Universal Electronics offers an alternative to Apple TV’s Siri Remote

Universal Electronics last Friday announced a new remote control for the Apple TV that has been tailored with cable, satellite and multichannel video program distributor (MVPD) customers in mind. Dubbed the UEI Remote, it uses infrared and Bluetooth connectivity allowing it to function as both an Apple TV remote and a universal infrared remote.

UPDATE [August 19, 2021]: The remote is now available through Deutsche Telekom to subscribers of its MagentaTV service, Universal Electronics announced in a press release. The original article continues right ahead.

It’s got a dedicated Siri button, just like the oft-criticized Siri Remote.

There are also dedicated media playback buttons, separate volume and channel rockers, a directional control pad, Menu and Home buttons, a power button and a program guide button for live TV. Unlike the Siri Remote, Universal’s device has backlit keys that are paired with an ambient light sensor to automatically illuminate the keys in low-light conditions.

There’s also a built-in accelerometer sensor, but no touch-sensitive surface like on Apple’s remote. The device uses Apple’s MFi chip for secure connectivity with ‌Apple TV‌. The remote will start selling to pay-TV operators and cable companies next year. Universal Electronics has no plans to offer the accessory directly to consumers as a standalone purchase.

“This remote offers convenient features to quickly access the EPG or channel surf live programming available through the MVPD’s app on ‌Apple TV‌ 4K,” said Paul Arling, CEO, Universal Electronics Inc.

Here are the key features:

  • Advanced search and control: Customers can ask Siri to find and access content across live TV and streaming apps.
  • Enhanced controls for live TV: Dedicated program guide and channel keys provide easy and instant access to key live TV viewing functions.
  • Whole entertainment system control: Modeless support and universal control of Apple TV, as well as televisions and audio devices from any brand or manufacturer.
  • Reliable and secure communication: Integrated design with UE878, UEI’s reliable and highly integrated BLE chipset optimized for voice control, and Apple’s MFi authentication chip for secure connectivity with Apple TV.
  • Premium fit and feel: Elegant and ergonomic form factor with hard-capped keys on metal domes for enhanced tactile feedback.
  • Automated backlit keys: Accelerometer and ambient light sensor to automatically backlight keys in low light environments when the remote is picked up or moved
  • MVPD branding: Service providers can add their own company brand on the remote

Universal Electronics wants to cut deals with cable companies interested in bundling
Universal’s remote with their own pay-TV and streaming packages. Companies can order the new remote starting next month.

Last December, Swiss broadband provider Salt started offering a Siri Remote alternative along with the Apple TV‌ 4K set-top boxes to subscribers. Their remote features a Menu button, a four-way directional pad, volume and playback controls, a Mute button, skip and forward buttons and more. Cable companies giving away Apple’s set-top box is nothing new: Vivendi’s Canal+ Group, for example, two years ago began offering the Apple TV 4K as an alternative to traditional set-top cable television boxes and DVR.