April 14, 2009
I was careful not to use the word remote, or controller in the title because I think those words pigeonhole the iPhone into an unfair category. Love it or hate it, Apple’s little color, touch-screen remote, er iPhone has shaken up consumer electronics world and I for one continue to be impressed. Pandora’s iPhone app for example is a study in simplicity and perfection, pop in some headphones (or headphone out to speakers) and enjoy the same Pandora functionality as you would on your PC. By the way, if you haven’t discovered Pandora yet don’t blame me for the hours of your life about to be lost thumbing new music up or down.
Ok Pandora isn’t a “home theater” app per say but there are plenty of those as well. One of the biggest to hit the market, at least in custom installation circles is Crestron’s Control App for the iPhone. This application expands system control to literally every room in the house and beyond. Not to be outdone, Control4 launched their iPhone/Touch app last fall and in typical Control4 fashion allows for full system control including lighting, A/V, heating and air, internet radio and access control from any room in the house.
If a full-blown home automation system isn’t your bag, there are plenty of other ways to integrate the iPhone into your home entertainment system. Starting with Apple’s own “Remote” app, you have a perfect example of how the iPhone has changed the home entertainment landscape. Don’t have the budget for a Sonos or Sooloos system? No worries, just download “Remote”, install iTunes on your HTPC (or move your Mac mini into the living room as I did), and voila you’ve got an instant mp3 music server with full cover-art and customizable playlists.
Other applications such as Intelliremote give you full-fledged Windows Media Center functionality including keyboard and mouse control. For those of you using the popular media center alternative XBMC there are actually two apps. First is the cleverly titled XBMC Remote followed by the XMote, described as a “Native iPhone WiFi Remote for XBMC. Use your iPhone/iPod Touch as a replacement remote control for Xbox Media Center running on Windows, Mac, Linux or the original Xbox.”
As you can see they’re plenty of platform and or application specific home theater apps available for the iPhone/Touch, but what if you just wanted to know what’s on later this evening without interrupting the current program? Fire up i.TV for the latest television listings; heck you can even manage your Netflix account while you’re at it. Sure battery life and screen time-outs conspire against the iPhone as the perfect home theater controller but short of a $10k Crestron system or similar, its pros outnumber its cons by a wide margin. Who knows, perhaps future revisions will address the few last little hiccups we’re dealing with now, in my case happily dealing with.