Universal Electronics builds Apple TV remote for cable companies

The remote resolves a lot of issues associated with the consumer Apple TV remote.
(Photo courtesy Universal Electronics/Graphic by The Desk)

One of the biggest complaints about Apple’s streaming TV hardware has nothing to do with the device itself but rather the remote that controls it.

For several years, Apple TV users have complained that the Siri Remote is difficult to use — from the glass track pad that makes browsing titles a challenge to the remote’s constant need to be recharged via Apple’s proprietary Lightning cable.

Finally, someone has built a better remote for the streaming TV device — but to get it, you’ll have to subscribe to a participating cable TV service.

On Friday, Arizona-based Universal Electronics said it had developed a remote control “specifically developed and designed to meet the needs of cable ,satellite, IPTV and other [pay TV companies]” that supply Apple TV devices to its customers.

“We’re excited that customers worldwide will soon be able to enjoy this new remote, designed specifically for the growing number of [pay TV companies] offering Apple TV 4K to their subscribers,” Paul Arling, the chief executive of the company, said in a statement released to reporters.

Universal Electronics is not the first company to create a substitute remote for Apple TV: Last year, Swiss TV company Salt announced it would give customers a remote it developed that was considered to be significantly easier to use than Apple’s Siri Remote. Among other things, it featured tactile buttons  for navigation as well as dedicated play, rewind and fast forward buttons.

Salt’s remote proved to be so popular that some companies began importing and selling it online, where it lists for anywhere between $60 and $100. But the remote comes with a few compromises, including a lack of support for Apple’s voice assistant Siri.

The Universal Remote appears to be the total package consumers have been asking for: It has a microphone button for controlling Siri, it connects to the box via Bluetooth or Infrared and it offers a universal remote feature for controlling other devices like a TV set or soundbar. It also contains Apple’s MFi authentication chip, which means it can connect seamlessly and securely to Apple TV hardware.

It also improves on both Apple and Salt’s remote by offering features not found on either, including a backlight to make buttons easier to see in the dark and a dedicated button for accessing electronic program guides on streaming pay TV apps.

The remote is likely to be offered by smaller cable companies who don’t have the resources to develop their own proprietary platforms and instead offer their Internet-only customers streaming devices made by third parties. Currently, Spectrum is the biggest pay TV provider to offer its customers an Apple TV device for a nominal monthly fee.

Universal Electronics says cable companies can start ordering the new Apple TV remote in late December.

Thanks for reading and supporting The Desk. If you have a question, comment or news tip, send a message by email or text, or connect on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

Also, check out our new membership service The Desk: Pro Access for exclusive reporting, news scoops and in-depth analysis.