Review: Button Remote for Apple TV makes entertainment simple again

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 2021
The Button Remote for Apple TV by Function 101 is a simple IR remote that brings physical controls to the Apple TV experience.

The Button Remote for Apple TV
The Button Remote for Apple TV


The Siri Remote that comes bundled with the Apple TV 4K is one of Apple's more controversial products. It is flat, symmetrical, and finicky with its trackpad interface. The Button Remote by Function 101 hopes to solve these problems.

The Siri Remote

To understand why a product like the Button Remote exists, first look at the Siri Remote. Apple has attempted to create a minimalistic remote to control all interactions. There are plenty of features packed into this remote, but most users won't know or care that they exist.

Many aspects of the Siri Remote center around special software functions or gaming. The trackpad doubles as a virtual joystick for games, the play/pause button a select button for simple controls. The remote itself has accelerometers, so the remote can be swung like a bat for a Nintendo Wii-like gaming experience.

On top of that there are gestures, edge-clicks, tap vs press functions, and Siri voice commands that make this remote control very complex. Users who want to watch TV are easily overwhelmed by the device, especially if they have limited cognitive skills or learning impairments.

The Button Remote

Each Apple TV remote has a unique function set
Each Apple TV remote has a unique function set


If the Siri Remote sounds like a nightmare and you want to turn on your TV and watch a movie at a reasonable volume, the Button Remote has you covered. As the name implies, there are plenty of buttons, 18 of them in fact, and they are all tactile and clicky.

This remote is instantly familiar to anyone who has ever used a TV before, thick black plastic casing with rubber buttons. The layout places navigation controls at the top, volume and auxiliary controls in the middle, and playback controls at the bottom.

The Button Remote comes programmed to for Samsung TVs out of the box. This means the power button and volume rocker will control your TV with no further setup. The setup instructions for TV and soundbar control can be found in the Function 101 FAQ page.

Unlike the Siri Remote, the Button Remote uses IR to communicate with the Apple TV, so it must have direct line-of-sight to control it. There must be line-of-sight for the TV and soundbar being handled by the remote as well.

There are a few functions missing from the Button Remote that some users are likely to notice. There is no "TV" button, which is used to return to the TV app, open the task switcher, and open the Control Center. Without that button you cannot switch users on the fly or access tvOS 14 features like HomeKit cameras.

Siri is absent as well, meaning text entry is laborious and there is no access to any Siri functions across the system. Users who are replacing their Siri Remote entirely may have to fall back to their iPhone Remote app or the Siri Remote to perform some tasks. This shouldn't be an issue for users who do not access more advanced functionality.

All of the Apple TV specific buttons work without any programming, so even if you move between rooms and Apple TV boxes, the remote will always work. The programming for volume and power will have to change if you use different TV brands, though.

Button Remote buttons
Button Remote buttons


The features the Button Remote lacks are the primary purpose of the device. Not only is the device cheaper for these missing technologies, its much more straightforward for the user.

Only one significant anomaly exists for the Button Remote; the Program rocker. It serves no purpose, though the manufacturer says that a list of compatible apps will be added to the website FAQ in the future. The "P" rocker is available for apps to use as an additional input. Think cable providers being able to change channels with it inside the Apple TV app. Otherwise, it is only used when programming the remote for different TVs, which is strange given its placement.

Should you buy the Button Remote?

If the included Siri Remote is frustrating or you desire a remote with physical buttons, then the Button Remote is a perfect choice. Customers seeking an alternative remote for elderly family members or those with disabilities that make using a trackpad or tiny remote difficult, then the Button Remote is also a great choice.

Do not buy if the idea of losing Siri or Control Center functionality is a total turn off. Those with complex HomeKit or AirPlay setups will sorely miss the Siri Remote. Though, these functions can be reached within the TV Remote app on iPhone and iPad.

