Over the last four or five months, we’ve had the opportunity to test quite a few universal remote control accessories for the iPhone and iPod touch, and our general impressions have been pretty much “meh” across the board — the best of the bunch was L5 Technology’s small and comparatively inexpensive L5 Remote, with options such as NewKinetix’s Re, New Potato’s FLPR, and PowerA’s Universal Remote Case all costing more and requiring additional space. Our view is that accessories of this sort need to be easy to pop on and remove, inexpensive, and paired with great software, but no one has quite hit the mark as of yet.
Add the i-Got-Control iRB1 ($70) from iGi Corp. (“i-Got-it”) to the pile as another okay option that could really benefit from some second-generation hardware and software tweaking. Roughly 1.9” wide by 1.2” tall and 0.4” thick, the glossy black plastic shell has an Infrared window on its thinnest edge, and some unusually casual “i Got it” lettering on its top surface, with serial and model number information on its bottom. Two lights are inside to let you know that it’s being used (green) or having a problem (red), and promised Infrared broadcasting distance is 30 feet in a straight line of sight from a receiving device such as a TV, DVD player, or cable box.
It’s worth noting that without adding much to the functionality of the L5 Remote we’ve previously reviewed, iRB1 occupies nearly four times the physical volume, making it more of a challenge to connect to be bottom of iPhones, iPod touches, and iPads inside of cases; that said, it’s comparable in size to the Re, bigger than FLPR, and easier to attach or detach than PowerA’s case.
As with all of these remotes, the hardware is only part of the story; the real selling point for iRB1 is supposed to be its software, a free app called i-Got-Control that iGi automatically enables the device to download from the App Store upon initial connection. The largely green, Xbox-like remote interface is—like its competitors—not exactly a thing of beauty on the iPhone and iPod touch screens, but iGi’s designers have at least taken the time to give the pre-designed remotes some soft-looking curves, buttons that are more or less clearly marked, and multiple screens that are easy to page through from left to right. There’s a fair bit of paging to be done here, as well, since the app features a master volume control that can be accessed regardless of the remote you’re using at a given moment, but otherwise has you set up separate remotes for individual devices, using home and icon buttons to go back and forth between them as needed.
The set-up process isn’t entirely satisfying. You’re supposed to choose a category of devices from a list that’s not entirely intuitive, then the manufacturer, and then an automated search button that tests multiple possible remote control codes against your devices until you find ones that work. Wading through iGI’s database of pre-programmed options is both boring and somewhat non-intuitive; when you want to set up a remote for the Apple TV or your DVR and can’t find it in the video accessories or another obvious section, then have to hunt further for wherever it might be, there’s something wrong. Then, i-Got-Control’s remotes are so similar from device to device and lacking in customization that the selection of “Audio Accessory Apple,” the setting you’re supposed to be able to use with Apple TVs and other Apple devices, has buttons for “Disk Menu” and “Open Close,” while TV remotes are highly simplified without the sorts of individual buttons specific models may have.
iGi’s approach is essentially to hand off all of the extra work to you as the user—beyond the generic included buttons, you need to use macro buttons to teach the app any special features that might be found in your old remotes if you want the app to go beyond the basics. Macro buttons sit on a separate screen from the pre-programmed remote buttons, waiting for you to do all of the dirty work, and sometimes returning “Error: Can’t Learn Code” messages when you try. On the aesthetic side, there’s no fancy remote control design tool kit a la the L5 Remote to make your final product look nice, either.
There were some other little issues. For instance, we initially had problems getting i-Got-Control to work properly with the Apple TV—even as the remote worked just fine to control two different TV sets, a TiVo and other devices, the software didn’t seem to want to play nicely with Apple’s device. We kept flipping back and forth between two different sets of control codes to see which would work, and neither did. But it turns out that the software wasn’t actually swapping between them once we had saved a device profile with the incorrect code, even though we were “editing” it and hitting “done” to confirm the change. Creating a new remote with the correct code to begin with eventually fixed the problem, and the Apple TV worked just fine.
Ultimately, as noted earlier, it’s the ease of using the software and hardware, combined with the pricing, that will let accessories like i-Got-Control iRB1 swim or sink, and there’s really nothing here that would lead us to recommend this option instead of ones we’ve previously tested. The physical size makes it hard to use with cases, the software isn’t entirely streamlined or bugtested, and the pricing puts it at another disadvantage relative to the L5 Remote, which remains our top-rated option. On the other hand, it has the positive attribute of being device-agnostic, and if you’re willing to invest the time to customize it, it does generally what it’s supposed to do. Overall, we’d call the i-Got-Control package okay for the price; a smaller sequel with better software could become a real contender.
Company and Price
Company: iGi Corp./i-Got-it
Model: I-Got-Control iRB1
Compatible: All iPhones, iPod touches, iPads