Google has been working on a virtual remote in the Google TV app for some time. We first spotted the feature in version 4.25 of the app in March. Although the feature wasn’t live at the time, we managed to manually enable it to give us a preview of what to expect when it finally rolls out with a future release. At I/O 2021 in May, Google then announced that it was working on building the remote control feature directly into Android phones, allowing all users to easily control their Android TVs. The company is finally rolling out the feature to users.
The new Virtual Remote feature is a more polished version of what we first saw in March this year. As you can see from the image above, it features a large trackpad to help you navigate your Android TV, back button, home button, Google Assistant button, and volume controls.
You can access the new remotes by tapping the new floating action button (the one with a remote icon) in the Google TV app, or by adding the TV Remote tile to your phone’s quick settings. To add the tile, swipe down twice from the top of your screen to open quick settings and tap the edit button in the bottom left to add a new tile. Next, press and hold on the new TV Remote tile and drag it above the “Hold and drag to add tiles” section.
Although the remote doesn’t have a dedicated button to bring up your phone’s keyboard, it does allow you to type passwords and search queries on your Android TV. To do this, you just need to select any text input field on your Android TV using the remote control, and the keyboard will appear automatically. The feature will also let you paste text to speed up the process even more. As noted in the attached tweet, the TV remote also gives you the option to switch between trackpad and D-pad.
Google is currently rolling out the new virtual remote feature first in the US, but they plan to expand it to 14 other countries over the next few weeks.