6: The Siri button – you're pushing it wrong

In January, I walked into my local Apple Store to buy a new Apple TV. I knew for sure that I was going to be leaving the store with one, but not having played with it at all, I asked an employee at the front of the store to direct me to a demo unit. I snatched up the Siri remote and she left to help another customer.

The main thing I wanted to do before making my purchase was to search the App Store, a task that's still impossible unless you're sitting in front of an Apple TV. (Unfortunately many of the apps I hoped to find weren't there, and still aren't. I'm looking at you, Big Ten Network.) Part of this was also a test of "typing" with the trackpad and letter line, another part of the tvOS experience that I'd heard complaints about, but hadn't experienced myself. Two letters into pecking out "Fox Sports", another Apple store employee approached me.

He opened with, "Dude, I'm gonna blow your mind."

I looked across at him and, with an inkling of where this was going, asked, "Siri?"

"Yeah, man!"

I handed over the remote, simultaneously explaining that I was certain that you couldn't enter text in the search field with Siri, but have at it, man, dude.

"What are you looking for?"

"Fox Sports."

"Siri, show me the Fox Sports app." After a couple seconds, Siri proffered a completely unrelated game that had been installed.

I got the remote back, enthusiastic Apple employee shrugged, I bought my Apple TV, and you still can't enter text with Siri. But that is slated to change in tvOS 9.2. As soon as I heard about the feature, I imagined how it would work: push and hold for universal search, or push once to toggle dictation. Unless something changes between beta and final release, I'll be wrong — dictation entry will also require push and hold.

My prediction wasn't fanciful; I'd noticed a gap in the Apple TV interface. Of all the buttons on the Siri remote, one of them does essentially nothing if you push it once, and it's the namesake button. It's an odd choice, and one I hope the tvOS team reconsiders. tvOS is a close cousin of iOS, and interface parallelism between the two is a major benefit. Two contextually determined button actions for talking into the Siri remote seems complex, until you realize that's the behavior on iOS: push and hold the home button to command Siri, or tap the onscreen microphone button to begin dictation (and then tap again to finish).

As critical observers of Apple, we hate to see them miss low-hanging fruit. On the other hand, any dictation on the Apple TV will be one of several welcome improvements as the platform and operating system mature. Oh, and tvOS 9.2 also brings the App Store into the realm of universal Siri search. My friend at the Apple Store will finally get to blow some minds.