Sony Google TV vs Apple TV remotes

Sony's Google TV remote (left) as compared to Apple TV's remote (right) help make manifest just how different these products will be, and they're just two of the competitors poised to battle it out for next generation rights to your living room this holiday season.

Since Google's UI will be more search based and Apple's is more browsing based, is it right tool for right job? Or will we all be using our Android and iOS devices to control our fancy TV boxes anyway, so who cares what default hardware remote ships in the box?

More buttons than a NASA console or fewer than a classic iPod, which do you prefer?

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, Review, The TV Show, Vector, ZEN & TECH, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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There are 31 comments. Add yours.

chrisoldroyd says:

It reminds me of an episode of Modern Family when they got the new Home Cinema. If I gave my wife one of the Sony Google Remotes she would just give me one of those looks and never use it.

Tom says:

I will buy whichever one has support for a dual tuner atsc. So far that is windows media cent so that's what i use. If google tv supports it I will drop my windows box and switch, obviously apple will never support free tv

Pimp Lucious says:

Your Android and iPhone(ipod & iPad) can serve as your remote also, as demonstrated at about 3:28 in the ABC video. Voice Search even. Google FTW.....again.

Fraydog says:

FreakNasty,
Really? How many people are going to use their mobile device as the remote? Voice search? Really not ready for prime time. How hard would it be for the Sony people to copy Jony Ive? Most people who aren't as technologically adept won't have a clue how to do those things. Then again, you are the one making this a fanboy debate. It only shows how clueless you are.

KriZia says:

Once you link the Apple TV to your various accounts (iTunes, Netflix, YouTube), the remote becomes far more useful and convenient. While not meant for searching, I don't think you can hold that against Apple TV since you can link your iPhone to it for those few instances. At least that's what I did.

Dennis says:

The Sony remote actually looks incredible - a lot better than the remotes with a more traditional shape and a slide-out keyboard. But again, Google TV and ATV are not really competitors, and these remotes are not remotes for similar devices. Google TV working with Android phones is more a kind of a bonus for Android phone users. Sony doesn't even make an Android phone, and they're putting Google TV into a television; so the Sony remote is obviously a remote for the TV as a whole. Apple is more counting on existing brand loyalty to sell ATV anyway - someone who is one of the tens of millions of iOS device-owners is more likely to buy an ATV and gets added benefits from using a portable iOS device as a remote and with AirPlay.

Razouille says:

I'm kind a fed up René with these Android vs iOS stories.
You can't compare these things like this... it would be cool to have a small remote able to do the same things as the big one, but in this case they don't do the same thing. Sony's does not only play/pause/ff/rw. Goodluck entering an url or the show you search with Apple's remote.

Pimp Lucious says:

So most people can't download an app and pair a bluetooth device, or use wifi like demonstrated here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TeRIX7czZE0. Can they not setup up a Harmony remote? I guess using Airplay with an iPhone or iPad is destined to fail. Sorry Fraydog, but voice search on Android is well ready for prime time.

Dennis says:

Rene, I don't think you really know what Google TV is and why it has any appeal. In a sense, the TV situation is similar to the cell phone situation. In this scenario, manufacturers want to build an internet-capable device. What they need is an OS. But, building an OS takes continuous resources to maintain, applications need to be written and updated, and the results can be highly variable. TV manufacturers are already building internet-capable TVs, to interface with YouTube (owned by Google), Netflix, Hulu, weather information, etc. For instance, Samsung's new internet-capable TV does those things, runs widgets/apps, and lacks a keyboard remote (it uses T9). Every TV manufacturer is looking into the development of the same functions. Google TV offers better integration of the internet and traditional TV content sources than Samsung's current offering, and it offers a unified app architecture; it alleviates the manufacturer's need to build a custom in-house OS that no one else uses, simplifying the end-user experience as a result. Google wants to function as the default interface to the internet, no matter what device people use to access the internet; whereas, with ATV, Apple just wants to integrate TVs into their ecosystem of content delivery and portable devices. We won't be seeing ATV bundled into a television as a part of its basic functioning. Apple doesn't care what else you do with your TV, it just wants to use the TV to function as a display. If you bought a new TV with integrated Google TV, but you wanted it to work with iTunes, the iPad, etc., you would just attach an ATV to it. ATV might get sales on Netflix support alone, but in the long run, TVs are already getting built-in Netflix support, and that won't be a selling point for a set-top box.

Webvex says:

Wow! That Sony remote has geek written all over it. One of the reasons I've always bought Sony TVs is for their excellent remotes. But then Google has always been hopelessly tied to keyboards. That looks like an RC model controller. Thanks for a good laugh.

iDavey says:

@Rene
I remember seeing the Engadget review on using the ATV remote. They said it's horrid trying to do ANY text input and using that thing...so hmm.
All in all...the fact that GTV allows you to use any Android/iOS phone (and I'm sure they'll make that a key selling point during the advertising of the product) to control the tv and ATV allows you to use the Remote app...it kind of makes the standalone remote kind of obsolete. As Engadget itself said...the best remote is a virtual one. Shifting to your needs when you need it.

Alex says:

Wait is that one of the rare white Atari Jaguar controllers?

Fraydog says:

Wow freaknasty I didn't know you used the voice capability on any Google TV product yet. Comparing the Sony remote to a Harmony is an apples to oranges comparison if I have ever heard one. It's clear you haven't used the new Apple TV either. It never claimed to be a search device, the Google TV devices did. I think you really need to take a better understanding of what paradigms Apple is using rather than blindly attacking that which you fail to understand.

