FAIL: using iPhone inspired gestures for TV remote control
One For All - SmartControl Motion
Tapping side of device to mute is cute, learning mode cannot be faulted, quality construction that feels good in the hand
The flipping gestures are a gimmick which soon wear off as remote responses are not always instant, cannot replicate every original remote function onto this device
All in one remote controls have become like toothbrushes in as far as
they do the job they were designed for perfectly well, so in order to
get you to keep buying them the manufacturers have to keep adding new
features you never knew you wanted. In the case of the SmartControl Motion the feature in point being an iPhone-alike swiping gesture with the device itself to change channels and fast forward the DVD. But does it work and do you need it?
You might think that there's not much further for a high-end low budget home entertainment remote control unit to go than the One For All SmartControl that DaniWeb reviewed just over a year ago now. However, One For All does not seem to agree as it has just launched the SmartControl Motion in the UK in time for Xmas, complete with the iPhone inspired gesture controls which provide the difference as well as the 'motion' in the name of the device.
Although the SmartControl Motion we have been playing with did not come with the Sony PS3 adapter that allowed the previously reviewed gizmo to control your PlayStation as well along with the rest of your home entertainment kit, the truth is that the two remote controls are essentially the same. So they both have the same 'smart' learning facility which makes programming the thing for your TV, DVD or Blu-ray player, stereo, set top box and the like a doddle for a start. In fact, the SmartControl Motion was a real delight in this regard, taking the concept even further than before to become a very refined process involving nothing more than pressing a learn button and a single digit for all but the most obscure of electronics brands. Once the remote has been programmed for use with your personal selection of home entertainment kit, it functions the same as before.
This does mean that while the One For All title is pretty well deserved as far as controlling the basic functionality of your appliances from a single remote, it doesn't actually replace them altogether. One of the frustrating things about most similar devices in this kind of price bracket is that they are unable to replicate every function from the original remotes. You really need to start getting into the serious programmable remote territory, and that means seriously deeper pockets, for that. However, for day to day requirements the SmartControl functions rather well and I only had to delve down the back of the sofa for the original device remotes every now and then when the more obscure functionality I wanted was, perhaps unsurprisingly, nowhere to be found.
If you are into your macros, then you'll love the SmartControl Motion as it comes with a bunch of pre-programmed options that enable you to turn the television on, set it to the right input and then start a DVD playing for example, all from a single button press. But so far there's been nothing much to distinguish this device from the year old model to be honest: which is where the motion control stuff comes in.
You know how Apple revolutionised the world of smartphones, and by so doing changed the way people expect all touch-screens, mobile phones, tablets and increasingly mainstream desktop computers to interface with the user? Well that appears to be the inspiration behind the SmartControl Motion as it uses a similar gesture metaphor, taking the swiping left and right, the flicking of the fingers, and translating them into a 'flick it, tap it, turn it' remote control.
It's hard not to be impressed by the goodnight feature which turns everything off simply by flipping the remote on to its front. Equally, being able to mute whatever is playing by a single tap with your finger on the side of the remote is addictive, another tap turns the volume back on. Changing channel, or fast forwarding or rewinding a movie, takes just a flick of the wrist and again is something to tell get your mates over and show off about. But all of these things come with the 'at first' or 'to start with' disclaimer firmly attached. The thing is, the flicking thing works kind of. Sometimes it takes two or three or four 'flicks' to change channel whereas a single button press always does the job, which means that it doesn't take too long before you reach the conclusion, as we did, that the motion thing is more of a gimmick than a serious innovation in this instance.
There's some clever technology at play here, make no mistake. Like the way that a single flick to the left and back towards your device to skip your DVD backwards becomes quadruple rewind speed if done three times. Quickly moving the device up and down for play, then down and up for pause is equally clever. I like the fact that it works with just about anything you point it at, controlling up to six different devices including HDTV, DVB-T, IPTV, Blu-ray, iPod docks, home cinema and even media playback from games consoles such as the Xbox 360 and PS2 (but not PS3 at the moment). I like the backlit keys (that come on automatically when you pick it up and go off when you put it down) which make it nice and easy to use in the dark, and i like the solid feel of the device itself which gives you confidence that it's not going to break in a few weeks.
So why am I not in love with this particular gadget? Actually, that's easy to answer: I'm simply not convinced that even if the device were tweaked to make it more responsive so that every flick resulted in a channel change it would make much difference to that conclusion. Don't get me wrong, and please do not label me as some kind of technophobe; not only do I love gadgetry for the sake of gadgetry, but I'm also a huge fan of the whole gesture interface stuff on my iPhone and iPad. I just think that something is lost in translation when applying it to a TV remote control when buttons work so much more reliably, efficiently and perhaps most importantly, intuitively.
You can see a video of the SmartControl Motion in flipping action here:
I'm a hacker turned writer and consultant, specialising in IT security. I've been a freelance word punk for over 20 years and along the way I have seen 23 of my books published, produced and presented programmes for TV and radio, picked up a bunch of awards and continue being a contributing editor with PC Pro - the best selling IT magazine in the UK .