Pros
  • Physical Buttons
  • Simple to use and set up
  • Easy to grip
Cons
  • Requires batteries
  • Program rocker basically useless despite prominent placement
  • No Siri or TV buttons
The Button Remote by Function 101 is a budget-conscious alternative to the Siri Remote and is perfect for those seeking simplicity or accessibility friendly ergonomics.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Where to Buy

The Button Remote is available on Function 101's website for $29.99.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 39
    All of my Apple TV's are hidden from view, so this remote won't work for me since it's IR only - not Bluetooth.
    BeatsneillwdRayz2016watto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 39
    BeatsBeats Posts: 3,073member
    Makes it more complicated not simple. The Apple TV remote is the most simple in the world in my opinion.
    Scot1neillwdlkruppRayz2016pscooter63watto_cobraDetnator
  • Reply 3 of 39
    BeatsBeats Posts: 3,073member
    zroger73 said:
    All of my Apple TV's are hidden from view, so this remote won't work for me since it's IR only - not Bluetooth.
    I mount the Apple TV between the Vesa mount and TV. It's like you have an Apple TV set, especially with CEC. Just click the remote and it turns on. Some people like the way the tiny black box looks though.
    edited September 2020 watto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 39
    dewmedewme Posts: 4,312member
    I've arrived at a happier place with my Apple TV (4/5 gen) remotes after outfitting them with "elago R1 Intelli Case Compatible with Apple TV" cases. I don't use the lanyards or make use of the magnetic capability, but simply having all my slim & slippery ATV remotes wrapped in rubbery cases makes them much easier to hold and keeps them out of the sofa cushions. These cases are actually more like "slippers" for your ATV remote. Considering what it costs to replace an ATV remote, spending seven and a half bucks on a case was an easy decision. As Zroger73 mentioned, all of my ATVs are also hidden behind the TV screens so IR-only was not really an option for me. 
    edited September 2020 zroger73tenthousandthingsrandominternetpersonmobirddysamoriaStrangeDayswatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 39
    dewme said:
    I've arrived at a happier place with my Apple TV (4/5 gen) remotes after outfitting them with "elago R1 Intelli Case Compatible with Apple TV" cases.
    +1 on the elago R1 Intelli Case. This is a standard addition for every Apple TV I purchase before I ever turn it on for the first time.
    mobirdStrangeDayswatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 39
    We bought one of these just to get one thing: a MUTE button. For me, it was worth it just for that. We keep the Apple remote handy for entering passwords, searches, etc. But when watching TV we use the Function remote.

    The other useful thing it has is a Power button, which works with our 2008 Samsung not-so-smart TV (which has a nice sort of “retro” look today). The Apple remote (via the tv) turns the power on and off for two other, newer TVs in our household, but not the older one. 

    The “P” rocker is an odd choice — it doesn’t work with the YouTube TV app yet, but if and when it does, it will be for changing channels when watching live television, so why not label it “CH” like every other English-language remote in existence?
    edited September 2020 dysamoria
  • Reply 7 of 39
    The Apple TV remote was the #1 reason I switched to Roku. No regrets.
    zroger73anantksundaram
  • Reply 8 of 39
    Jony Ive should’ve been fired for the ATV remote alone.
    zroger73mobirdanantksundaramAlex1N
  • Reply 9 of 39
    "The remote itself has accelerometers, so the remote can be swung like a bat for a Nintendo Wii-like gaming experience."

    This that true?? I had no idea. Is there a free app I can download to experience this?
  • Reply 10 of 39
    Beats said:
    Makes it more complicated not simple. The Apple TV remote is the most simple in the world in my opinion.

    I agree with you that the Apple TV remote is fall-out-of-the-boat simple. Now please explain that to my wife.

    Rayz2016watto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 39
    ralphie said:
    The Apple TV remote was the #1 reason I switched to Roku. No regrets.
    We have both. The problem with Roku is the seriously ugly interface which is more or less required for the apps. Also the response time is much slower than the ATV 4K. Navigating the ATV is a relative pleasure vs the Roku.
    dysamoriawatto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 39
    "The remote itself has accelerometers, so the remote can be swung like a bat for a Nintendo Wii-like gaming experience."

