Review: Flyover Innovations Blumoo
Flyover Innovations' Blumoo ($100) is a new, compact universal remote system that enables iDevices to control Infrared-ready devices such as TVs, stereos, and optical disc players. For the price, you get one Infrared-blasting HomeBase, plus a wall charger and a detachable audio cable. There's also a free app that you download to control the unit, and thus your A/V setup. Using Bluetooth 4.0, which allows for a 150' range, signals can be sent from your iPhone to the HomeBase hardware.
Blumoo’s designers are clearly talented, as the HomeBase is an attractive accessory that won’t look out of place sitting by a TV. About 3” tall, the electronic components are housed in a translucent black plastic center, which is sandwiched between a piece of metal that runs around the back. Viewed from the side, it looks like the letter C, with a gap between the metal and plastic. Three ports are found on a dongle that’s permanently affixed to the unit, sticking out the back and through an opening in the metal; this is where you make power, audio, and IR extender connections. Flyover Innovations doesn’t include an IR extender, so if some of your devices are inside of a cabinet or otherwise out of the HomeBase’s IR reach, you’ll need to supply one on your own.
Setting up new devices is easy, with a step-by-step process that worked well in our testing. With just a few clicks, we were able to install virtual remotes for a Samsung TV and Apple TV, finding them quickly in the app’s database. The design of the app isn’t the most exciting thing ever, but it does work well for most purposes—after some customization, we were able to control both units as if we were using a hardware remote. You can create a custom remote by adding buttons from multiple units onto one page, but it’s not the cleanest execution we’ve seen, requiring some manual button creation, moving, and tweaking. A program guide is built in, telling you what’s playing, and with a few taps you can jump right to the show. Unfortunately, this turned out to be somewhat negative, as long download times for the program guides locked up the app and made it unusable at times. Switching over to the app’s music tab allows you to stream Pandora, Spotify, and iTunes to plugged-in audio systems; the audio cable included in the package can be used for this.
With good competitors such as Griffin’s Beacon Universal Remote Control and Gear4 UnityRemote Universal Remote hitting the market years ago, we hoped Blumoo would really impress with new functionality or features. Bluetooth 4.0 is the biggest benefit, since it offers nearly instant pairing; the music streaming feature may appeal to some users, as well. On the other hand, the app isn’t as beautiful or as streamlined as we would have hoped given how much time has passed since prior-generation solutions were released, and the hardware, while well-designed, is missing an IR extender. While it might earn our general recommendation if everything worked as it’s supposed to, the long program guide download times detracted a lot from the user experience, dropping Blumoo to a B-. Having to fuss with the app as much as you must really takes away from the appeal.