For nearly any household or lifestyle task or interest, there is, as the commercials say, “an app for that”. Add to that impressive list the RedEye universal remote control system, which consists of a free app bundled with a Wi-Fi-to-infrared bridge and an assortment of adapters that can turn your iPhone or iPod touch into a multi-room, multi-component remote control.
For a lot of us, a universal remote makes a lot of sense. With a monitor, DVR or cable box, receiver, disk player, and media player, we quickly end up with a basket full of similar-looking controllers. The folks over at RedEye sent me a demo unit to test and play around with and – after a week of setting it up and putting it through its paces – I can say that once you configure the RedEye to your liking, it should be capable of handling your remote control needs. (The RedEye system works with both the iPhone and iPod touch, for this review the terms will be used interchangeably for descriptive purposes.)
After installing a free app from the iTunes app store, your iPod Touch can then communicate with the RedEye bridge which interprets control input from your iPod touch and converts the input to an infrared signal, which it then relays to your audio-visual device. Want to change a channel? Touch your phone screen and the cable box will respond … almost … immediately. There is just a touch of latency as the command gets translated to an infrared signal. It’s not much, but you notice it at first.
Out of the box, basic setup is relatively easy: plug in the bridge and open your phone’s settings to register the device to your network. All you have to do from there is open the RedEye app and register your various devices: televisions, Tivo, DVD and BluRay players – even the Roku is there. A couple of quick touches and your devices and their commands are registered. In the rare event that your television brand or DVR is not listed in the RedEye database, the bridge (which also charges your iPod) can learn any infrared device.
The next step is somewhere between a pretty quick task and an all-day adventure depending on what you expect from your remote. Because the RedEye is incredibly customizable, creating the visual interface can be as simple as accepting a default template or as incredibly complicated as you want to make it. RedEye supports macros so the remote is capable of multiple commands with a single touch.
Once you are setup, it’s just a matter of touching buttons like you would on any other remote. And for some basic functions like changing channels or adjusting volume, multi-touch gestures allow for eyes-free control.
The RedEye system slots right into the price range of most universal remote control systems with a price tag of $188, with a significant difference to other universal remotes in that RedEye uses hardware that you already own. But RedEye’s position is that the price is actually a good deal because they offer the same feature set as high-end, luxury, multi-controller systems, which can cost in the neighborhood of a thousand dollars. Aside from its customization, each bridge is capable of receiving commands from multiple iPod touches and iPhones.
My biggest complaint is that – while setup isn’t impossible – it’s not nearly as intuitive as it should be. I’ve grown accustomed to great user interfaces and smart setup for most Apple-related applications. RedEye misses the mark on this count, leaving me pretty frustrated at times. For example, visual interfaces for devices must be setup under “Activities” from a text list in the setup. (That doesn’t make sense to me at all – why not put it under “Devices” or “Commands” where you’d expect a device’s commands to be?) The app does have a help system and an online owner’s manual that — while not as straightforward as I would like — got me back on track, but only after repeated readings of the manual and a good deal of trial and error. Once you’ve set the device up, it works as expected – it’s just that getting there can be a laborious chore.
Also, if your iPhone rings while watching a movie, you would probably want to pause or mute your entertainment. Unfortunately – since the phone takes command of the screen – backtracking to pause or mute becomes a bit of a headache.
RedEye will also be available for the coming iPad, with special features that take advantage of the iPad’s screen real estate. And to get ready for the iPad, RedEye has just launched a refer-a-friend sweepstakes. For every friend you refer that purchases a RedEye universal remote control system before March 31, you’ll be entered in a chance to win an Apple iPad. More here.
Wired: The system is immensely customizable. Deep database of devices and infrared codes.
Tired: High price barrier for some users. Setup and menus are not as intuitive as other applications and devices.
The RedEye universal remote control system, $188.