Is it time to say goodbye to the traditional remote control? If Apple has anything to say about it, the remote control that we all know and love will be gone before we know it, and we’ll have to turn to our smartphones and tablets for control over the TV (more specifically, as Apple hopes, we’ll be turning to iPhones and iPads).
So what makes Apple researchers so sure that this change is possible?
According to Digital Trends reporter Williams Pelegrin, Apple filed a patent over a year ago that contains the blueprints for a remote control app, run on iPhones and iPads. Unlike the current remote control that Apple includes with its Apple TVs — which appears to have been designed with a “minimalist” theme in mind, and has proven to be “more of a hindrance than help,” according to some users — the remote control app will display a full screen of icons and pictures, similar to that which a modern TV guide screen offers.
Rather than getting lost in a TV guide screen with only seven navigation buttons, users will be able to take advantage of the touch screen on their phones and tablets to navigate channels.
As some readers have probably already noted, the concept of a digital remote control is nothing new, and Apple TVs can already be controlled by iPhones and iPads via a free-download remote control app. But the new design is intended to capitalize on modern TV watching habits; as Business Insider‘s Dave Smith explains it, the new app “would make it easier to enjoy all types of content ‘binge-style'” by allowing Apple TV viewers to create a queue of digital content without disturbing what’s already on the screen.
Nevertheless, there are many problems already present in digital remote control apps that Apple’s new patent is unlikely to address. For example, what would TV viewers do if they lost/broke their phone or tablet, or the battery dies? How close in proximity would a user need to be to the TV in order for the app to work? (In other words, is it possible to accidentally turn your TV on when you’re hundreds of miles away?) Considering that the minimalist theme didn’t work out so well for the handheld Apple Remote, how do researchers expect to convert a full TV screen to a pocket-sized, touch-screen app?
Furthermore, when programs like Netflix and Hulu already stream TV shows with automatic-play features, and when TV guides can be preset to tune into certain channels at certain times, is a new remote control really necessary?
“Traditional remotes are better because they’re always ready to use and dont require swiping the screen, and there aren’t any apps that you need to open just to use the TV,” says Bob Wallace, President of Remotes.com. “The only time this would work is if the tablet is dedicated to be the remote control. Second, tablets don’t have physical buttons so its harder to channel surf, so it’s harder to see the digital buttons to scan. Tablet remotes have been around for awhile and have never caught on, traditional remotes also have a much longer battery life.”
Only time will tell if Apple is able to take over the world of television, but if customer loyalty to Apple products is any indication, the TV industry could be seeing some major changes, sooner rather than later.