If you've ever misplaced your TV remote for any length of time -- and I know you have -- you're familiar with how ridiculously frustrating it can be. Blumoo turns your iOS device into an extremely capable universal remote for virtually everything in your entertainment center, and while it won't help you find the remotes you've been searching for since last year, it can replace all of them. Oh, and it lets you stream your music wirelessly from your phone or tablet directly to your sound system. In short, it's kind of like a little box of magic.
Compatibility: iPhone 4s (or newer), iPod touch 5th gen (or newer), iPad 3rd gen (or newer), Android 4.0 (or newer)
The first thing I noticed about the Blumoo is how tiny it is. From the size of the box I'd have guessed it was much larger than it is, but the actual unit is about three inches tall and less than two inches wide. The front is a semi-transparent plastic that hides the infrared transmitter and indicator light, surrounded by a brushed aluminum frame. It's got a futuristic look and it should it in with just about any decor or entertainment center arrangement you can dream up.
A short cord runs out the rear of the base unit to small connection hub where the ports for the power connector, RCA audio cable (which is included) and infrared extension cable (not included) plug in. It's deceptively simple, and after the 90 seconds or so that it took me to set it up I felt like I had missed a step -- it's absolutely impossible to mess it up.
Once the brief setup is complete it's time to download the Blumoo app. As soon as you boot up the app it automatically connects to the Blumoo base unit via Bluetooth to begin the setup process. The first time I did this the app updated the device's firmware so that it was compatible with updated controller codes, which only took a few minutes.
The app walks you through the setup for your TV and asks your location to help customize your cable or satellite listings. Both my cable box and TV worked with the Blumoo immediately, but depending on which hardware you're using, you might have to go through a couple of different remote codes to find the one that works with your gear. Even so, the setup is painless and streamlined to the point that it won't take you more than a handful of taps from start to finish.
Depending on your devices, you'll have a variety of virtual buttons on your new touchscreen remote, and multiple remotes can be swiped through or chosen from the home screen menu. The buttons on each remote can be rearranged and you can also set up macros that execute several commands at once -- like shutting down multiple components, and so on.
When you're channel surfing, you can either browse using the standard remote buttons as you normally would or bring up your provider's channel guide to view the current and future listings. When you pick a program you are given the option of setting up a reminder or viewing the channel immediately, at which point the Blumoo enters the channel number and sends you there.
It's all very impressive, and the Blumoo is seemingly capable of controlling virtually everything in your entertainment center that functions with an infrared remote. However, the one sticking point of this whole setup is that there is a significant delay between the moment you enter your command and the result on the screen.
Consider that, in my current arrangement, I tap my input on my iPhone which sends the command to the Blumoo base unit, which sends an infrared signal to my cable box, which is routed through my Xbox One and into my TV. It can take up to two seconds for the commands to register, especially when choosing an item from the guide. Your results may vary, but even if your setup is more direct than mine, you'll still notice at least a brief delay. It's certainly not a deal breaker, but it is a bit annoying at times.
Aside from the remote functionality, the Blumoo also allows you to stream music directly from your iOS device to your sound system. In order to utilize this functionality you'll need to connect the Blumoo audio option in your device's Bluetooth settings. Once connected, streaming from iTunes or Spotify on my iPhone was relatively smooth, though the range is a crapshoot depending on your home's layout. I was able to continue streaming while moving about most of my apartment, though there were occasional drops. If you're planning on just leaving your device in the same room, however, you shouldn't have any issue.
The Blumoo is a capable little gadget that honestly surprised me several times with its capabilities. As a remote replacement, it's virtually flawless, with only the input delay holding it back from being truly perfect. As an audio streaming device it's more than adequate, and can effectively turn any speaker system into a Bluetooth streaming hub with little effort. Combine these two abilities and the Blumoo makes a compelling case for a spot in your entertainment center.