Function101 Offers an Apple TV Remote Replacement with Delightful Buttons
I have never liked the slippery Siri Remote that Apple shipped with the fourth-generation Apple TV HD in 2015 and continues to offer as the default option for the Apple TV HD and Apple TV 4K. But only recently did I spot a replacement that seemed worthwhile: the Function101 Button Remote for Apple TV.
Function101 Button Remote Positives
This $29.95 infrared remote control offers nearly all the features of the Siri Remote when controlling an Apple TV—or at least those I care about. Your list may differ substantially! Because the Function101 remote has a larger array of buttons, it offers not just infrared control of volume for receivers, soundbars, and TV sets, but also muting them and power control. Hallelujah!
(The Siri Remote includes an infrared transmitter that lets you control the volume of supported devices. However, the Siri Remote lacks a mute button, and unless you have a chain of HDMI-CEC-supporting devices set up just right, you can’t use it to power other devices on or off.)
The Function101 remote lacks a touch surface, which is a huge bonus for me. I always have trouble with the Siri Remote’s touch-based controls. Even five years into using the Siri Remote, I rarely tap the rewind/fast forward region correctly. I have no problem with other touch devices, including the Remote app on an iPhone, so I don’t believe it’s me.
With the Function101 remote, you can press honest-to-goodness buttons for skipping 10 seconds forward or back, as well as separate buttons for fast forward and rewind—which advance as you hold them. A four-arrow compass design near the top manages navigation and other features, with an OK button nestled in the middle to make selections or confirm actions.
The molded, rubberized device has a great hand feel, and I love its button pressure, accuracy, and flexibility. It’s among the finest remotes I’ve ever owned for any device, and it’s a manufacturing achievement to combine this level of quality with such a low price.
Function101 Button Remote Negatives
A few things are missing due to technology and design constraints. Because the Function101 remote relies on infrared communication with the Apple TV, it can’t support Siri voice control. (The technology to enable such support would add substantially to the price.) I rarely asked Siri to do things on my Apple TV—one of the most frequent was “rewind 10 seconds” when I was frustrated with the touchpad—and I no longer need that. Other people I know constantly use voice control, and that makes this replacement a non-starter for them. (On the few occasions I want to use Siri, I just swipe down to reveal Control Center on my iPhone and bring up the Remote app. You can also use regular old Siri in iOS, iPadOS, and macOS to issue commands to your Apple TV, too.)
You also can’t swipe to scrub forward and backward across a streaming video’s entire length, something my younger child says is what drives her to keep using the Siri Remote. I don’t mind holding down a button on the Function101 remote for the same effect.
Because it’s an infrared controller, you need line of sight to your sound system or TV and to your Apple TV. That might involve rejiggering your setup. There’s also no TV button on the control, which means you can’t use the Apple TV’s app switcher, which is a little annoying but isn’t outweighed by the many other advantages I find with it. You also can’t tap any button, as you can with a light touch on the Siri Remote’s touchpad, to see the current screensaver’s location.
Although the Function101 remote works out of the box with the Apple TV, initial setup with TV sets and soundbars and the like can be fussy because the remote lacks both a way to program it remotely and number buttons. On remote controls with numeric input, you typically look up your model of TV, receiver, or soundbar in a manual or online guide, then punch in a series of numbers and test until you find the correct infrared control set. Each consumer electronics brand typically has several sets that are used across ranges of devices.
Somewhat unclear instructions on the Function101 website explain that to achieve the same effect, you first put the remote into setup mode, then hold down or press a button repeatedly while carefully making sure you have line of sight to your device. If the volume-up control works with a given code the remote is cycling through, you’re set, and you press OK. I tried this repeatedly with an old Yamaha receiver through which I route all A/V sound output and was initially unable to get it to work.
I contacted customer support, which was overwhelmed with queries due to the volume of initial shipments. It took two weeks to receive a response, but I used all the Apple TV features of the remote in the meantime. When I finally received a reply, it included an abject apology, a direct contact phone number, and step-by-step written advice that was somewhat easier to understand than the previously published instructions. I had it controlling my receiver just a few minutes after that. Yes, it was user error, but magnified by the support site’s poor documentation.
(The trick that solved my confusion? You have to watch your audio device carefully while holding down or pressing the appropriate button to advance codes. There are a lot of codes to go through, so holding down a button makes the most sense. However, if you miss noticing the volume change during the two-second window or you don’t release the button fast enough, you have to cycle through again.)
Is the Function101 Button Remote Right for You?
The rest of my family doesn’t love the Function101 remote because they want Siri voice control and the app switcher. Fortunately, I didn’t follow my instinct and take a hammer to our Siri Remote after getting the Function101 remote, so my family can still use the one that came in the Apple TV box.
But for anyone who wants the comfortable press of a well-designed button to control your Apple TV, I highly recommend it. It’s my favorite tech purchase of 2020 that didn’t come from Apple.
This remote is excellent. I never use Siri anyway, so no great loss (and I can’t tell you how many times I have sworn when I have accidentally pressed the Siri button on the normal remote when I meant to press menu), but this year at the summer house with my mother-in-law, who had a lot of trouble mastering the trackpad part of the normal remote (and accidentally hit it a few times while watching content), this worked out great.
