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How many remotes does your entertainment center need? The answer is probably higher than you’d like. And where did you leave all 17 of those crucial controllers anyway? Peel’s hardware/software combo attempts to address both questions by turning your iPhone or iPod touch into a universal remote and intelligent program guide. The app emphasizes specific TV shows and movies, steering you to recommended content instead of picking channels; it doesn’t even have a number-pad input. But because of that and other missing basics, the Fruit can taste a bit sour.
Because of its streamlined style, we set up the Peel remote more easily than other universal controllers—all we had to do was plug the Peel cord into an outlet and Ethernet router, set the battery-powered infrared Fruit in front of the TV, and follow the instructions in the app. We didn’t have to enter model numbers, just brand names for the TV, audio receiver, and other gear.
The Fruit controls those devices and a few select others—including a TiVo or cable box, Blu-ray player, Apple TV, and Roku set-top streamer—largely with simple gesture commands. Gestures let you easily swipe on your iPhone screen to, for example, change the volume without needing to actually look at your device. It’s a significant improvement on the idea of touchscreen remotes that other companies would be wise to mimic.
When you do look down, you’ll navigate show listings organized by your preferences and the airtime. We glided through currently playing sports, sitcoms, action movies, and many other genres—all with helpful synopses of the content. Just tap one to set the channel and watch. It’s so east that the Peel app excels as a live program guide, even if you don’t need the Fruit’s universal remote powers.
But what if you want to watch upcoming shows? You can pick an exact time to watch but can’t view all options over a period of hours, such as this evening’s comedies. With TiVo’d or on-demand shows, the Peel feels fragmented; it navigates your saved content, but it can’t display those options inside its own list content (an admittedly big request, but the program guide is the backbone of the Peel setup). Less forgivably, the Fruit can’t control all the features of your devices. We couldn’t tune radio stations on our receiver, for example. And don’t try to control both a TiVo and a TV’s built-in streaming content—Peel’s system is set up to control one or the other as your main source. That’s probably because the Peel is aimed mostly at live TV. But even then, it omits some basics, like the ability to switch to a specific channel or power off your entire system at once. Peel Technologies says that these and other features will be part of a software update (our review was done with the app at version 1.1), but for now, they’re sorely missed.
The bottom line. Peel’s show-driven guide flourishes with live TV and simple hardware setups, but the Fruit may not be as sweet for more demanding users.
iOS 3.0 or later, Wi-Fi router with Ethernet port
Bold show-guide graphics and detailed synopses. Pushes content you might like to the foreground. Controls many devices, including Apple TV.
Omits some basics, like a number pad. Can’t control many streaming and entertainment-center devices, like game systems. Might not be able to drive all the features on your supported gear.