pick and choose the music you want to listen to is a must-have IMO.

    So yeah, does it have it?

  13. Paul says:


    Are you one of those folks who posts “First!” on blog comments?

  14. SJ says:

    Any word on whether the remote will control Front Row? Seems like this would be a solution to some of the, ahem, “upgrades” that Leopard brought to Front Row.

  15. Raj says:


    This offering does not diminish third-party apps at all.
    It is competition, and for some people it will not be adequate (yet).

    For others like me, it’s good enough for now, and it’s sexy.
    It’s awesome to demo this at a party… for apple, this is one of the most awesome pieces of viral marketing they could do to sell their new platform.

    I will still look at Signal to see if it makes more sense.

  16. CHE says:

    How is your media center configured, just out of curiosity? Do you have a dedicated Mini or something at the heart of it?

  17. Eric says:

    As soon nas my new iPhone is purchased, this will be the first app. Currently I have all my DVDs rip’d to an iMac hooked to my computer. This is organized in iTunes with all my music as well. I use my iPod touch as a remote, using Remote Buddy to control Front Row. If Apple would just get this to do movies through Front Row, I would be done with Remote Buddy!

  18. Opie says:

    For those who claim Sonos is an option – I have used it and it less than optimal.
    The application design is akin to a simple AJAX mockup and is nowhere near the responsiveness of a full app – which they could have written with the publicly available SDK.

  19. Shams says:

    I can’t find a volume control in the remote app. What am I missing?

  20. Opie says:

    I have to eat my own words…. I meant Sooloos – not Sonos.

  21. John Faughnan says:

    If iTunes is running in a background session of a multi-user machine and streaming AirTunes, can you control it?

  22. Angus says:

    Does anyone know if this app can change iTunes from whether it is playing from the macs speakers to outputing from an Airport Express?

  23. Martin Edic says:

    I think the big deal here is that we no longer have to multiple gizmos all over the place. If we can get apps to replaces remotes in general (and I know this is a hardware issue but wireless will eventually be built into everything). At that point all the dedicated gizmos go away and iPhone becomes a universal devices for everything.
    Brilliant business plan, wot?

  24. EverydayUX: Everyday User Experience by alex rainert » Blog Archive » EverydayUX links for July 1st through July 10th says:

    […] Apple Remote: Remote Control Done Right!I am really excited for this app! […]

  25. AgentG says:

    @Shawn Blower

    I’ve got the same issue, upgraded iTunes and can access the app store… but no iPhone 2.0 update available… ugh!

  26. Jeff Barbose says:

    I can’t seem to see the sources that are streamed to the Apple TV via the iPhone remote. 🙁

    I can see the few things that still reside on the Apple TV itself.

  27. Shawn Blower says:

    I got the 2.0 update, but not from within iTunes. Follow these instructions.

  28. annbb says:

    Obviously tech stuff has a lot more importance than food stuff. Unless tequila is a food stuff.

  29. ch says:

    It’s not like using the iPhone as an iTunes remote control would be new. Remote Buddy has had that abilitiy last year already. It can also update ratings and even edit playlists. And it’s not expensive either.

  30. !Doug says:

    This is terrific, especially when it works for the Touch as well.

    Now if Apple were to add an IR output on the Airport Express to let this control those cable DVR’s, DVD players, TV’s… 🙂

  31. bbum says:

    I raved about Remote Buddy about 18 months ago — bbum’s review of remote buddy.

    You are right. It is a great piece of software. Except it can’t control the Apple TV and I stopped using it as it pretty consistently failed or errored out.

    There is certainly still room in this market. Someone could do a premium quality native app remote for the touch platform and I would likely buy it.

  32. iPhone 2.0: Apple Remote - says:

    […] I bought in the 1990s. And every one of my friends who has a similar device can now be a DJ. # Scritto il 11/07/08 da giorgio_v. Tags: […]

  33. John C. Randolph says:

    I’ve got one bug to file on the Remote app. It doesn’t work well with shared libraries. I have a Mac Mini attached to my TV, and my main library resides on my G5. Front Row works fine with this setup, but the Remote app on the iPhone can’t seem to get the shared playlists.


  34. Dave R. says:

    Hmm. No fullscreen means I have to stand up and go to the computer and fiddle with itunes every time I play a video. Not my idea of remote. Nice idea, critically-flawed.

  35. bbum says:

    Set your TV / Movie playback to full screen in the iTunes preferences. Works perfectly.

  36. Kevin LaCoste says:

    I don’t see any “scrubbing” function in either the remote or the iPod app itself on my 3G iPhone. The control in the 1st screenshot here changes my volume. Am I missing something? I would like to be able to “scrub” through my music.

  37. bbum says:

    Tap on the cover art once and scrubbing controls will show up.

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