As you mentioned, the other drawback is that there is no "TV’ button. I use that quite a lot, but basically pressing the menu button multiple times ultimately gets there.
It is excellent for navigating the apps in AppleTV and controlling playback. The limitation for me is that my Apple TV is connected to my TV via an Onkyo receiver. I need to be able to turn on the receiver, select the AppleTV input and then control volume. (The receiver is set to the Cox DVR as a default input - and HDMI passthrough when off - and also supports a BlueRay player.). So, I still need to control the receiver separately to get connected to Apple TV - but then the new remote works fine to control the AppleTV. Much better than the original Apple remote.
Before reading this, I bought a Philips Universal Remote SRP3219G/27 and am quite happy with it. It also controls my horrible Sony Android TV and Vizio soundbar. (The straw that broke my camel’s back with the Apple remote was having to skip the soap opera parts of “For All Mankind”; the lack of a fast forward button was intolerable. The camel was already unwell from its ludicrously symmetric design and the indistinguishable buttons.)
It’s a blessing to have Function 101. Finger-skating across the Apple remote provides little, if any, control. However…
I have a Bose Solo sound bar. I can’t get it to turn on and control the sound, so the sound comes from the Sony TV.
Only to contact the company. If you can get it to pair with one device but not the other, it may not be in the remote’s database.
Skipping a few secs is easier…
Do people know you can just fast-click the left or right edge of the trackpad, and it skips playback forward/back a few seconds? You can repeat this too, so to jump back 60 secs, you simply repeatedly click-click-click-click the right edge of the trackpad, et voila.
I tend to use the above method the most to get to the position desired quickly.
(Or if wanting to get further than a few minutes from current playback position, instead of clicking, I just keep holding-down left/right trackpad and let go roughly where wanting to be.)
Blah. More hidden and hard-to-discover functionality.
Yup, works erratically for me. My younger kid has no problem with it. I use other touch/tap/click devices without a problem, so I am apparently not upgradable to the Siri Remote.
Just hid my ATV in a cupboard along with other cable-messy devices so the lack of bluetooth is a show stopper for me.
A mute button is wonderful. Last week I sent feedback to Apple (ha ha) suggesting that double tapping the Remote “-” button should mute the sound. That would just require a software update - although it seems that most ATV apps have to handle audio commands themselves. tvOS14 has wrecked volume control of Homepods for a couple of my apps.
My holy grail would be a good universal remote that works with my LG TV, Apple TV, TiVo, and XBox One. Right now, I’m using the TiVo for my regular cable TV stuff, the Apple TV for most streaming stuff, and the XBox as a Blu-ray/DVD player. And I’m using a different remote for each of them. It gets kinda confusing.
I use my Harmony remote which controls my Panasonic TV, Sony Soundbar, Sony BluRay player, Apple TV (4th Gen), and DVR. This is an older Harmony which is no longer sold but no reason why a newer one wouldn’t work. I create soft buttons so the Harmony can turn on what I want and make settings with one touch. I can also turn off everything with one touch.
Anyway, I am very happy with the One Remote to Rule Them All.
I don’t understand this review at all… why spend $30 this when you could buy a universal remote (some are even less expensive for seemingly all the same features). I guess if you only use AppleTV for everything, but I still also have a DVD, an old and failing Tivo, etc.
The killer for me, though, is no Siri. The only way to find half the stuff we’re watching is by saying it aloud.
I didn’t see mention in the article, or on the remote control’s web site, how this thing is powered. Built in rechargeable battery, like the Siri remote? Or replaceable batteries? Or…?
It’s an Apple Siri drop-in replacement, and I (and seemingly a lot of other people) mostly or entirely use an Apple TV. I think it fits the bill perfectly given the provisos about usage I mention—your mileage may vary, which is why I listed all the things it can’t do, almost none of which bother me. What I wanted was a remote that worked with my stereo system, so I can turn it on/off and control volume, and then handle all the menu navigation and playback features of an Apple TV. A lot of folks surely want more, but this wasn’t designed for them; it fit my needs so perfectly, I reviewed it.
I have owned and tried many universal remote controls over decades, and some of the remote controls that I have for other devices (my receiver, the Blu-Ray player, etc.) can be programmed as universal remote controls. There’s also HDMI-CEC, mentioned in the article, which is a sort of interlocked system that can help with managing power and audio and playback across interconnected devices.
In the end, I didn’t want a truly universal remote control; I wanted a more suitable (to my needs) Apple TV + audio remote control.
As for $30, if you can find a really good universal remote control for $30 that doesn’t cause your soul to leak out of your body while programming and using it, you should let us all know. I recalled that Harmony is often cited as the ne plus ultra of programmable universals, and it’s $100 for its full-featured version and $50 for a lower-end IR version (according to Wirecutter’s round-up).
I often prefer purpose-suited devices. (We play a DVD or Blu-Ray rarely, and when we do, we’re almost entirely pressing play/pause, so we don’t really need a universal to support that.)
My family is like that, not me; hence I didn’t set the old Siri Remote on fire and they use it.
It’s a simple very low-power IR device, so it uses one AAA battery, alkaline or rechargeable, but you have to swap the battery. My suspicion is in regular use it will last 6 to 12 months based on how long similar infrared remote controls I have that are powered by a single small cell.
Interesting. OK, thanks!
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