Griffin’s pretty pointless pebble
Griffin’s universal remote for iOS looks great, but its limited support for devices and the inability to add custom ones limits its usefulness, particularly in SA. By Craig Wilson.
Remote controls have remained as convoluted and cluttered as ever, despite advances in technology. So, it makes perfect sense that accessories maker Griffin combines the simplicity of the smartphone into a universal remote control.
The company’s solution is a remote control system for iPhones and iPads it calls Beacon. Pebble-shaped and pretty, Griffin claims the Beacon connects to more than 200 000 devices that use infrared. It connects to an iPhone or iPad via Bluetooth in lieu of the remote, turning your Apple device into a remote control.
The Beacon for iOS works with every iPod touch from the second generation onwards, the iPhone 3G or later, and any iPad. Pairing is as simple as pushing the pebble-like protrusion on the top of the Beacon and looking for it under the available devices list on the Bluetooth menu in iOS.
Thereafter, users are prompted to download an application from the iTunes App Store called Dijit. This contains the data for the more than myriad devices Griffin says the Beacon supports.
We had no problem using Dijit to pair the Beacon with a fairly old LG Electronics LCD TV. Dijit prompted us to add a TV and the process was as simple as selecting LG from a list of brands. The app then presented a power button and asked us to check if pressing it turned the TV on or off. If not, it would offer another remote option as it worked through its options.
On the third try we struck gold. The pared-down on-screen remote is a treat and includes buttons for power, volume, channel up and down, input devices and menu access.
But that’s where we came unstuck. Trying to add a DStv personal video recorder decoder proved unsuccessful, despite Dijit having a DStv option in its list of menus. It simply didn’t work, and this is where the failings of the Beacon come to light. Unfortunately, there’s no way to use an existing remote control to programme Dijit to recognise a device for which it doesn’t already include information.
If your device isn’t on Dijit’s list, it’s simply not going to work with the Beacon. Although it may have been more complicated to allow users to create custom remote controls, the fact that there isn’t the option to do so greatly limits its usefulness.
We also couldn’t find remotes for a TopTV decoder, a Mede8er digital media player, a Samsung dual-dock or an iHome AirPlay speaker. In other words, it’s great for your TV and DVD or Blu-ray player, but it might not be much use with anything else.
The unit is supplied with four AA batteries and loses further marks for its lack of a mains option. Without rechargeable batteries, the unit could prove costly to run with many reports suggesting that Griffin’s claims of eight weeks of life on a set of batteries are substantially overstating real-world performance.
Griffin also makes a version of the Beacon for Android devices, but as it uses the same Dijit application it seems unlikely that version has sidestepped any of the problems that plague the iOS unit.
It’s a great concept, but the inability to expand the range of supported devices means the boast about it supporting more than 200 000 devices on the side of the box just leaves a bad taste in the mouth. It does look very nice, though. – (c) 2012 NewsCentral Media
- The Griffin Beacon has a recommended retail price of R699