back to article Gear4 UnityRemote

Universal remote controls always sound like a good idea – one handy little remote to control all the digital gadgets cluttering up your front room – but they never quite seem to live up to the hype. The cheaper ones tend to be a finger-tangling clutter of buttons, while the more expensive models, such as Logitech’s touchscreen …


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  1. karakalWitchOfTheWest

    Hm, the app-idea sounds nice...

    But my Logitech harmony is in reality better suited for the living room, as my mother could pick it up and use our AV-setup without any troubles. A dedicated remote control is also better suited for sharing as I don't like to lend my phone to others...

    1. Ben Oldham

      Remote Control Sharing?

      Are you drunk?

  2. Edwin

    Way cool!

    until Jobs decides to block hardware interface apps from the AppStore.

    Hope they come up with Symbian & Android editions of the software, but they do seem to be a Cupertino-only shop...

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Oh great

    Another apple plug for the fanbois...

    Thanks for making the effort to INFORM us early on it was for crapple only.

    Looked a superb device till i realised it was a jobsian do.....

    Nah, bollocks to that...

    1. Stuart Archer


      "Thanks for making the effort to INFORM us early on it was for crapple only."

      Er, look at the title of the article -

      "Got an iPhone or iPod? You'll pay £100 for a remote"

      Seems clear to me

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Jobs Horns

        See, my point exactley..

        God-damn jobi mind tricks..

        This isnt the remote your looking for....

        So deep is my hatred of all things (but especially apple) shite that my brain automatically failed to register that line.

        And thats as much as im prepared to say in rebuttle.

  4. Fuzz

    Flawed on so many levels

    Touch screen remotes seem like a good idea but in reality knowing the exact location of the buttons on the remote by feel is much more useful. I can navigate my basic logitech harmony purely by touch. I owned one of the one4all chameleon remotes and it was a pig to use.

    You come home from work fancy watching a bit of TV but you can't because your partner is out and the remote is their phone/ipod (that's a good system isn't it)

    Haven't charged your phone for a bit, no TV for you

    when the iPhone is no longer the coolest phone around and you want an Android that £100 is down the pan.

    The bottom end logitech harmony remotes are amazing, I think mine was £35. It controls everything I own that has an IR sensor even my dSLR.

  5. Alex Walsh


    ...Gear4 are really smart they'll have XBMC, Play On, AC Ryan, WDTV, and all the other great media boxes with crappy remotes in their database.

    I wonder if they're that clever. Off to have a look then...

  6. brumeye
    Thumb Down

    100 quid!

    Or you could pick up a Logitech Harmony 525 for fifty quid. The Logitech software is easy to use and has a massive database of control codes (which included every device I wanted to add). With the added benefit that I can (wow) use my iphone at the same time as someone else is controlling the telly!

    The problem with an app like this is that it's never going to work as well as a product like Logitech's which has been through years of continual improvement. When it costs more as well as being less functional (and draining my already-struggling iphone battery), it's hard to see the point.

  7. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

    Here's something I don't get

    The problem I have with universal remotes is that the macro functions (i.e. "Play Movie" turns on the TV, DVD Player & Surround, sets the picture to 'Movie', adjusts the volume etc) all sound very nice, but as I invariably have one or more devices already turned on, then this device gets turned *off* when I run the macro.

    In short, all devices need to be Off before the macro can be used.

    I Had a Logitech 525 at one point which I ended up breaking in half out of sheer frustration because I spent an age programming it through the internet, if memory serves, and then it was complete shite.

    I can't be the only one with this problem - does anybody know how to fix this or is it down to my particular combination of hardware? I'd love this Unity to actually work but I'm afraid I'll just end up breaking my iPhone in two instead.

    1. Martin

      the trick is... ONLY use the Harmony remote. It remembers the state that everything is in. Put the old remote controls in a drawer or something.

      I've got a 555 controlling six items and it almost always gets it right. And if it doesn't, press Help and it'll sort itself out.

