Several years ago, I invested in a universal remote control. And not just any universal remote – this one was entirely backlit, forming the buttons, with a screen that changed depending on the device you were using.
The DVD function, for example, lit up different buttons than the TV option. The entire thing was activated by motion, so it would stay blank until you picked it up, whereupon the entire thing would glow. It was, I presume, a way to save power; it also made the remote control that much easier to find when, inevitably, it fell behind the sofa cushions. The tell-tale blue glow would pinpoint its location.
Anyway, the remote ate through batteries, and eventually it ended up on the great tech scrapheap that has been the final resting place for so many products that didn’t live up to their potential.
But it did leave me with an urge to find a solution to the numerous remote controls that litter the living room. So when the One for All Smart Zapper landed on my coffee table, it seemed like it might be the answer to at least part of the problem.
The Smart Zapper aims to fulfil two functions: first, it turns your smartphone or tablet into a remote control with a free app; secondly, there’s a physical “zapper” from which you can access quick functions, such as volume or power.
The black tabletop device works with Bluetooth Smart, meaning it’s low energy. And it runs of regular batteries, so you don’t have to remember to recharge it.
They may seem like a strange thing to celebrate. But in a living room where everything has to recharged regularly, you don’t want to add yet another device to the mix. That’s a surefire way to ensure it ends up in a drawer and never used again.
The app talks you through the setup, although it can take some time to find the codes that your equipment needs. It’s speedy enough, though don’t get interrupted in the process or you’ll find yourself bumped back to the start.
Having the quick access was a bonus at times, allowing someone else to control volume or channel when the smartphone was in use.
And it turned out to be even handier when the phone’s battery died and the volume was a touch above bearable; no waiting for the phone to recharge enough to switch it on.
The fact that you still need a smartphone means that this is one more gizmo on the table. Yes, it’s convenient for changing volume and other limited controls, but the smartphone app is still necessary to carry out more complex functions. One thing it won’t control, for example, is inputs. That still leaves you with one too many items in the living room.
Also, a lot of people aren’t going to need this device because they have smartphones that already do the job. Samsung’s Galaxy smartphones, for example, have the WatchOn app, which allows it to function as a remote control for your TV, satellite box and other home entertainment peripherals. Sony’s Xperia range offers something similar.
UPC and Sky offer apps to control their set top boxes, as well, even if you can't use it to control the TV.
HH If your smartphone lacks the ability to control your TV directly, this is an alternative to consider. However, if you’re an Android user, the Smart Zapper may be a device too far.