With the advent of services like iTunes, Hulu, and Netflix, an unprecedented amount of content is now available on a wide range of devices. There's only one problem: If you want to tune in, you have to get up.
While the idea of using a smartphone as a TV remote is nothing new, most previous products have relied on one of three approaches:
1) Build an IR transmitter into the phone
2) Build a TV that can receive commands over WiFi or Bluetooth
3) Connect an IR dongle to the phone
Approaches 1 and 2 are fine if you happen to own products specially designed to support them - but otherwise you are out of luck. Approach 3 is universal, but let's face it - you probably already lost the dongle while you were reading this sentence.
The Pronto Peel, however, is one of the first smartphone remotes that is both universal and practical.
Key & Peel
The Pronto Peel is a small unit measuring 3.57 inches high by 1.98 inches across at the bottom (1.65 inches at the top). It comes with an infrared extension cable that connects to the Pronto and emits infrared signals in all directions.
The Pronto is powered by four AA batteries. While it is somewhat inconvenient that it can't be plugged in and isn't rechargeable, this also means that, other than the infrared transmitter, the Pronto doesn't physically connect to anything at all. This means you can place it almost anywhere in the room. Pronto claims that a single set of four batteries can last up to a year.
You could think of the Pronto as a "Bluetooth to infrared translator" - your smartphone sends a signal to the Pronto over Bluetooth, which then triggers an infrared signal through its transmitter. This means that it works with almost any device with an infrared remote control, all without attaching anything to your phone. Sweet!
In spite of the clever hardware, though, what really makes the Peel Pronto shine is its software. The Smart Remote app is available for iOS 7 and up for free from the iOS app store. The software is elegantly designed, incorporating TV listings to show you a list of current TV programming so you can just tap on whatever show you want to watch. Manual controls (on-screen buttons) are also available. (And no, you don't have to point your smartphone at your TV!) The software cleverly displays the arrow keys when you press Menu or Input buttons and then hides them when you are done. It also reconnects very quickly to the transmitter whenever you open the app. Here's hoping that Pronto will release an AppleWatch version!
Currently, there is no Android app available, although the company claims one will be available later this year.
Many universal remotes make the odd assumption that you will only want to control one device at a time - for example, you will have to set aside the DVD player controls if you want to adjust the volume on your TV - but the Pronto software includes templates that let you control multiple devices simultaneously.
The Pronto software comes with presets for a wide variety of TVs and other devices, and in most cases, you can just select your device from the list and you are ready to go. If that doesn't work, though, the Pronto does have a learning option, where you can design custom remote profiles by using another remote to train the Pronto. It took me a moment to realize that remotes for training need to pointed at the Pronto itself (not the infrared cable), but once I figured that out, training also worked well.
In testing, the Pronto worked perfectly with our TV and most other devices, but one device did have some issues: an AppleTV. The Pronto comes with an AppleTV profile, but our AppleTV didn't respond to this at all. By using manual training, we were able to get the AppleTV to respond to the remote; however, key repeating still didn't work, meaning that instead of holding the down arrow, we would have to press the down button over and over. The Pronto did not have problems like this with any other device, but the AppleTV also did not have problems like this with any other remote, so it is unclear which device was to blame.
If you want to control all infrared devices from your smartphone, but your smartphone doesn't have a built-in IR transmitter (no iPhones have one), then the Pronto Peel is your best option. The hardware "just works," and so does the software. The Pronto provides access to an unlimited world of content, and you don't even have to stand up.
What's Hot: Clever hardware; elegant software; convenient overall.
What's Not: Not much, although some people might have preferred a rechargeable option.
Web site: Pronto
Reviewed by: Jacob Spindel
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