Universal remotes seem like they’re a dime a dozen. No matter what TV provider you choose, your box comes with one. That’s great, at least at first. Most people don’t want a whole slew of remotes on the coffee table.
The only thing, though, is that all remotes aren’t made alike. I’ve recently spent some time looking at cablesystems from friends and I’m pretty disappointed with what their remotes look like. Here’s a typical one from Spectrum:
Too many buttons. And more importantly, a lot of functions that most people don’t want or need. This big clunky remote will control 6 devices, sure, but exactly who is out there with a VHS player anymore? Fact is, DVD players are going away and there’s no way to control a streaming box, which is what most people actually want.
There’s another piece to the puzzle, too. Most of the time you can’t do anything with all those buttons and they’re not very smart. The VOL control does control the TV’s volume even if you don’t have TV selected, but it takes at least four button presses just to turn everything on and off. This remote may have a lot of features, but it’s confusing and doesn’t help people “just watch TV.”
That’s why I’m a big fan of DIRECTV’s Genie Remote. DIRECTV used to have a big complex remote —in fact you can still buy it — and I’ll admit the smaller, sleeker Genie Remote was a little hard to get used to at first. But now I see the wisdom. These are all the buttons you need and none of the buttons you don’t. The power button turns on the TV and the satellite box. It’s not overwhelming. It’s simple, it fits nicely in your hand, and it puts the buttons you actually use in very logical places.
And yeah, there are some things the Genie Remote doesn’t do really well. It won’t power up your A/V receiver (although it will let you route the volume through it.) It won’t control your streaming box. But you know, if you’re that sort of person, the sort of person with a home theater with a whole bunch of separate boxes, you probably want a custom remote solution anyway. There are plenty of them from different providers and most modern devices let you use your phone and either their app or a custom app. If you’re that sort of person you might want that sort of thing. Personally I use a customized programmable remote when I’m looking at my home theater. No off-the-shelf remote would do it for me no matter what.
But for 99% of the people who just want to watch TV, they don’t want to be bamboozled by a fancy remote. They just want to sit down and do the things they want. Yes, they have a smart TV or a streaming box, but it has its own remote and it’s usually pretty small and easy to use. When you want to watch satellite, you want to watch and not be bothered by a million tiny buttons.
In the end, that’s why DIRECTV made the right decision.