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An assortment of thoughts.  Mostly tech related.

4th Gen Apple TV - Keyboard struggles and a couple of tips

Out of curiosity I picked up the new, 4th generation, Apple TV on the weekend.  I love the potential the App store has and the idea of having a powerful little iOS computer attached to the TV holds a lot of appeal to me.

The kids will enjoy the games (and I will too, to be fair), but I'm hopeful for expanded Siri integration and the promise of the availability of services like Workflow and IFTTT and how the Apple TV can become a powerful hub for home automation and other such things.  More on that in another post.  Here are my initial thoughts on the Apple TV experience - in particular, the new keyboard input.

The setup process was pretty painless.  I set up the Apple TV with my iPhone 6 Plus which transferred various configuration bits and pieces across to the Apple TV.  With Bluetooth enabled, you hold the iPhone close to the Apple TV, some magic happens, and then your Apple TV now knows about your wifi and various bits and pieces about your AppleID related services.  It doesn't transfer your AppleID password, though.  You'll need to enter that yourself...

The Apple Remote app, which lets you remotely control your Apple TV, disappointingly, doesn't (yet) work with the 4th gen Apple TV, and so password input needs to happen via the touchpad on the Siri Remote (which I like) and Apple TV's new on screen text input tool (which I don't).  The onscreen keyboard has changed from the familiar multi row A-Z panel to the alphabet running left to right across the top of the screen, and you swipe in bursts to get to where you need to go.

Apple TV 4th Generation - Keyboard input

Apple TV 4th Generation - Keyboard input

Problems with the Apple TV 4th gen keyboard input

After playing for a very short while, I quickly began to dislike the keyboard input for some of these reasons:

  • The character selection tool for the keyboard doesn't wrap, meaning that if you're at A and you need Z, you can't slip off the left of the screen and wrap to the right, if that makes sense?
  • It takes several swipes of the trackpad to get to the right from the far left and vice versa.  With each swipe you move about 4-8 characters at a time, so this can be a bit of a slog.

You can improve this by increasing the sensitivity (Go to Settings → Remotes and Devices → Touch Surface Tracking).  Better, but the fundamental issue remains.

  • Ditto for backspace - it's way off to the right and a nuisance to get to, and I needed to use it A LOT.  This I found to be incredibly annoying until I discovered a little shortcut, which made the input a bit better...

Getting to Backspace more quickly

As mentioned, getting to backspace was a pain, but there's a little trick.

Pressing and holding (rather than tapping) to select a character, reveals all of the possible variants of the character in question.  For example, if you press and hold and the character 'e', you get the full range of international characters including their diacritical marks and upper and lower case variants which you can select as you need.  Importantly, especially for those who don't know their umlauts from their circumflexes, (or care), there's also quick access to the Backspace key. Bingo.

With the expanded character view visible, repeated left swipes will invoke the backspace function.

This is much better, but I still don't enjoy the keyboard laid out this way.  Bring on an updated version of the Apple Remote so I can use the iPhone keyboard once again.