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Using the iPod / iPhone / iPad as a universal remote control

jamesaevans

Novice Member
1.0 Introduction
I’ve been looking at getting a Philips Pronto universal remote control for many months, but the high cost in the UK has been holding me back from making a purchase. For example the TSU9400 model is currently retailing for around £700 and the larger TSU9400 model is currently retailing for around £1,000.

In addition if you wanted to control your devices without having direct line of site you would also need to purchase a wireless extender, for example the Philips RFX9400 retailing for around £250. A number of forum members have previously imported the Philips Pronto remote controls from the USA, but the weakening of the exchange rate has eroded most the potential saving and introduces potential warranty issues should the remote control develop a fault.

Even the much more basic and less flexible Logitech Harmony 1100 remote control is currently retailing for over £300, which prompted me to explore the potential of the Apple iPod / iPhone / iPad for use as a universal remote control. I was surprised to find that there were a large number of solutions already available or currently under development, therefore I have created this thread to summarise the available apps / hardware and to discuss forum member’s experiences of these solutions.

Unfortunately the iPod / iPhone / iPad do not include an InfraRed (IR) transmitter (hopefully one will be included in the next generation of devices), a separate hardware device is required to transmit the IR commands from the iPod / iPhone / iPad to your devices. The available solutions can broadly be divided into one of the following two categories:
• Solutions which use the built in WiFi capability of the Apple iPod / iPhone / iPad and an external IR converter to control your devices
• Solutions which add an additional hardware dongle to Apple iPod / iPhone / iPad enabling it to use IR to control your devices directly

With an 8GB iPod touch retailing for around £150 (assuming you don’t already have one) and IR hardware dongles expected to retail for around £50 there is potential to have a touch screen universal remote control solution for significantly less than the Philips Pronto range of devices.

However the apps and hardware are still at an early stage of development and there is not a clear market leader at this point, so there is likely to be some teething problems as developers continue to address bugs and refine functionality.
 

jamesaevans

Novice Member
2.0 WiFi with external IR converter
These solutions use the built in WiFi capability of the Apple iPod / iPhone / iPad and an external IR converter to control your devices.
Positives:
• Provides control without having direct line of site
• Does not add additional bulk to the iPod / iPhone / iPad
• More flexible user interface designs
Negatives:
• More expensive iPod / iPhone / iPad apps
• Requires the purchase of an external IR converter
• More difficult to setup

The following companies are providing apps in this category:
• Airremote (http://www.airremote.com/index.php?page=0)
• Bobby (Bobby - Universal Remote Control software for the Apple iPhone and iPod Touch)
• CommandFusion (iViewer - Product - CommandFusion)
• iMasterControl (iMasterControl)
• iRule (iRule - iPhone & iPod Touch Universal Remote Control)
• ThinkFloor: RedEye (ThinkFlood :: Say Hello to RedEye mini)
• Total Control (Total Control - Home)

The following companies are providing external IR converters:
• Bitwise Controls (Bitwise Controls : Home)
• Global Caché (http://www.globalcache.com/index.html)
• IRTrans (IRTrans Infrared Control System)

Not all IR converters work with all of the iPod / iPhone / iPad apps listed above so you should check carefully to ensure compatibility before making a purchase.
 
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jamesaevans

Novice Member
3.0 IR hardware dongle
These solutions add an additional hardware dongle to Apple iPod / iPhone / iPad enabling it to use IR to control your devices directly.
Positives:
• Cheaper iPod / iPhone / iPad apps
• IR dongles cheaper that external IR converter
• Easier to set up
Negatives:
• Cannot provide control without having direct line of site
• Adds additional bulk to the iPod / iPhone / iPad
• Less flexible user interface designs

The following companies are providing apps and hardware dongles in this category:
• L5 Remote (http://l5remote.com/)
• New Kinetix (http://www.newkinetix.com/)
• Power A (http://www.powera.com/iphone/iphone.asp?section=0&prod=1)
• ThinkFloor: RedEye Mini (http://thinkflood.com/)
 
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jamesaevans

Novice Member
Hopefully that's a good start and we can bring all iPod / iPhone / iPad remote discussions together into this thread. Personally I'm still not sure which route I'm going to go down, but I'm planning to try the RedEye Mini when it's releassed in the coming weeks.

If anyone knows of any other remote control apps for the iPod / iPhone / iPad or has any experiences to share please post in this thread and I'll update the posts above accordingly.

