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I have really enjoyed my Apple TV since the beginning, but I will admit that I enjoy it a lot more with the Remote application on my iPhone. Apple has updated the Remote app and the Apple TV firmware, making the Apple TV even better when used with an iPhone or iPod touch, and perhaps showing a lasting commitment to this hobby project at 1 Infinite Loop.
While the original Remote app allowed you to browse content and use the iPhone keyboard to enter text, it did not allow you to navigate the onscreen menus. This wasn’t such a big deal when playing your own media because you could just pick the song, movie or TV show from the list of files. However, when browsing through YouTube or Flickr, it was annoying to switch back and forth between the original white Apple remote and your iPhone. The new Remote app now has additional finger gesture controls to replace traditional controls, so you can finally control everything from your iPhone or iPod touch. The update adds a few new tricks to the media player as well.
Here’s what you can do with the new app…
- Flick or drag and hold to move the on-screen selection. Tap to select.
- Tap to Play or Pause
- Flick left or right, or drag and hold to rewind or fast-forward.
- Flick down to show chapter markers, then flick left or right to skip.
- Drag two fingers left for replay.
- Tap to Play or Pause.
- Drag left or right and hold to rewind or fast-forward.
- Flick left or right for previous or next.
In addition, you can move up the menu tree by holding your finger over the bar at the bottom of the control screen.
Apple TV 2.4 Firmware
The new firmware also adds new features to the Apple TV itself.
- Remote app directional control — Control your Apple TV with simple finger gestures via the Remote app. This feature requires Remote 1.3 running on an iPhone or iPod touch with iPhone OS 3.0.
- Flickr Search — Search Flickr photo tags to find recently updated photos of interest. Save searches to quickly find new photos or use as a screen saver for Apple TV.
- New view options — View movies By Genre, By Movie, or Unwatched. View TV Shows and Podcasts By Date, By Show, or Unwatched.
- Updated transport and chapter modes — During video playback, click right or left to fast forward or rewind. Additional clicks increase the speed. Click down to show chapter markers.
Boxee, et al.
There are conflicting reports on the Boxee forums, but the media software has been successfully installed by at least one user. Some have had problems, though, so you may want to wait a day or two for things to settle out before updating. ATV files will need to be updated for the 2.4 update. I’m waiting on the USB hack to get updated myself.
Steve Jobs has referred to the Apple TV as a hobby business (when compared with the Mac, iPod and iPhone businesses) on more than one occasion. But this new remote app, and the Apple TV update, shows some signs of life in the group. Also telling are at least two recent openings on Apple’s employment web site for Apple TV engineers (which have since been removed). A hardware update with a faster processor and a GPU capable of decoding 1080p H.264 (and compatible with OpenCL) would go a long way towards keeping the Apple TV alive and relevant for the immediate future. It is a great device for playing music (I have thousands of songs at my fingertips with the iPhone remote that I can control from anywhere in the house), but a hardware update with improved HD video playback would make this a more compelling device.
So Happy Together
The Apple TV and iPhone were made for each other. Now that the Remote app does everything you need to fully control the Apple TV, it is just brilliant. Seriously, if you have an Apple TV, you need to go buy an iPod Touch (maybe a used one?) just to get the remote app. It’s better than using the white remote, or even a universal remote programmed to replace it.
I’ll keep my eyes posted on conflicts with Boxee and ATV Files. Let us know what your experience is with the new update.