      Of course, the downside is when you lose the remote, you're completely screwed.

    2. Adski
      Thumb Up

      Only use the Harmony

      Trust the Harmony, it will keep track of everything that's already on and will turn stuff on/off accordingly when you change activities.

      This all falls to pot when you use another remote. The Harmony is the only remote you should use, and indeed the only one you need to use once it's all set up properly.

      My 555 (£50) is perfect for me, none of this touchscreen or gimmicky rubbish. It just works, even for the missus and that's saying something...

  8. Bassey

    What a complete load of rubbish

    Firstly, universal remotes start at about £15. Mine cost £35 and controls five devices with ease (the wife and a four year-old cope fine). So the £100 already looks pricey assuming you already have the required iPod or iPhone.

    But then what happens when I go out and take my iPhone with me? Either no-one can use any of the electronics in the living room OR you have to have all five remotes sitting around AS WELL. Or another universal remote control.

    I remember when all Windows Mobile devices had IR transceivers built-in and Universal remote software was available. Even then, when free, it was a pointless waste of time/brief "wow. Look at that" distraction because of the need to have another means available to change channels.

    This is genuinely the most pointless piece of tech I've ever come across for £100. To see it score so well is flabbergasting. What were you thinking Reg? Has the eggnog season come early to Vulture towers?

  9. Joseph Bryant

    just get a Harmony

    The Logitech Harmony costs about half as much as this.

    The Harmony keeps track of which device is switched on at any time, so e.g. if you switch from "watch blu-ray" to "play xbox", then it knows that the TV is already on. It only really works well if you put all the original remotes away and use the Harmony exclusively, so that it can keep track of what's going on.

    If this Gear4 works the same way, then it's deeply flawed for anyone who co-habits, since presumably you don't want to dedicate an iPhone to this exclusively. If it *doesn't* keep track of which device is turned on, then it's not nearly as good as the Harmony. Lose-lose.

  10. Berny Stapleton

    Logitech Harmony remotes

    I don't want to put myself into the Fanboi category here, but they really do make a good product. The Harmony One is ~£175 and their device support is second to none. With a reasonably complex hi-fi setup, I was suprised when I could get it all working in 15 mins. I thought I had missed something. If your going to look at the UnityRemote, don't forget to look at the Logitechs as well. You could well end up dissapointed you didn't.

  11. Bob H


    I too would have liked to have seen the author mention the lack of support for other platforms as well.

    Gear4 do need to consider an android app at least!

  12. Lee Dowling

    Sod the iphone

    Sod the iPhone, release this as just a generic Bluetooth - IR convertor (including both way interaction by the look of it's learning functions) and release code / specs for it. It's already tricky to find things supported by the likes of LIRC, so this would be brilliant if it was even vaguely programmable.

    Throw the iPhone stuff out of the window - just sell it as an ordinary Bluetooth - IR convertor and I'd probably end up buying it, especially if any Java phone with Bluetooth, any Linux device, even my Windows laptop with built-in bluetooth could operate it.

  13. seanj

    Obscure multi-command setting...

    "It’s only a small detail, but it did stop me in my tracks for a while and could probably have been avoided with a decent manual"

    ... and then you proceed without telling us poor mortals how you did it? Cruel, Reg Hack, so very cruel. haha...

  14. This post has been deleted by its author

  15. Greg J Preece

    Can anyone recommend a universal remote...

    ...that works with Bluetooth devices as well as IR? I'm thinking of the PS3 initially, although you're likely to need a dongle for that one.

  16. Valerion


    The problem I see is this: My mobile rings and I pick up the remote and hit pause, then answer it.

    If the phone is also my remote control, how do I do that easily?

  17. Jan 0

    Better than Harmony?