Best wishes
James
 
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dar2005

Novice Member
What an excellent thread! Thanks for starting this up. As soon as the iPad was announced the other week, I thought there could well be a place for that in the lounge not only as an internet tablet, but also to control my AV devices and music collection etc etc.

I shall certainly be looking more closely at some of those links above.
 

baandar

Novice Member
Another thanks here. I have just started looking into this myself and will eagerly keep an eye on this thread. I was looking at the ipod touch 8GB and the redeye option but i'm holding off until the next ipod is announced as it would be my luck the ir sender will be incorporated.

Although i'm not too convinced it will happen as apple are not well know to support other hardware, why would they really want to add ir to the ipod? They have the remote app for the apple tv.

Fingers crossed though as the itouch as a universal remote has possibilities.
 

jamesaevans

Novice Member
Hi baandar and dar2005,

Glad to hear that you think this thread will be useful and good to know that other forum members are thinking along the same lines.

I really hope that Apple include an IR port on the next generation of iPods/iPhones, but I'm not confident that this will happen. If it did it would make it easier for the app developers and cheaper for us as end consumers as we don't need to buy additional hardware dongle or WiFi to IR converter.

I guess we can only wait and see what happens in the summer, in the mean time I look forward to checking out the iPad in person next month to get a feel for the size of the device. Its hard to tell if it will be too big to use as a remote from the online photos.

Best wishes
James
 

Palladio

Active Member
Yes, a great thread. One I will certainly keep an eye on as it could be a killer app for my iPod touch.

Only concern I would have is how much of a drain on the battery life the add-on's will have.
 

baandar

Novice Member
I was looking at getting a cradle to sit the ipod touch in whilst not in use so keeping it charged.
 

shade_of_meta

Novice Member
Great thread jamesaevans!

tbh I'm surprised its taken this long for someone to start a thread, AVS has 50 pages worth!

Anyway...I recently sold my Pronto 9600 in anticipation of the iPad...I even got more than I paid for it 3 years ago due to the exchange rate so its all good :smashin:

Looking forward to the launch and actual apps making their way to the market...it'll be very interesting to see which succeed ( i'd say 1 or 2 will make it ) and IMO regardless of the iPads battery life, it couldn't be any worse than a Pronto :rolleyes:

Commandfusion *appear* to be leading the race at the minute but my choice will depend on how they handle htpc, interactive tv guide and general speed as well as customisability and sleep options....not asking for much right enough!
 

jamesaevans

Novice Member
I was looking at getting a cradle to sit the ipod touch in whilst not in use so keeping it charged.
Hi baandar,

I've also been looking for an ipod dock for the same reason.

I have a gloss back tv cabinet under my gloss black plasma, so it needs to match in, no white or silver docs for me. The best one I have found is the from Denon ASD-11R (DENON UK | Home Audio Components) not cheap at about £90, but would look great and work with my Denon amp.

Any other suggestions on a black iPod doc?

Thanks
James
 

baandar

Novice Member
sorry, not looked in detail at the dock yet as i wanted to work out if the touch would be my best option :) I have looked at that denon dock but bit pricey just for a charger (in my case).
 

jamesaevans

Novice Member

ukprometheus

Active Member
and about time a thread like this appeared :D i have also been drooling over the idea of an ipad as a universal remote, personaly i think i would rather go down the Global cache route with the ipod or ipad:D

i have just been waiting for other people to make the leap but at the moment brave people seem a little thin on the ground :rotfl: me included
 

bail0ut

Novice Member
One brave user reporting.

I've gone down the ipod touch/itach/iviewer route. My setup is relatively simple: Sony kdl-w4500, denon avr2802 and skyhd all controlled via IR also I have a popcorn hour C-200 currently controlled using raw keyboard commands.

If you're the kind of person that likes a bit of tinkering then you'll enjoy creating your own swish looking gui with commandfusion gui designer. But this app isn't cheap should you wish to expand beyond the free single portrait/landscape pages to include other sub pages.

Initially the learning curve can be steep when it comes to designing your gui, but theres plenty of help in the wiki.

Overall I'm very pleased with how everything works, and more so that it didn't cost big bucks like having a crestron/amx processor would.

So if you're brave and have 500 odd quid spare go for it, you won't be disappointed. :thumbsup:

P.S. I will get an ipad in a few months time as that will look even better sat on my coffee table plus you can fit more buttons in the gui as it's 1024x768.
 
