Personal Technology from The Wall Street Journal
A 'Pear' Gives Apple Devices an Easy Way to Control TVs
March 2, 2011 by Walter S. Mossberg
Watching television in the digital home today too often becomes a process of juggling multiple remote controls, trying to remember which "input" on the TV matches which set-top box you use, and peering at a long listing of channels that resembles a spreadsheet.
There are universal remotes, some with built-in touch screens, like Logitech's successful Harmony line, but these can get costly and complicated. And there are various apps that turn your iPhone into a universal remote, but they require plugging into the phone small hardware modules that are easy to lose.
This week, I've been testing a different approach to solving the complex TV-remote problem. Like some competitors, the Peel universal control uses a device you may already own-an iPhone or iPod Touch (even older models). But it doesn't require plugging any hardware into the device, or cables into the TV.
Instead of lists of channels, it presents you with pictures and summaries of the shows that are on, grouped by genre. You don't have to know what channel they're on-you just click "Watch on TV" and it takes you to the show. While it can control various devices-like DVD players or Apple TVs-it doesn't require you to recall which input each is on. It switches TV inputs automatically and presents an appropriate virtual remote for each device, controlled by touch and gesture on your iPhone's or iPod Touch's screen.