Hands-On with the VooMote Zapper Universal Remote for iOS

We look at the dongle designed to turn your iOS device of choice into a universal remote.

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I’m all for the idea of having a universal remote. That said, I have yet to find one that makes me willing to ditch my home’s many controllers. Will a $70 dongle do the trick? Zero1 certainly hopes so, because that’s the idea behind the VooMote Zapper.

The VooMote Zapper is a little dongle that plugs into the iPhone, iPod touch and/or iPad, and turns it into the ultimate remote control. Companies have been trying to perfect remote control as long as there has been remote control. With everyone becoming so dependent on iOS and Android devices, companies are adding apps all the time. Do I need to pay $70 and attach something to my iPhone? Read on to find out.

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Out of the package, the VooMote Zapper looks like something destined to get wedged in between the couch cushions — ah, a true remote control! If it doesn’t end up in the couch, it will end up inside the dog. This thing is pretty tiny.

Upon plugging it into my iPhone, I was prompted to download the free VooMote Zapper app. Once launched, the VooMote app requires you to hold the device upside down, so that the dongle is on the top. There’s no flipping and flopping, unless you plan to contort your body.

The VooMote Zapper app allows users to set up various rooms under one app. Once you pick the room, you’re going to have to know the devices in it, including all of the model numbers. Even so, that might not be helpful.

My 2011 Panasonic plasma wasn’t listed in the VooMote Zapper’s limited menu. However, it was an easy enough fix. After choosing the brand, the VooMote Zapper prompted me to point the device at the TV. A few on-screen instructions later, it found the command codes that worked. The same went for my Sony Blu-ray player.

When it came to my Pioneer receiver, things got a bit more difficult. Currently, I have the new Pioneer VSX-822 hooked up. Not only wasn’t it in the VooMote menu, but it wasn’t able to guess the commands by pointing and shooting at the unit. Not to fear, though; there is a last resort. The VooMote does have the option to learn remote commands by pairing the device up with your component’s original IR remote. Just point the two at each other and follow the on-screen prompts. Within a few seconds, all was well.

Well, it was until I got to my DVR. I have the new DISH Network Hopper, which not only wasn’t in the VooMote Zapper’s database, but couldn’t link in any way. I can’t fault the VooMote for that though; the Hopper uses ZigBee, which is not supported on this device.

The actual interface for the VooMote Zapper is pleasurable enough. It’s easy to flip through devices and rooms and easy to customize the buttons so you won’t have to live without those bells and whistles (my special Netflix button!) that you may have become accustomed to. Another nice touch is that the VooMote Zapper allows users to set up macros and group multiple actions (Watch DVD, Listen to Music, etc.) under the OneView section.

The graphics are big, but the controls are sort of small. If you fumble pushing typical remote buttons, a teeny iPhone screen is not going to make your viewing experience more pleasurable. Another thing worth noting is that when you have the VooMote Zapper dongle attached, there’s no rest for your iPhone. It just never goes into sleep mode, so don’t be surprised when your battery is drained later.

It’s hard to image that anyone really enjoys having eight different remotes. A comfortable, one-device remote solution is the Holy Grail for most AV users. Is that the VooMote? For someone, I suppose. That said, it’s not an out-of-the-box solution and can be frustrating at times, especially for those with newer equipment. Unless you really need to have that iOS device involved in every aspect of your tech life, there are better remote control solutions out there (Harmony for one) for around the same price.

Read a review of the Gear4 UnityRemote for iPhone.

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