More Streaming Remotes Need to Be Battery-Free

Illustration for article titled More Streaming Remotes Need to Be Battery-Free
Photo: Catie Keck/Gizmodo

Enough with the AAA batteries.

Gizmodo reviewed a lot of streaming gadgets this year, budget and premium devices alike. When staring at a heap of dongles, streaming sticks, and set-top boxes, one thing becomes immediately clear: Way too many dang remotes rely on batteries, and way too many of those batteries end up being tossed out and pollute the environment.

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We’re talking most of the major streaming devices available right now. Roku, Fire TV, Chromecast with Google TV, Nvidia Shield TV, Tivo Stream 4K, and others all require a pair of batteries that will most likely eventually wind up in the trash. Apple TV’s remote is a rare outlier; it charges via a Lightning port.

I’m not giving Apple a free pass here on its dumb proprietary charging protocol. Device- or maker-specific charging cables are a huge pain in the butt, an environmental nightmare in their own right, and an avoidable problem that might be solved with a universal charging standard like USB-C. In my perfect world, the next-generation Apple TV would phase out its hell port in favor of something that plays nice with other charging cables and devices—though based on its recent product launches, I’m not holding my breath.

But Apple still has the best solution for reducing battery waste than most other major streamers. A single charge on my Apple TV remote can last months without me having to plug it in again, while some Roku users, for example, have reported that their remotes chew through batteries like wild. Of course, rechargeable batteries are an option here, but how many users are really going out of their way to equip their clickers with these to avoid waste? And most streaming devices I’ve unboxed ship with a standard pair of AAA batteries anyway.

Americans already throw out billions of batteries a year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Globally, a report earlier this year found the world trashed a record amount of e-waste, which batteries contribute to. Now, there are lots of ways to ensure fewer batteries end up in the trash, like improving recycling access.

But all I’m saying is that companies making grand (and disingenuous) climate pledges are also making it difficult from the consumer side to be mindful of waste. Is a rechargeable streaming remote with a universal charging port really too much to ask for? C’mon now.

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I’ll do you one better. We need to get rid of single device remotes entirely. Replace literally all of it with Bluetooth or something similar. You get a device, sync it to your phone (or a universal remote for the less tech-savvy old people), and then you can control it with that device.

No additional batteries, no small plastic brick that comes with literally every new device. No losing remotes, no having to point the remote at a little sensor to get it to work.

Want to turn on the TV? Open the single Universal Remote app that comes standard on any smart phone or tablet and select the TV from list of connected remotes. Gotta change the channel on your cable box? Flip to the cable box and do it. Got a stereo? No problem. Remote control fan? Sure thing. Smart lights? Absolutely.

Then for people who want added efficiency, custom remotes and presets. A “living room” custom remote that has volume controls on sound bar, channel controls from cable box, and other stuff from TV. Want to watch a movie? Select the “Movie” preset you made that dims the lights, starts the needed devices, and changes your phone to silent.

And best of all, if you can’t find a remote or phone you use as a remote then you can just hold some designated button on any connected device and it plays a chime on connected remotes in range to help you find it.

It’s 20 fucking 21, why is this not a thing yet?