    This that true?? I had no idea. Is there a free app I can download to experience this?
    There's at least one free bowling app that utilizes the accelerometers in the remote along with a racing game (rotate the remote to steer) and a golf game.
    dysamoriarandominternetpersonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 39
    smsmsmsm Posts: 12member
    The list of TVs And other devices this works with Is very limited. Mostly old models. None of which I own. I wanted to return for refund but they do not not take returns at all once you try to use the device. Several emails to the company were not answered. This company and this device are not recommended. 
    dysamoriaRayz2016Alex1Nwatto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 39
    I got used to the Apple remote. I just wish that YT would return to ATV’s native UI components. The UI feels so out of place and is missing that fluid fast scroll
    StrangeDayswatto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 39
    Losing Siri on the remote is a deal-breaker, I use it often. As for the ATV remote, I have no problem with the trackpad interface, and in fact really prefer it for video scrubbing over click-based systems. I do have a problem with the flat, symmetrical design. An amazon silicone remote case was the solution for me. 
    dewmewatto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 39
    No mention of battery configuration... sealed rechargeable, or throwaways?  

    I guess it’ll work for folks with 6”-8” long double-jointed thumbs, or who don’t mind endlessly shuffling the device up and down in their palm, or who don’t mind using two hands..
    edited September 2020 watto_cobraDetnator
  • Reply 17 of 39
    Users who want to watch TV are easily overwhelmed by the device, especially if they have cognitive skills

    I'm not sure this means what you think it means AI. I think you mean if they have cognitive impairment! Or perhaps are old, or young.
    dysamoriaRayz2016Alex1Nrandominternetpersonwatto_cobrambenz1962
  • Reply 18 of 39
    smsm said:
    The list of TVs And other devices this works with Is very limited. Mostly old models. None of which I own. I wanted to return for refund but they do not not take returns at all once you try to use the device. Several emails to the company were not answered. This company and this device are not recommended. 
    This seems like a pretty standard set of codes:

    https://drive.google.com/file/d/1XgI-BhKfO6KoWCdRM7yNLBFJyuPIwwKv/view

    The directions are here:

    https://function101.com/pages/button-remote-for-apple-tv-support

    Caveat is I have Samsung so I didn’t need to do this. Are you saying it doesn’t work? If so, that would affect this review’s rating, I’d imagine.
    edited September 2020 watto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 39
    Jony Ive should’ve been fired for the ATV remote alone.
    Maybe not that alone, but...

    • that Apple TV remote...
    • the puck mouse, for historic reasons (this should never have gotten to customers; everyone including Jobs failed here)
    • the mice since then where the body/base is the button mechanism, causing usage clumsiness, especially with lifting the mouse to relocate it when click-dragging (no, those lame grip zones suck)
    • the first Magic Trackpad where the button mechanism is the rubber feet up front that get caught under the body and stick
    • iOS 7 UI redesign <- this is more like what I’d call a fireable offense
    • thinness/minimalist obsession, causing ergonomic issues, thermal issues, reduction in convenience features, etc. such as:
    • iPhones that are so thin and slippery that a case is required to feel comfortable and stable in the hand
    • removal of buttons leading to further reliance on gestures
    • conflicting gestures in iOS
    • material waste (mostly because of sealed rechargeable batteries) and servicing difficulty...

    ... I could keep going. It all adds up to a lot of really bad design, in a company that is famous for “insanely great design”. Ive was better off doing hardware design only, when managed by people who appreciated customer-friendly details and a need for serious computing power. Giving him authority over GUI design, and basically total authority in design in general, was a major mistake.
    edited September 2020 Alex1Nzinkdifferent
  • Reply 20 of 39
    zroger73 said:
    dewme said:
    I've arrived at a happier place with my Apple TV (4/5 gen) remotes after outfitting them with "elago R1 Intelli Case Compatible with Apple TV" cases.
    +1 on the elago R1 Intelli Case. This is a standard addition for every Apple TV I purchase before I ever turn it on for the first time.
    100% agree. The lanyard also makes it really easy to tell the top from the bottom of the remote in the dark. 
    watto_cobra
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