Pimp Lucious says:

The voice search goes through the phone/google servers as demonstrated in the video. That I have used on my Android, and the accuracy is superb. I didn't compare it to the Sony, my comparison was to the smartphone apps to be used for both GoogleTV and Apple Airplay. Outside of that I didn't comment on the Apple TV or its search capability. Perhaps you are responding to iDavey. The only one attacking here is you attacking GoogleTV, a product you certainly haven't used yet.

Fraydog says:

I said that voice search on TV wasn't ready... Different can of worms. Siri works well, Google voice search on both Android and the iPhone also works well. As far as attacking Google TV, I wasn't. My original post was attacking the Sony TV remote. Read it again. I want attacking Google TV, I was attacking the horrid design of the Sony remote.

Tom from Myspace says:

What poor design. I would never let something so horrendous into my living space. Thus sayeth, Tom.

sfwrtr says:

When we get our Apple TV and the HDTV it will use, I suspect that both myself and my wife will use the Apple Remote app. We both have iPhones that are constant companions, and usually easier than to find the remote controls for the TV. The App's better functionality cinches that and makes the Apple TV offering more tempting. I will admit brand bias, though, in my choice... but I also think ATV will evolve into much more, and be much more usable and easy to use than its competitors. I've seen that in the iPhone. Mr. Jobs, rejoice. Am I being naive?

deadp1xel says:

Am I the only one that believes that Google TV will go the way of MSN Web TV? Does anyone else remember that thing? Anyway, I'm not a fan boy, but I don't think Apple or Google will succeed at this. Apple doesn't take it seriously enough, hence the multitude of references that's it's just a hobby. Google, on the other hand, assumes that everyone knows how to use the internet, and believe me I have met people my age (21) who don't know how to do this simplest of tasks when put in front of a computer. I really don't think either of these products holds much value since both companies are doing too much and too little at the same time.
I am pretty techie, and even I don't want my remote to my TV to have a keyboard. If I'm watching TV, I would like to just watch TV. I like how Apple TV keeps it simple, but I don't like how it is essentially a glorified netflix box. I mean honestly, who rent through apple instead of netflix? Netflix is so much cheaper, and if they don't have what you are looking for in the streaming catalog you could still always use Apple's service as a last resort. Well, that's my .02.

frog says:

That Sony remote, is the most ridiculous thing I have ever seen!

tuscanidream says:

The appletv remote is perfect for watching movies, it's main function. But when you have to type with it (for instance, a YouTube search), it's worthless. Don't even bother. So idk.

Luis says:

its like using an xbox controller, i love it!

Chuck Svajgl says:

Simplicity rules the media experience!

Tony says:

I don't know what all the fuss over this remote is about, the form factor might leave something to desire, but since Google TV will actually have you surfing & searching the web. You're probably going to want a full keyboard.. Or maybe not, maybe I'm just crazy. If you look at this remote, take away the qwerty.. guess what. Its just a standard remote in a not so standard form factor. I guess three buttons is all you'd need for banging around in a virtual iTunes-esque space.

Blaque says:

Well I must say the remote looks crazy. But I'm having a hard time trying to figure out how you'd build a remote to handle the full features of Google TV without it being large. I got a glimpse of the Logitech Revue mini remote and it looks like its a better idea. The Android manufacturers should probably come together and push the idea of using the phones as remotes. It could potentially increase sales of both.
But also I have to agree with some of the posters. There is really no point in comparing Apple TV and Google TV. They are two things in two different directions.....right now that is. I do believe Apple will follow suit and it may be the reason they pushed iOS onto the ATV. If Google TV takes off and it turns into a tightly integrated with Android phones type of situation then Apple will have another hit against the iPhone. Plus Google TV and Microsoft's Xbox integration are setting those two up to do some VERY big things with their phone platforms that Apple won't be able to do if they don't have some sort of TV integration.

alexmd says:

I think in 5 years at most it will be hard to find a new LED TV without GTV built in. Even if only 10% of owners actually use it. anything without full internet with flash will look archaic. It adds very little to the cost and the OS is free, so why not put it in. Apple TV is just another payment terminal for SJ and CO.

randomguyreading says:

@ Dennis: Sony do make Android devices - they have three phones out right now - the Xperia X10, a high end Android phone, the Xperia X10 Mini, a low end Android phone and the Xperia X10 Mini Pro, a mid-range Android phone

raven says:

Apple TV does NOT work for the following. It cannot STREAM video directly from your wireless modem/router/network to the TV, it tries to load it. Note it can stream wireless content from content loaded on your computer like on Itunes, which you have downloaded or created but it CANNOT stream movies directly from modem to Apple TV, the latter is wired to your TV via HDMI cable.
Just an fyi

Sarah says:

My husband and I just purchased the GOOGLE TV and have been playing around with it a lot. I love it. As a consumer and an employee getting the Google TV was one of the best purchases we have got. To be able to switch to from TV to the web on my TV is great! I'm so addicted to just being in front of the TV. I know it can be a bad thing but so worth it.

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Wesley says:

The Sony google tv is amazing it switches from my didigtal tv to Internet with seamlessly. As far as the remote it is fun to use your phone for like a day. But the Sony remote is great! Never point your remote at a device again sit how you want. The remote itself holds much like a play station control which is of great comfort in my mind. As for the " ugly dorky looking key board" you will fall in love with it when you are cruising through YouTube, which looks as good as on your pc or Mac unlike the play station or Xbox pixel fest