The Apple Remote was introduced with the first upgrade to the iMac G5, which introduced Front Row. Since then, the tiny white plastic remote has been bundled with the entire Mac range, plus the Apple TV. You can even use it with the iPod Universal Dock, and the now defunct iPod HiFi.
When it was launched, Steve Jobs proudly compared it with competitor remotes, which contrasted with the Apple Remote's simplicity. The fact that all the functionality is distilled down into 6 buttons illustrated everything that Apple aimed to achieve in terms of design, Jobs said.
Having used the remote for over a year now, three things strike me:
- It is very easy for non-techies to use. My parents, who are complete technophobes, love their Apple TV because it has the only Remote Control that they "get"
- It is very clumsy for more sophisticated users - just a couple more buttons would solve a lot of problems
- It is now out of step with the Apple's new aluminium design style
Points 2 and 3 indicate it's time of some enhancements, whilst point 1 indicates that Apple shouldn't lose site of what's great about the original.
So what should change in the Apple Remote 2.0?
- Separate "Play/Pause" and "Select" buttons. This would enable you to pause playback wherever you are in the menu system. Pressing play (or double-clicking play?) would take you to the Now Playing screen. This also solves "Resume Playback" in DVDs - it's so frustrating if you're in the middle of a DVD movie, you press menu, and then you must press menu again and select "Resume Playback" to return to where you were in the movie.
- Home would take you to the top menu wherever you are - to avoid the "back, back, back, back" clicks you currently have to do on the menu button to navigate around
- Separate "Volume" from up and down controls, so that you can change volume when you are in the menus, or DVD menu (suggest volume control on left-side of the remote, similar to iPhone)
Adding these buttons doesn't make the remote unduly ugly, as this visual hopefully illustrates, albeit it becomes a 10 button remote, rather than a six button remote.
In terms of design, I suggest something like an elongated iPod Shuffle, but a bit larger and weightier. It would be nice if it came with a rechargeable battery and an optional charging dock.