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jamesaevans

Novice Member
One brave user reporting.

I've gone down the ipod touch/itach/iviewer route. My setup is relatively simple: Sony kdl-w4500, denon avr2802 and skyhd all controlled via IR also I have a popcorn hour C-200 currently controlled using raw keyboard commands.

If you're the kind of person that likes a bit of tinkering then you'll enjoy creating your own swish looking gui with commandfusion gui designer. But this app isn't cheap should you wish to expand beyond the free single portrait/landscape pages to include other sub pages.

Initially the learning curve can be steep when it comes to designing your gui, but theres plenty of help in the wiki.

Overall I'm very pleased with how everything works, and more so that it didn't cost big bucks like having a crestron/amx processor would.

So if you're brave and have 500 odd quid spare go for it, you won't be disappointed. :thumbsup:

P.S. I will get an ipad in a few months time as that will look even better sat on my coffee table plus you can fit more buttons in the gui as it's 1024x768.

Hi bail0ut,

Thank you for sharing your experiences with us, good to know someone in the UK is experimenting with this technology. Could you share some images of the user interface that you have created?

Hopefully my iPhone should arrive by the end of May so I can also begin playing with this technology. Planning to experiment with my iPhone and then buy a dedicated iPod Touch or iPad if it works well for me.

I'm planning to go with iRule at the momenent although that could change in the next couple of months. Any particular reason you went for iviewer from commandfusion over the other available apps?

I agree the iPad has a certain wow factor as a remote control, but I'm worried it might be a bit too large. Guess we will only know once we get our hands on one in the coming weeks.

Best wishes
James
 

ukprometheus

Active Member
any chance of some pics of what you have achieved on the ipad and some pics of your setup :D


One brave user reporting.

I've gone down the ipod touch/itach/iviewer route. My setup is relatively simple: Sony kdl-w4500, denon avr2802 and skyhd all controlled via IR also I have a popcorn hour C-200 currently controlled using raw keyboard commands.

If you're the kind of person that likes a bit of tinkering then you'll enjoy creating your own swish looking gui with commandfusion gui designer. But this app isn't cheap should you wish to expand beyond the free single portrait/landscape pages to include other sub pages.

Initially the learning curve can be steep when it comes to designing your gui, but theres plenty of help in the wiki.

Overall I'm very pleased with how everything works, and more so that it didn't cost big bucks like having a crestron/amx processor would.

So if you're brave and have 500 odd quid spare go for it, you won't be disappointed. :thumbsup:

P.S. I will get an ipad in a few months time as that will look even better sat on my coffee table plus you can fit more buttons in the gui as it's 1024x768.
 

bail0ut

Novice Member
Hi bail0ut,

Thank you for sharing your experiences with us, good to know someone in the UK is experimenting with this technology. Could you share some images of the user interface that you have created?

Hopefully my iPhone should arrive by the end of May so I can also begin playing with this technology. Planning to experiment with my iPhone and then buy a dedicated iPod Touch or iPad if it works well for me.

I'm planning to go with iRule at the momenent although that could change in the next couple of months. Any particular reason you went for iviewer from commandfusion over the other available apps?

I agree the iPad has a certain wow factor as a remote control, but I'm worried it might be a bit too large. Guess we will only know once we get our hands on one in the coming weeks.

Best wishes
James
Hi James

I'll gladly share some images in a couple of weeks once I have something worth showing as right now it's only a very basic gui just to get everything doing what I want. I'm working on a sky+hd remote style gui for both ipod and ipad aimed at sky customers but this won't be ready for a few weeks due to being overworked as usual :thumbsdow. Also commandfusions gui designer will be updated soon to allow for better performance when creating ipad gui's as it's a big sluggish atm when in 1024x768.

The main reason I chose iviewer is simple, you can make it look exactly how you want it.

Personally I don't think the ipad will look too large, but I guess that depends on individual tastes.

How much equipment do you plan to take control of once you get your iphone/touch/pad?
 

jamesaevans

Novice Member
Hi James

I'll gladly share some images in a couple of weeks once I have something worth showing as right now it's only a very basic gui just to get everything doing what I want. I'm working on a sky+hd remote style gui for both ipod and ipad aimed at sky customers but this won't be ready for a few weeks due to being overworked as usual :thumbsdow. Also commandfusions gui designer will be updated soon to allow for better performance when creating ipad gui's as it's a big sluggish atm when in 1024x768.

