On Wednesday Sky launched something which may herald the real start of a second-screen revolution – a remote control app. Currently only available on iOS devices, the app can change channel, remote record and manage the PVR. There is also transport control functionality. What the app cannot do however is alter volume, or – strangely – access Anytime+. With TiVo’s remote control app in the offing, with a speculated release date of late Autumn, we may begin to see consumer’s making the shift away from the traditional remote controls to their mobile app versions.
The remote control app from Sky joins a short list of apps with the functionality to act as a substitute for traditional remote controls – Zeebox springs to mind, as does the remote control Samsung app. The issue with these – which Sky’s may have been expected to bypass – is that they are only useful for certain functions of a remote control. Zeebox, for example, can change channel but cannot alter volume, or turn the TV on/off, whilst Samsung’s remote cannot be used to work anything but the Samsung TV. These limitations mean that ultimately the consumer will have to return to their old trusty remote control to perform simple, everyday functions, which begs the question of why bother to use the remote app in the first place? Platforms are the best placed to provide a comprehensive remote experience, but Sky’s app is still lacking in some important features.
It will be interesting to see how TiVo tackle the remote control app when their version launches later this year. On the face of it a remote control app provides a option for functions like search, with the vastly more simple text input, however until basic functionality is embedded into these apps, they may well remain on the periphery of the TV experience.