Quick Tip: Replacing the Apple TV Remote


The new Apple TV (s aapl) is designed to be simple, and it is, at least when it comes to what’s in the box. But while hooking up a new Apple TV is billed as easy, things slow down when you have to input data. And who needs another remote floating around, just waiting to get lost?

Below I’ll describe how to use Apple’s Remote app on iOS devices to make data entry easy, and I’ll tell you how to pair your Apple TV with an existing universal remote so that you can restore your single-device home theatre control setup.

Connect to the Local Network

In order to enable Apple’s official Remote app on your iOS device to control your Apple TV, both your iPhone or iPad and the Apple TV must be on the same network. If you can, connect your Apple TV via Ethernet. That should make for smoother streaming, especially if you have an older wireless router. Keep in mind that when an Ethernet cable is attached to your Apple TV, it will automatically join that network.  In order switch to a Wi-Fi network, you must first ensure that the Ethernet cable is disconnected.

Pairing the Remote App With an Apple TV

Next, you need to configure both the Remote app on your iOS device and the Apple TV using the same iTunes account.  The account doesn’t have to be associated with any Mac running iTunes on the local network, nor does not have to have a credit card associated with it.  It only needs to be a valid iTunes account.  It doesn’t even have to be the same iTunes account you registered your iOS device with. So despite what Apple says, you do not need any version of iTunes running anywhere in order to take advantage of many cross-platform features between iOS 4.2 and Apple TV.

On the Apple TV, select Settings from the main menu and navigate to General>Remotes>Remote App.  Enable Home Sharing and enter your iTunes account ID and password.  Then launch Apple’s Remote app on the iOS device, turn on Home Sharing and enter the same ID and password.  Once the account is verified on both devices, you can control the Apple TV from the Remote app.  This includes using the virtual keyboard on the iOS device to enter your Netflix(s nflx), Flickr(s yhoo), YouTube(s goog) and MobileMe account information, and to search for content.

Pairing with a Universal Remote

While the Apple remote is very stylish, it is still another remote you need to deal with.  Most home theaters come with more remotes than can fit on an end table.  There are several really nice learning and programmable remotes out there, but only a few can be programmed with the Apple remote codes.

Luckily, the Apple TV has turned the tables on universal remotes as it can learn the remote you already have.  It’s a good idea to program the device you’ll use with your Apple TV on your universal remote as an off-brand VCR so it doesn’t interfere with your other components.  Then on the Apple TV, select Settings from the main menu and navigate to General>Remotes>Learn Remote. From here, the Apple TV will the walk you through the learning process.

Smart and Simple

With all the buzz lately about security, it’s a really good idea to use the Apple Remote app with your Apple TV, since it’ll make it much easier to use long, very strong passwords.  If you’re using an account management app on your iOS device like 1Password or SplashID, you can even cut-and-paste text directly to your Apple TV. And if you also set up your universal remote, that’ll make for one less device you have to keep track of, which is always useful considering how crowded the living room of today can get.

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Or if you’re like most serious TV geeks, you already own one of the better Harmony remotes – and you’ve already added the Apple TV to your online database.

Geoffrey Goetz

Yeah, my Harmony 880 stopped charging, a common problem with this release in the Harmony line. I have recently been trying out the much simpler, yet harder to configure URC-WR7. It gets the job done, but I may end up switching back to the Harmony.

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