The main reason I chose iviewer is simple, you can make it look exactly how you want it.

Personally I don't think the ipad will look too large, but I guess that depends on individual tastes.

How much equipment do you plan to take control of once you get your iphone/touch/pad?
Hi bail0ut,

Keep up the good work and I look forward to seeing what you have come up with when it is ready to share. Being a SKY HD user myself I will be particularly interested to see how the tv guide comes out.

In terms of equipment I am looking to control:
  • Pioneer KRP500M (Ethernet)
  • Denon 3808 (Ethernet)
  • Pioneer DVD Recorder (IR)
  • Sky HD (IR)
  • Blu-ray player when purchased (probably Denon or Oppo)
  • HTPC or Mediastreamer when purchased

Thanks
James
 
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bail0ut

Novice Member
Hi bail0ut,

Keep up the good work and I look forward to seeing what you have come up with when it is ready to share. Being a SKY HD user myself I will be particularly interested to see how the tv guide comes out.

In terms of equipment I am looking to control:
  • Pioneer KRP500M (Ethernet)
  • Denon 3808 (Ethernet)
  • Pioneer (IR)
  • Sky HD (IR)
  • Blu-ray player when purchased (probably Denon or Oppo)
  • HTPC or Mediastreamer when purchased

Thanks
James
Hi James

I spent most of yesterday (whilst watching F1 & Football ) working away on the SkyHD iPod Touch GUI. So far I'm over the halfway point on the button design and overall layout. I've trawled the SKY websites borrowing as many images as possible to hopefully give the finished GUI a good 'Sky' feel to it so anyone who's ever held a sky remote will be familiar straight away.

I have a few questions regarding your setup. Do you plan to control your LCD and receiver via ethernet? If so what protocol allows for control and are there limitations to take into consideration. Like is it RAW keyboard commands, Telnet or other perhaps? This will be important when it comes to the programming side of things. Obviously both will take IR, but I expect like me you'd rather go down the ethernet route where ever possible. Also you put Pioneer (IR) in the list, is this another Pioneer product besides the LCD?

I see you plan to buy a bluray player as well as an HTPC or Mediastreamer. There are some awesome tools for HTPC control like eventghost or my fav which I been using for ages is intelliremote. Both of these are supported by Global Cache & iViewer. As I mentioned before I have a C-200 so I feel compelled to mention that you could do all of the above with a C-200.
The latest firmware releases have fixed many of the annoying bugs on the unit, so if you just slipped a bluray drive in there it could playback all of your stored media.

However I'm sure there are plenty of other alternatives out there, I'm just giving you some food for thought.

Cheers

bail0ut
 
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jamesaevans

Novice Member
Hi James

I spent most of yesterday (whilst watching F1 & Football ) working away on the SkyHD iPod Touch GUI. So far I'm over the halfway point on the button design and overall layout. I've trawled the SKY websites borrowing as many images as possible to hopefully give the finished GUI a good 'Sky' feel to it so anyone who's ever held a sky remote will be familiar straight away.

I have a few questions regarding your setup. Do you plan to control your LCD and receiver via ethernet? If so what protocol allows for control and are there limitations to take into consideration. Like is it RAW keyboard commands, Telnet or other perhaps? This will be important when it comes to the programming side of things. Obviously both will take IR, but I expect like me you'd rather go down the ethernet route where ever possible. Also you put Pioneer (IR) in the list, is this another Pioneer product besides the LCD?

I see you plan to buy a bluray player as well as an HTPC or Mediastreamer. There are some awesome tools for HTPC control like eventghost or my fav which I been using for ages is intelliremote. Both of these are supported by Global Cache & iViewer. As I mentioned before I have a C-200 so I feel compelled to mention that you could do all of the above with a C-200.
The latest firmware releases have fixed many of the annoying bugs on the unit, so if you just slipped a bluray drive in there it could playback all of your stored media.

However I'm sure there are plenty of other alternatives out there, I'm just giving you some food for thought.

