POWER A Universal Remote Case adds infrared(IR) remote control capabilities to your iPhone 3G/3GS. The concept is pretty solid; it enables your iPhone to control almost any device which you have a remote control for (IR only, no RF or Bluetooth). Will I chuck out the window all those extra remotes I have and the ones hidden in my couch in place of this gizmo? Well lets just say, not yet.
What’s in the box:
The package includes three halves of an iPhone case. There is one top half of a plastic iPhone protective case and two bottom halves. One bottom half incorporates the IR technology. The other bottom half contains no technology and just functions as the bottom half of a protective case. Also packaged is a user manual.
1. Plug the bottom half of the universal remote case into the iPhone’s dock connector
2. Slide the top half of the universal remote case onto the iPhone
3. Download Power A Universal Remote from iTunes App Store
4. Create a new virtual remote (there is a maximum of 20 virtual remotes)
5. Click edit and ‘teach’ the app every virtual button by clicking it and pushing the corresponding button on the actual remote control. This is how the app learns the IR signal.
6. Remember to save! It’s way too easy to press ‘back’ and erase all of your progress
The case adds some bulk to your iPhone, more so than a regular protective case would. It feels as if your iPhone is wearing a battery pack (which it is not). Aside from the added bulk, the design is pretty smooth. It’s nice that it isn’t designed to be a dongle sticking out of the iPhone dock connector, but rather that it is an entire protective case. Fortunately, an interchangeable end piece is included so that you can travel without the IR transmitter when you’re not using it.The IR transmitter is placed on the bottom of your case (by the dock connector), so to use the device, your iPhone is controlled upside down. The application orients itself, so this is not an issue. The device also has a little status light that indicate when signals are sent or learned.
The app is very simple, but poorly designed. You can create up to 20 virtual remotes. All of the virtual remotes have the same default buttons, which resemble that of a DVR remote control. Buttons cannot be moved, resized, deleted, or even renamed. So if you want to program your ‘Sleep’ button, you will have to do so under a different button name. As previously mentioned all IR codes must be taught to your iPhone one by one. The app has no support to automatically download IR codes. In other words, you cannot automatically download a standard Cablevision remote to your iPhone. It’s beneficial that the app will learn any IR signal, but it would be nice to also be able to download remotes (for when you’re on the go [or at a bar]). The last thing worth mentioning about the app is that the virtual remote is not statically placed on your screen, it scrolls up and down to fit all of the buttons on your iPhone screen.
POWER A Universal remote functioned as it should have. It learned all of the IR codes for a variety of devices. The range of the remote is about 10 feet, which isn’t all that great. Because the virtual remote lacks any customization, in order to set up your home theater you will likely need to create a few different virtual remotes for different devices. This can become cumbersome or confusing when switching back and forth between virtual remotes.
POWER A Universal Remote is very cool in concept, but in practicality it doesn’t make a lot of sense yet for someone looking for a home theater universal remote. The IR transmitting case works pretty well, but the experience is spoiled with the complementary iPhone app. Currently the app does not support any customization of virtual remotes, meaning you’re stuck with the remote control layout and buttons that POWER A chose for you. If you’re looking for a universal remote for your home theater, we recommend waiting for an app update. Also keep in mind, unless you have an extra iPhone lying around the house you will need to plug the IR case into your iPhone anytime you want to use this application. Fortunately, a version of the POWER A Universal Remote will be available for the iPod Touch soon as well. Meanwhile, the POWER A Universal Remote for the iPhone can be purchased from the Apple Store for $59.95 and it is certainly a lot cheaper than say a Logitech Universal Remote, but unfortunately the App acts as a crutch to what could have been a really unique device.
The Good: Can learn codes from almost any IR device, support for 20 virtual remotes, devices doubles as a protective case
The Bad: No virtual remote customization, weak wireless range, cannot download virtual remotes.