Lots of people use their iPads as companions when they surf TV channels. But Logitech‘s Harmony Link device takes that one step further, turning the iPad or smartphone itself into a one-touch remote control for your TV.
The product being announced today is a fresh take on how to integrate a traditional TV with a touchscreen tablet that is a more natural user interface than a remote control with too many confusing buttons. As such, Logitech may have one of the most interesting new TV accessories on the market this fall. You can use it on an iPhone, iPod Touch or Android smartphone as well.
With the Harmony Link, you plug in a small wireless device next to your TV. Then you use the iPad to connect to the Harmony Link via a Wi-Fi wireless network. When you use your finger to change a channel on the user interface on the iPad, the Harmony Link translates your finger stroke into a command for the TV. The Harmony Link sends an infrared signal to the TV, completing the channel change.
To get it to work, you need to download a free Logitech Harmony Link app for your iPad. After setting it up, the Harmony Link and the app work together to delivre a personalized schedule of your favorite TV shows, channels, and genres so that you can find something good to watch. When you finish browsing and find what you want, you can use the iPad rather than a remote control to switch to the right channel.
The benefit of using the big screen of the iPad is that you can find out a lot more about your show through the web-based interface that appears on the iPad. You can read a longer description of the show that is on your current channel. There’s a big “watch now” button that you can tap on the screen when you choose to view it. Over time, Logitech learns which shows you like and how to organize them for you.
Logitech found that many people are using their iPads while sitting on the sofa watching TV, said Ashish Arora, vice president and general manager of Logitech’s Digital Home Group.
You can use the iPad to control various devices via “watch a movie” or “listen to music” controls. You don’t have to manually switch the input source for your TV (such as switching from HDMI port 1 to HDMI port 2 so you can watch a Blu-ray movie or a TV show). The Harmony Link automatically handles that switch for you, so you don’t have to fumble with multiple remotes.
The Harmony Link can control up to eight devices via the Wi-Fi network. It’s about the size of a hockey puck and only has to plug into a power outlet. The Harmony Link can also connect with more than one iPad at a time, so that multiple family members can use their own iPads to control the TV, rather than fighting over a single remote. There isn’t a huge delay in translating the control input from the iPad to the TV.
Initially, smartphones have somewhat less functionality, since they will not receive personalized program guides from the downloadable app. But Harmony Link has all the remote control functions. You can pause a show with the iPad and start it again using a phone. Logitech teamed up with Rovi to provide program guide information for the Harmony Link app. Rovi has data such as synopses, movie reviews, and images to go with the programs.
The Harmony Link will go on sale in the U.S. in October for $99.99.