I love my iPad. It has to be one of the coolest toys to hit the consumer electronics market in the last ten years. For the past several months I’ve been using one to control just about every single system in our home.
We have one permanently set up in our kitchen in a Sonance Launchport. I can pull up the Savant app to set up music all over the house, or quickly jump to a recipe app to find that perfect way to cook something new. For whole house music control, I do not think you can beat the iPad. With all of the streaming music sources available or if you have music in your iTunes library you are accessing, the iPad lets you quickly navigate to pick out exactly what you want to hear, what room(s) you want to listen in, and what volume settings you would like. What makes it so perfect is the two way feedback all of the music apps give you and the fact everything you need to use to make a decision is right there in front of you on the iPad. Scrolling through Pandora stations or a large music library is just a ton of fun.
I also find the iPad great for controlling lighting scenes or easily setting up all of the thermostats. Again, it’s the visual feedback provided by the iPad and the app being right in front of you that just makes it so easy.
If you have been around as long as I have, you might remember when televisions did not come with a remote control! Can you imagine? Yes, you actually had to get up to change a channel or adjust the volume. As you might guess, the first consumer electronics product to have a remote control was the television. For years and years, TV remotes consisted just of buttons. As it turns out, there was a good reason for this (other than the fact back then a touch screen was not affordable).
I’ve been using an iPad to for control during TV viewing for the past few months. I’ve come to the conclusion; it is NOT the ultimate remote control for television. Unlike controlling say a music system, where everything you need to do is right in front of you, TV is interactive in a different way. Control of a TV now heavily relies on menu driven systems that use the up/down/left/right enter keys. We now (at least we do in our house) record pretty much everything we watch and fast forward through the commercials. To do this, you use the skip, play, and usually skip back and play buttons (when you ffwd too far!). So why would the iPad not work for this well? All of the necessary buttons are certainly on the iPad control app. It’s one simple reason: you need to look up at the TV to see what you need to do and so it’s impossible to see which button to press on any touch screen remote without looking back down at it. The menu navigation, while much more cumbersome than a tactile up/down/left/right enter set of buttons can be done ok as there is not time constraint. You just go slower this way. However, when you are fast forwarding through the 3-4 minutes of commercials and need to stop on a dime, do a 180 and start back again, is just impossible to do well with a touchscreen. With a hard button remote control, you’ll quickly learn where the key buttons are and can easily navigate while keeping your eyes on the TV screen.
I’ve also found I just like the tactile response of a button push. When using a numeric keypad on a touch screen, I’ll sometimes push the wrong button or not make good contact. If I am using my hard button remote, it’s just about impossible to push the wrong button and I know if it’s been pushed, the command will occur.
Then there is the issue of timing and lighting. I don’t know about you, but I like to watch movies in the dark. Well I have to tell you, an iPad when it’s on is like a spotlight in a home theater room. This means to get it to go out, I have to blank out the screen. So when I want to make a volume change, I have to pick it up, wake it up and then use the app. With my hard button remote, I just push the volume button I can feel in the dark!
So for now, my iPad will still be my favorite remote for controlling everything other than TV control. When I want to watch TV, I’ll use a good ole tactile remote! And to throw one more variable into the equation, be sure to check out my blog on living with Savant. They have a new remote that could be the best of both worlds!