The Siri Remote is capable of so much more than help you move around the Apple TV’s Home screen.
Its physical buttons, built-in sensors, mic and Bluetooth networking, along with programmable features accessible through the Settings app, let you control media playback with precision, converse with Siri, restart your set-top box, adjust your TV volume, launch and force-quit apps and much more.
In this tutorial, you’ll learn not only the basics of using the Siri Remote to navigate apps and settings on your Apple TV, but also the secrets to unlocking its full potential and use it in not-so-obvious ways.
Siri Remote button diagram
The Siri Remote has five buttons: Menu, Home, Siri, Play/Pause and Volume Up/Down—and a smooth Touch surface that recognizes swipes and gestures. When you click the Touch surface, it makes a clicking sound and selects the highlighted item.
At the Touch surface’s top is a hole for the built-in microphone. An additional mic hole is on the back for suppressing background noises so Siri can hear your more clearly.
On the inside, the remote packs in an infrared transmitter to control the volume of your TV or other home theater devices, Bluetooth 4.0 to talk to your Apple TV and has accelerometer and gyroscope sensors for tilt-based controls in games.
A Lightning port at the bottom is used to charge a built-in battery.
Pairing Siri Remote with Apple TV
Your Siri Remote comes automatically paired to its Apple TV.
Should you need to manually initiate the pairing process—for instance, if the remote disconnects or you get a replacement unit—point it at the Apple TV’s front and hold the Play/Pause button and the Volume Up button for two seconds.
An on-screen message appears when the remote is successfully paired.
Charging your Siri Remote
To charge the Siri Remote, connect one end of a Lightning cable to the Lightning port on the remote’s bottom and the other end to a USB port on your Mac or power adapter.
According to Apple, your Siri Remote provides months of use on one charge with typical daily usage. Its 410 mAh lithium-ion battery takes about three hours to fully charge and you can continue using the remote while it charges.
To remaining battery life is shown after selecting your remote in Settings → Remotes and Devices → Bluetooth.
Cleaning Siri Remote
Use soft, lint-free cloth or microfiber cloth to clean the Siri Remote.
Avoid spraying Windex, rubbing alcohol and other solvents onto the accessory as those chemicals will dissolve the oleophobic coating on the Touch surface and may penetrate the microphone or Lightning port and damage the internals.
The best way of getting rid of the dirt on the remote is to spray a piece of soft cloth with some water rather than the device itself, which could cause water to run along miniature cracks and work its way into the hardware.
Avoid using towels with lints, paper towels and bathroom tissue because these materials have pretty rough surfaces that may scratch the remote.
Playing tilt-based games with Siri Remote
Your Siri Remote is a great controller in games that support tilt-based controls.
Thanks to its accelerometer and gyroscope sensor, games respond to movements you make in the air with the remote. Some games require you to hold the remote in either horizontal or vertical orientation while others support both modes of operation.
If you play a lot of games on your Apple TV, do yourself a favor and buy a Remote Loop to secure the Siri Remote and prevent it from flying across the room.
Moving around tvOS interface
You can swipe left, right, up and down on the Siri Remote’s Touch surface to navigate the entirety of the tvOS user interface:
- Move between items—Swipe up, down, left or right on the Touch surface.
- Select items—Swipe to highlight an item, then click the Touch surface. You can also click and hold the Siri button and say the name of an on-screen item, menu bar or other control in an app to select it quickly.
- Return to the previous menu— Click the Menu button.
- Return to the Home screen—Click the Home button.
- Move focus to the top-left Home screen icon—Click the Menu button once to move the focus to the app in the top left corner of the Home screen.
- Interact with parallax artwork on app icons—Apple TV icons are made from layered images which tvOS uses to create the parallax effect. Highlight the Home screen app and then move your finger slowly over the Touch surface to see how the different image layers within the icon move to create the illusion of depth.
- Access contextual menus—Highlight an item and then click and hold the Touch surface. If there are hidden options available, they will appear in a pop-up menu.
- Wake from sleep—To wake your Apple TV, click any button on the Siri Remote.
To make on-screen selections easier to spot, enable tvOS’s high-contrast cursor in General → Accessibility → Increase Contrast → Focus Style.
By the way, you can adjust sensitivity of the Siri Remote’s Touch surface to your liking in Settings → Remotes and Devices → Touch Surface Tracking.
Mastering on-screen keyboard like a boss
Pecking away on the Apple TV’s software keyboard is not fun.
Whenever the two-line keyboard pops up, swipe with your thumb on the Touch surface to select a letter and click it to type the character. However, you can also tap left/right on the Touch surface to move the selection cursor across the keyboard one character at a time.
To select uppercase, lowercase, numbers or special symbols, click the Play/Pause button or swiping down on the Touch surface to toggle between the keyboards quickly. Click and hold a character to choose between alternate characters like letters with an accent mark.
Tip: Entering text on your Apple TV is far easier with the free Remote iOS app
Adjusting TV volume
TV sets, receivers and other home theater devices that support the HDMI Consumer Electronics Control (HDMI-CEC) standard, as well as those stuck with legacy infrared controls, can be controlled with the Volume Up and Down buttons on the Siri Remote.
If your TV supports HDMI-CEC, go to Settings → Remotes and Devices, select Volume Control under the Home Theater Control heading and then choose the Auto or TV via IR option.
Non-HDMI-CEC compliant devices must be programed to work with the Siri Remote by going to Settings → Remotes and Devices → Volume Control → Learn New Device and following on-screen instructions.
After you enable HDMI-CEC integration, or teach your Siri Remote your infrared remote’s tricks, you can adjust the volume levels of your TV and other home theater equipment by clicking the Volume Up and Down buttons on the Siri Remote.
Make sure there are no obstacles between the remote and your telly or otherwise your TV won’t register volume key presses.
Turning on your telly
Your Apple TV can automatically turn on the connected TV set or receiver, and switch to the correct HDMI input, right after it wakes from sleep. To turn on this feature, enable the Turn On Your TV with Your Remote option under the Home Theater Control heading in Settings → Remotes and Devices.
Now your telly or receiver automatically shuts down after you put the Apple TV to bed, and turns on when you wake the Apple TV from sleep.
Multitasking like a pro
Your Apple TV runs a special version of iOS, called tvOS. Now, the tvOS operating system includes an iPhone-like app switcher which permits you to switch between running apps and force-quit individual apps on a whim.
Here’s how to navigate tvOS’s app switcher using your Siri Remote:
- Invoke app switcher—To switch between running apps quickly, double click the Home button to see your recently used apps.
- Select an app in app switcher—In the tvOS app switcher, swipe left or right to select a running app, then click the Touch surface to switch to it.
- Switch to the last-used app—In the tvOS app switcher, click the Touch surface to switch to the last used app.
- Force-quit an app—In the tvOS task switcher, select an app and swipe up to kill the process and free up the RAM.
- Exit app switcher—To exit the app switcher and return to the Home screen without switching apps, click the Menu button on the remote.
Jeff’s video gives a hands-on demonstration of the Apple TV’s app switcher.