Peel + iPhone = The Universal Remote For Regular PeopleS

The Peel remote adapter is supposed to be the normal human's version of Logitech's Harmony universal remotes. Harmony remotes, although incredibly competent in controlling everything in your AV system, practically begs for a community college class teaching people how to use it.

Having a Peel means that you can control your TV, DVR and everything else with your iPhone, and that you no longer have to really pay attention to what's on what channel—because they're abstracted out to just shows and movies.

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Peel + iPhone = The Universal Remote For Regular PeopleS

The "remote" itself, cutely shaped as a pear, is super easy to set up. One adapter plugs directly into the wall and your Ethernet cable, and the C-battery-powered pear sits 15-ish feet away, with a line-of-sight to your entertainment center to shoot IR at your stuff. The setup process is just walking through a five minute wizard tutorial, asking you what components you are and trying different IR codes until it finds the right one. Even a Harmony user like me can see that it's much simpler than Logitech's way of doing things. On the other hand, you give up the fine-tuning of customizing buttons and timing—the kind of process you'd put off for months before spending an hour of your Saturday doing when you couldn't stand it anymore.

Since you control all this with your iPhone, you don't need line-of-sight from the iPhone to your TV as long as the pear itself is positioned properly. And the on-screen remote portion works pretty well, mimicing your TiVo or DVD remote buttons adequately enough to actually be usable, and not just a thing you tolerate occasionally when the actual remote is out of reach. Adding multiple devices to your setup turns it into a pretty decent universal remote too.

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Peel + iPhone = The Universal Remote For Regular PeopleS

While it's true that the way Peel sorts its shows—genres, then icons for each individual show—is great for finding what's on now very quickly, I've noticed some general instability with the app as you cycle from genre to genre, to the remote, and back again. Sometimes menu bars disappear or sometimes the screen won't update for a few seconds. It's sluggish even on an iPhone 4. But when it works, Peel's philosophy of focusing on shows rather than channels makes a lot of sense. (So fix this, please.)

Also, strangely enough, there's no iPad version of the app. Seeing as the iPad is a natural TV companion device, and because it has a much larger screen, a version of the Peel app would be great for it.

Price

$100 for the remote, but the app is free. [Peel and iTunes]