Cheers

bail0ut
Hi bail0ut,

Good to hear that the SkyHD remote design is coming along and I look forward to seeing the results. In the last week I've come across a couple websites that you might like to check out:

UK Channel Logos:
LYNGSAT UK TV logos

Apple iPhone design guidelines:
iPhone Human Interface Guidelines: Introduction

iPhone interface designs (GuiLink):
Crestron Touch Panel Templates by GuiLink


In terms of the plasma and the receiver they both include Ethernet control via a web GUI. Reading the posts on the iRule owners thread (on that other US forum) indicates that this interface can be used via an iPhone and GC devices, but I have not investigated further yet. This will be very helpful as my plasma is wall mounted so don't really want to run an IR cable up the wall:


The Pioneer (IR) in my list, shoud have been Pioneer DVD-Recorder (IR). Thanks for spotting this typo, now corrected above.:)

All suggestions very greatefully recieved, the Popcorn Hour C-200 is one of the devices on my shortlist. I like the idea of building a HTPC as this gives extra flexability, however a media streamer like the C-200 is much cheaper and easier to set up. Right now I'm thinking of buying a 4 drive NAS (Raid 5) and then a media streamer, just need to find some more time to do a bit more research.

However, I'm sure that I will buy a dedicated Blu-ray player at some point as this will give the very best picture and sound quality. Given I have a number of import Blu-rays that will not play on my UK PS3, I think the multi-region Oppo is the way to go.

Best wishes
James
 

bail0ut

Novice Member
Hi bail0ut,

Good to hear that the SkyHD remote design is coming along and I look forward to seeing the results. In the last week I've come across a couple websites that you might like to check out:

UK Channel Logos:
LYNGSAT UK TV logos

Apple iPhone design guidelines:
iPhone Human Interface Guidelines: Introduction

iPhone interface designs (GuiLink):
Crestron Touch Panel Templates by GuiLink


In terms of the plasma and the receiver they both include Ethernet control via a web GUI. Reading the posts on the iRule owners thread (on that other US forum) indicates that this interface can be used via an iPhone and GC devices, but I have not investigated further yet. This will be very helpful as my plasma is wall mounted so don't really want to run an IR cable up the wall:



The Pioneer (IR) in my list, shoud have been Pioneer DVD-Recorder (IR). Thanks for spotting this typo, now corrected above.:)

All suggestions very greatefully recieved, the Popcorn Hour C-200 is one of the devices on my shortlist. I like the idea of building a HTPC as this gives extra flexability, however a media streamer like the C-200 is much cheaper and easier to set up. Right now I'm thinking of buying a 4 drive NAS (Raid 5) and then a media streamer, just need to find some more time to do a bit more research.

However, I'm sure that I will buy a dedicated Blu-ray player at some point as this will give the very best picture and sound quality. Given I have a number of import Blu-rays that will not play on my UK PS3, I think the multi-region Oppo is the way to go.

Best wishes
James
Hi James

Thanks for the links. Being the icon junkie I am I've had two of those bookmarked for a long time. However the apple dev guide isn't one I've delved into before so I'll check that out. Here's another good one for channel icons if you haven't seen it already:
s q u a r e e y e s i c o n h a r m o n y
Used this to program many a harmony remote in the past.

If both your LCD & AVR have web gui control I can't see that being difficult to assign commands to buttons and sliders. If you can find a link for the thread about that I would mind having a read.

Allow me to share some of my HTPC experiences. My now unused HTPC runs intel quad processors (clocked to 3ghz), 8gb ram, 9600GT HDMI graphics, azuntech soundcard and 4tb of storage with offline backup.

I spent many months tweaking before realizing I spent more time configuring than watching. The optiumum combo I settled with that worked for 6 months or so glitch free was win7 x64, vlc, coreavc, ac3filter, mediaportal for the front end and intelliremote for IR control. I tried xmbc & MP on linux and vista but always ran into small but very annoying glitches, bugs and limitations. Now I'm not trying to put you off and I don't wish to offend the HTPC heads out there because I know from experience you can have a nice and stable HTPC playing back all flavours of video with no issues whatsoever. But what kept throwing a spanner in the works for me was software updates! So I feel the way forward are dedicated media streamers.

For everything popcorn hour related check out thier forums if you've never paid them a visit:
Networked Media Tank
Theres plenty of users on their with bluray drives in C-200's, and most use NAS' for all the streaming needs.

Initial setup of the C-200 can be a tad confusing at first but once complete you can sit back and enjoy your media without issues and starting pondering over what innovative hardware to integrate next... :thumbsup:

bail0ut
 

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