    What this device offers, which I don't think Harmony can, is the infra red controller in the middle. In my lounge, most of the audio-visual devices are hidden behind by back of the sofa. Ok, I can usually control them by bouncing the infra red signal off the screen or a window blind, but one of them needs me to point the zapper over my shoulder. With this, I could put the Unity behind the sofa and let Bluetooth penetrate the foam. As far as I understand it, I can't just use a Harmony remote and an infra red repeater unless I put all the audio-visual kit behind a screen to stop the signals interfering (for those bits of kit that would 'see' both the handset and the repeater.

    However, I agree that dedicating my phone to this is not ideal. Could Gear 4 sell

    a dedicated Bluetooth controller for less than the cost of a basic iPod Touch?

    Beer for the other hand.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  18. Martin an gof Silver badge

    My solution to the macro problem

    Well, it's mostly a solution. I have a Logitech 525 and the trick is *not* to use the device "power" command to turn it on. Most of the kit I have will come out of standby if you press (for example) one of the numeric keys on the remote, so on my 525 I tell it to do that instead of sending the power command and that way if the device is already on, it doesn't turn off.

    The downside is that for devices which will accept one digit as a valid channel number (e.g. most TVs) you end up switching channel, but that needn't be as much of a problem as it sounds.

    In the subject of touchscreens versus real buttons; real buttons every time.


    1. M Gale

      But what about buttons with screens on them?

      A few minor niggles, like no Toy Unix support as such, but I'd definitely keep one of those if it were given to me.

      I just wouldn't buy it at the ~£1000 asking price.

  19. andy gibson

    Misleading article title

    I thought it was for a £25 one-for-all type remote, but with the penalty of costing £100 if you were an Apple fanboi!

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I used a Keene IR extender for a while with an older Harmony and it worked fine but it had individual emitters for each device rather than a single 'blaster' - interfering IR signals are only an issue with certain hardware (my old Tivo) and was solved by sticking the emitter to the front of the Tivo and masking the IR port with electrical tape.

    The top end Harmony comes with a radio receiver and blasters and they supply individual emitters as an accessory. These each come with 'hoods' to stick over them to mask any stray IR.

    It *should* all work flawlessly but the range on the RF is terrible

  21. Mark Serlin
    Thumb Up

    I'd have one

    The other remotes are for the rest of the family to lose under sofas/park in the kitchen/absentmindedly put in the fridge etc. When *I* want to watch something I won't have to hunt round the house for an assortment of hidden treasure - I always know where my phone is. Share it? You *must* be barking...

    I just feel sorry for the reviewer - I too have a FetchTV box. Now, an article on how to ensure it stays connected, and always records what you tell it to using the splendid iPhone app would be great! Also, how to stop it freezing/dying/recording bits of things that weren't scheduled, etc etc....

  22. nyelvmark

    More uses needed for iThings

    I think this is marvellous. Only 100 quid to add another completely pointless function to your fondle-slab! What next? I've got it - the iPub. Go to the bar, having already chosen from the iBeerList app, and display your choice to the barman on your slab's screen. The barman can then enter your order into the iAware (TM) cash register, which will then use the power of Apple to flash up on your screen how much you owe, while the barman is free to busy himself pouring your drink, saving all that time wasted actually speaking! Of course, there'd be a small premium to be paid for the beer, but that's hardly going to bother someone who buys Apple products, is it?

    1. Greg J Preece

      I had my own solution for this

      As a student, I figured out a sure-fire way to order drinks in a really loud club. Write quantities on your right hand/fingers, and drinks on your left. Simply hold the correct combination(s) up to the barkeep. No yelling, no inaccurate orders, no sore throat. Job done!

  23. Chezstar
    Paris Hilton

    Multiple iPods/iPhones?

    One thing I would have liked to see from the Author, is a test or some sort of confirmation as to whether you can run multiple iEquipment on this unit.

    I have an iPhone, the wife has an iPod touch, and the son has an iPhone, can we link all of them in, so it doesnt matter who is watching the tellie?

    If so, then fair enough, this kind of price might be justified, but if its one phone only, then its a 100 squid piece of bling for the coffee table.

    Paris, because she would both like it, and be confused by it, in equal measures.

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