BlinQ TV, a $9.99 Social Universal Remote for Your iPhone

By  |  Friday, July 1, 2011 at 11:36 am

Back, in July, I wrote about Peel, a software-and-hardware system that turns an iPhone or iPod Touch into a slick universal TV remote. It’s neat. But it costs $99.95, and involves two doohickeys–one that you plug into your router, and one that sits near your TV.

Ryz Media’s BlinQ TV has a new twist on the same basic idea–and the most striking difference is the hardware. Instead of routing commands from your iPhone over Wi-Fi into a gizmo like the Peel’s “Fruit” and then into the TV via infrared, BlinQ gives you a lollipop-shaped IR blaster that plugs into the phone’s headphone jack and lets you control a TV, set-top box, and other living-room devices with no intermediary hardware. It costs one-tenth as much as Peel: $9.99.

The BlinQ app lacks Peel’s splashy look and feel, but it performs many of the same features. You get a guide to what’s on TV now and in the future that lets you forget about channel numbers. It emphasizes the popularity of shows among BlinQ users–the popular stuff is at the top, and pop-ups (which you can disable) alert you to trending shows. Onscreen buttons allow you to adjust volume, control a DVR, and perform other tasks. You can spread the word about what you’re watching via Facebook and Twitter. (Psst: your friends may or may not care.)

I like the idea behind BlinQ. I like the price. I like some of its features. But I do have some issues with this version:

  • I’m not so sure that listing shows in order of popularity is the best approach. For one thing, I care more about the shows I might want to watch–most of which are not huge hits–than the ones the world wants to watch. I’d like an app of this sort to focus more on helping me find things that might match my particular tastes. For another, listing by popularity put a lot of pay-per-view porn near the top, which I don’t think was BlinQ’s intent.
  • I found that I had to aim the BlinQ-equipped iPhone more precisely than I did the TiVo remote that I usually use. At certain angles, my TiVo either wouldn’t receive any commands at all, or would miss some of the digits, causing it to change to the wrong channel.
  • You have to keep track of the BlinQ hardware, inserting it before you watch TV and removing it when you’re done. (It comes with a tiny stand.) If someone calls you while you’re watching TV, you need to remember to remove the BlinQ gadget, or you won’t be able to hear. (Peel’s approach, which doesn’t involve attaching any hardware to the iPhone, avoids these issues.)
  • The app has crashed on me twice.

There are lots of ways to turn an iPhone into a remote control: Surc, which involves a special case, is yet another one. I continue to be a fan of the concept, but I haven’t found a specific implementation of it yet that I just plain love. Bu I’m going to keep looking…

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