So last Fall when I first heard about companies turning phones into remote controls, I thought it was a silly idea. I’d like to kick this post off by saying I’ve come around fairly full circle on it. In other words? I was wrong (yes, it’s happened – but don’t worry, it’s just this once). So I’m going to counter my own post with my revised feelings on the matter.
To begin with, my fundamental argument against the phone as remote is similar to my feelings as the phone being used for anything other than a phone (+apps) on a recurring basis. In other words, my phone is a lousy GPS device if I need to make a call while I’m lost. My phone is a lousy cooking timer if the alert doesn’t remind me to get my eggs off the burner because I’m playing Words With Friends.
Over the past ~8 months, I’ve evolved this argument into the following state: users must conditions themselves to the concept that their phone can be a pretty good ____, but will ultimately default to be a phone first and foremost. In other words, your iPhone is a phone that can also be a GPS or also be a kitchen timer. But at the end of the day, if you really really need a super reliable GPS or kitchen timer, you probably don’t want to solely rely on your phone.
So in that context, and now highly specifically related to Dijit (where I work, remember?), I’ve come to find my iPhone makes for a really good remote control. I just sometimes still want the physical one nearby – and that’s okay. In my media room (aka mancave), I have 6 devices, their remotes, and a Harmony 880 as well. I’ve got it working pretty nicely with Dijit/Beacon, and I think it’s overall a better solution than I had before. Here’s why:
1. Completely customizable controls – as much as the Harmony unified all my devices, there’s just no way to have all the relevant buttons accessible at the same time.
2. Line of sight – two of the devices I own have mediocre IR sensors, which makes the task of perfectly pointing the physical remotes a challenge which the Beacon’s stronger IR emitter solved.
3. IP-enabled - at least 3 of my consumer electronics devices are “smart” and can be controlled over IP, meaning I can have absolutely perfect control without any need for IR whatsoever – and there’s only more Smart TVs and related products to come… (btw Roku owners can see what I’m talking about already – download the app here)
4. Upgrades and the Future – not totally fair, since I know what we’re actually building at Dijit, but suffice it to say the future looks incredibly bright for what the fully integrated app has in store.
I think my final comment on using the iPhone as a remote is this: for my personal use, I still like having a physical remote around (not 6, but 1), and that’s okay. I like having mute, pause, and volume controls accessible 100% of the time with no risk of sleep, battery, app switching, etc. Some people won’t have these issues and will go iPhone-only. Some people will never get past a touch-screen remote. But I have a hunch there’s going to be a lot of folks like myself, where a hybrid solution presents an amazing experience for the digital living room. Can’t wait to share more about what we have in store down the road!