Apple recently released a minor update for their set-top media center which adds gesture support for the iPhone/iTouch Remote application. (Free, iTunes) This is great news for those of us who have longed for a consistent method for controlling the Apple TV. The standard Apple remote allows a user to navigate the menus of the Apple TV as well as the standard, play, pause, stop, etc. controls for media.
Unfortunately the Remote application on the iPhone/iTouch was horribly inconsistent in the way in which a user controlled the Apple TV. Rather than navigating and using the Apple TV’s menus the Remote application essentially put your library on your iPhone/iTouch and you navigated through your library there. Then you played and controlled the media iPod style from that point on. Flipping the album art over for chapters. It worked and the Remote application was awesome then but I always thought it was lacking.
This has been changed with the combination Apple TV/Remote application updates. Now you still get the ability to drill down into your library on your handheld device and find the track or tv show you were looking for and play it immediately but in addition you can use the new “Control” feature to bring up a trackpad like area in the Remote application which will accept control gestures.
A flick to the left or right on the trackpad or dragging and holding will allow you to fast forward or rewind while flicking down will show the chapters. Tapping on the trackpad will play or pause the media and using two fingers to drag to the left will rewind a video 10 seconds. A very cool and very useful addition to what was an otherwise already awesome application.
But back to the Apple TV update. There are a few other changes worth mentioning. First, Apple has seen fit to change the way video playback is controlled. Gone is the single right and left click to skip to the next chapter. Now a click to the left or right fast forwards or rewinds and subsequent right and left clicks increases the speed. To skip chapters you have to click down to bring up the chapter markers. Next, the view options have been enhanced. You can now sort the list of movies by Genre, by Movie (Alphabetical) or by whether or not is have been watched. You can also sort the list of Podcasts and TV shows by Date, by Show (Alphabetical) or again by watched status. The other new feature is the ability to search Flickr tags which I haven’t had a chance to play with too much yet but searching being the new sorting it seems to me like a welcome addition.
On a side note, updating the Apple TV’s firmware will undo any patchsticking you may have done so…just keep that in mind. I’m just putting that out there. To tell you the truth I haven’t re-patched my Apple TV since the 2.3 update with the Hulu problems and general bugginess of Boxee. But of course that’s not to say I wouldn’t just that I haven’t. Yet.