When Apple announced its newest incarnation of its streaming set top box in September, it debuted along with it the Siri remote, a completely-redesigned, rechargeable remote control. A built-in microphone enables search and operational functions via Apple TV’s version of Siri, and a slick, glass touchpad replaces the up-down-left-right control pad traditionally found on most set-top boxes for a more familiar search experience (or for those rare times when Siri doesn’t quite get the job done).
But the most-important buttons have nothing to do with Siri or streaming video or being able to cast your phone or tablet media via Airplay (you can still do that with the new Apple TV). The most-important buttons are the volume rocker and the “home” button.
Neither of these buttons were available on previous generation of the Apple TV box, and the company didn’t really make much of an effort to explain why they were necessary with this version. Which had me a little concerned — was the new Apple TV going to have a separate volume control for the box independent from the television set? Anyone who has played around with a computer’s external speakers can speak to the mild frustration of trying to calibrate the computer’s volume setting with the speaker’s own volume knob.
Turns out, no. The volume and home buttons are programmed to control the power and volume settings on your television set using the Siri remote’s infrared port. The inclusion of these three buttons aren’t intended to offer a new level of convenience to Apple TV users by supplementing their existing TV remote, they’re designed to make people lose their old TV remotes altogether.
Think about it: Before now, Apple TV users have required at least two remote controls to operate their sets — the Apple TV remote to control the set-top box, and the original or cable box TV remote to power up, adjust the volume and switch inputs.
Now all but that last function can be done solely from the Siri remote. Apple didn’t include an input switching button because it doesn’t want you switching inputs — it wants your entire home viewing experience to revolve around the Apple TV, and it built in the other other two functions you would ever need a third party remote for right into the Siri remote.
Right now, there’s plenty of reason for people to continue watching TV they way they always have. But as Apple TV’s app store becomes more populated with third-party apps — and assuming the rumors are true about Apple introducing a linear streaming television service to rival Comcast and Sling — there’s a very, very good chance that in the near future the Apple TV and the Siri remote will be the only gear you’ll ever need to stay entertained and informed.
The Siri remote is proof that Apple is betting on just that.