Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Griffin Beacon for iPhone.

We got these in a couple of weeks ago and I completely overlooked it. Then a customer bought one and promptly returned it. There seems to be a flurry of reviews on other websites complaining of basic functionality and incompatibility, especially in the UK and with Sky+ boxes. With that in mind, and because we're selling them. I thought I ought to investigate. So I have. To get it working, you need to download the free Digit app from the Appstore and pair the beacon with your iPhone. I'll be honest, initially, I had a couple of problems getting the app to recognise the fact that I'd linked the device via bluetooth. I didn't read the instructions, but eventually the app saw it and I was ready to continue. I added a couple of devices and familiarised myself with the app layout before bringing the item home to test. At home, I'd got the Panasonic TV right, it worked straight away, but sure enough, the Sky choice I'd made didn't work. I clicked the help me choose option and skipped through a few Sky satellite choices that didn't work, then I found one that did... But the mute didn't work, so I continued exploring until I found number 15. Which worked, so I clicked the "use this one" blue button. I added my Dvd player, and Amp. Then started exploring. I found options greyed out, but to be honest, they were irrelevant. For example, track skip whilst watching sky. It wouldn't do anything anyhow. Everything, and I mean everything else worked exactly as it should. As for limited functionality, I found the menu button, record, fast forward, pause, Info. I couldn't think of anything that it wouldn't do. You do have to tap the play button to show full controls, like FF, REW, Pause etc. 
Then I discovered the 'activities' button. This idea I believe has either been inspired by, (or ripped off) by logitech. Their Harmony remotes are truly fantastic, but a little long winded to set up. The idea of an activity is that you tell the device that you want to watch TV. It asks some simple questions, for example, what devices controls the volume, which device changes the channel? Then a new style interface comes up, offering full functionality over everything relevant. It wasn't quite as good as the logitech, as the Harmony remotes will ensure that the Tv and Amp are set to the right input. Although this is much more complex to set up, it does work better in the long run. The activities on the Beacon remote simply power the right devices up. Perhaps this will be something that they release in future updates... Griffin? From the App you can also check the battery levels of the remote. Overall, I have to say I am mightily impressed and it worked far, far better than I expected. If you don't fancy the idea of taking out a second mortgage to invest in a top of the range Harmony remote, then this comes a pretty close second. not quite as good. But for the money, a top buy. Highly recommended. I do think it would be improved if it has a little fountain coming out of the top though. And it was mains powered instead. Pretty little gadget though. Perhaps they can add a water feature in a future update?

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