Review: The Best iPhone Universal Remote Apps Page 3

Re , from NewKinetix, employs a hardware dongle (officially the NK100) that’s very much similar to i-Got-Control’s and identically priced at $69.95. But this app is a considerably different concept.

Like Logitech’s Harmony family of hardware system remotes, Re uses metaphors of Rooms, Devices, and Activities. You begin by identifying a Room you’re setting out to control — the Home Theater, for example — and then ID the brands and models of the Devices residing therein. (You may subsequently create additional Rooms to control other gear in your home, in a hotel room, or even at your local watering hole.) This all takes place on Re’s setup page (using the iPhone’s native slotmachine- style spinning-dial selector wheels), thereby loading in the required code sets from NewKinetix’s embedded database. There are many code sets to choose from, and no good way beyond trial and error to predict just which one will best control a specific component, but Re includes a well-conceived auto-search routine that can ease the drudgery somewhat.

With Rooms and Devices established, you then create Activities (independently for each room) that group key commands from multiple components, such as TV, receiver, and DVD player, and name them what you like — though something along the lines of “Watch DVD” and “Watch Cable” would seem sensible.

Re arranges all of a particular Device’s buttons on a single, continuously vertically scrolling page, and places a Room’s full Device set on laterally swipeable pages. This works well enough, but I can see where a system comprising more than four or five components might get a bit cumbersome. Which is where the Activities concept comes in. You can assemble Activities from among any of your Devices, and then freely add or delete buttons so that your finished assembly is just as simple (or complex) as you desire. For my own household use, I’d be inclined to make not one but two “Watch TV” Activities: a complex Watch TV: DK, and a stripped-down Watch TV: Everybody Else.

Another excellent Re feature, Favorites, is always just a touch away via the screen-bottom Tab Bar, as are Rooms, Devices, and Activities. Favorites automates multi-key macros for channel changes, and you can organize multiple lists however you choose: “Sports Channels,” “Pay Cable,” and “Network Channels,” for instance. Re even provides a long list of familiar broadcast and cable TV icons (the CBS eye, NBC peacock, ESPN logo, and so on), including dozens that aren’t so familiar. Handy!

Another handy feature is the Audio Bar, which appears just above the Tab Bar whenever you select an Activities page. This keeps Volume up/down and Mute controls ever present no matter how far down you scroll on your however-big Activity. Re permits copy/paste operations during setup to duplicate devices and activities to multiple rooms, and even incorporates iPhone “bumping.” (Bumping uses the iPhone’s internal accelerometer to trigger an action mdash; in this case, settings-file transfer via Bluetooth — when you fist-bump another person holding an iPhone.)

NewKinetix endowed R ewith a good deal of customization options. You can select among 10 screen backgrounds (but not import your own wallpaper, alas) and an infinity of color shades; rearrange buttons on any page via simple, snap-togrid dragging; and choose a raft of key shapes and icons. You can also freely assemble a macro string on any key, harvesting any of the stored commands of all your Devices, a very powerful feature.

Re is clearly the most potent and flexible of the three apps reviewed here that use a plugin hardware dongle, and it’s also the most completely customizable. (I also appreciated its IR power and wide-angle coverage, which were best-in-class.) An unavoidable companion to flexibility is complexity, but the time you invest learning the ins and outs of the Re app’s structure and organization will surely pay big dividends in a highly capable, yet intuitive, personalized remote control.