With more than 140,000 apps in the iPhone App Store, finding task-specific apps or utilities for your iPhone or iPod touch (and soon iPad) isn’t the hard part. The hard part is finding the best app for the job. That’s why we’re launching a new series here at Mashable, where we raid the App Store to find the best apps for a specific purpose. First on our docket: Remote Control apps!
The long-promised convergence of television and the Internet is finally coming. More and more consumer electronics devices come with features like WiFi and built-in support for Internet services. Tools like Boxee (even with the Apple TV) and Windows 7 Media Center make it easier than ever to connect your computer to your TV to enjoy online content.
Last summer, my personal project was creating the ultimate Mac mini HTPC, and in the end, it turned out great. However, one of the most frustrating (and potentially costly) factors of the whole project was finding a viable keyboard, mouse and remote setup. Controlling a computer from the couch is different than controlling it from a desk, and even though I found a lot of great software-based remote options (and a few hardware options too), it turned out that the best (and by far, most cost-effective) method for controlling my entire setup was right in my pocket.
There are literally dozens and dozens of iPhone and iPod touch apps that can control your PC (be it Mac, Windows or Linux), but after using and testing the big players in this field (and even the small ones), I’ve found five of my favorites. Check them out and be sure to leave your own suggestions in the comments.
*A Note: With one exception, all of these apps are multi-purpose, meaning they are designed to control more than one program. For that reason, some of the XBMC or Boxee-specific apps were left off my list.
Even before HippoRemote Pro 2.0 was released, this app had a permanent spot on my iPhone’s home screen. The Pro version of the app is $4.99 and a less-feature rich basic version is available for $0.99.
What makes this app so great is that it works with Mac, Windows and Linux, and acts not only as a viable trackpad/keyboard combo, but offers all kinds of app profiles (plus you can create your own) to control applications like Boxee, Windows Media Center 7, Hulu Desktop, your web browser, iTunes, and more. Plus, you can create macros, easily switch apps, wake up your device over LAN, and use international keyboards.
The new version of HippoRemote Pro also features an awesome Boxee plugin that adds the same kind of gesture control as the official Boxee iPhone app, as well as a built-in web browser (for checking the web, IMDB or Facebook) and Twitter client that lets you check your timeline, mentions and send tweets all from the remote application.
Check out this video the team made showing off the new HippoRemote 2.0:
At our house we use this on our Macs and Windows PCs and really, really love it.
Keymote from Iced Cocoa is a Mac-only remote control that works by creating little application-specific keysets to control specific actions. Think of it like those macro-based IR remote controls (like the ones Sony used to sell before the Logitech Harmony series took over the market).
What sets Keymote apart is its built-in Keymote “store” where you can download keysets from other users to use with your favorite apps. The interface is really nice and for users who really like to have key commands and shortcuts at their fingertips, Keymote is great.
3. Remote Jr.
Remote Jr. comes in two flavors, the full version for $7.99 or the lite version for $1.99. Remote Jr. Lite doesn’t support Wake-on-LAN and doesn’t have a keyboard or trackpad/airmouse, but will give you a taste of the app itself.
More than other remote control apps, Remote Jr. really is more of a fully-functional VNC (Virtual Network Computing) app. By this I mean you can view your computer’s desktop, access specific elements or apps, and interact with them even when you aren’t in front of your computer.
Most of the remote control apps just use WiFi to connect to your components or PC, which is great — but Remote Jr. can connect over GPRS/Edge or 3G, meaning you can access and control your Mac or PC even if you aren’t at home. That’s pretty powerful. There are other VNC apps out there (namely iTeleport: Jaadu VNC) that have more features, but they also cost a lot more ($24.99) and don’t have the remote control and application switching interface built into them like Remote Jr.
Remote Jr. is a great app for people that want a cross between a VNC app and a remote control, without having to buy both.
Elgato’s EyeTV system is an absolutely fantastic way to turn your Mac into a DVR to record, edit and playback HDTV programming from over the air or cable.
The EyeTV iPhone app is a $4.99 companion that not only lets you control your EyeTV system, but lets you set up recording, view your schedule and programming guide, and play back recording from your computer on your iPhone. You can even stream live TV over a 3G connection, a la the SlingPlayer if you use the free EyeTV Live 3G web app (the EyeTV app will let you watch live TV and record over WiFi without a problem).
When you consider the price of a SlingPlayer and the corresponding mobile app, it makes the EyeTV that much more of a bargain.
Snatch is a $3.99 remote control app that is extremely similar to both HippoRemote and Keymote. You can control your Mac or PC (and Snatch supports all the way back to Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger).
It has a multi-touch trackpad, a keyboard and a remote control editor. You can edit and design the layout of your remote control, adding buttons to specific functions. You can also create a “dock” of sorts for the applications that you like to frequently access.
One feature I like about Snatch is that you can s
ee what apps are running and easily switch between them.
Snatch has a ton of fans, and while I still defer to HippoRemote or Remote Jr., it is a worthy player in the remote control space. Before buying Snatch, you can download the free Snatch Trackpad Test app to make sure it will work with your configuration.
Did I leave out one of your favorite remotes? How do you control your Mac or Windows PC with your iPhone or iPod touch? What features are you looking for in a remote control app? Let us know!
[Image credit: Tanais Fox]
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