A trend among accessory designers has been to turn smartphones and tablets into universal TV remotes. The touchscreen makes for a perfect interface for accessing the many controls today’s advanced devices require. Griffin has announced a new accessory for Android users that allows them to use their phone or tablet as a remote control as well.
Unlike other similar products which use an IR blaster that goes in the headphone port, Beacon connects with Android over Bluetooth. Note that while a similar product for iOS exists, Android devices require the Android-specific Beacon. Griffin promises that no dongles or cables are needed to use the Beacon. It runs on 4 AA batteries for up to 2 months.
The Beacon uses an app called Dijit for remote TV control. TV functions can be controlled from the Android device of choice. As well, TV guide listings can be viewed from within the app, and then the TV can be changed to that channel with a single button press. The app is usable without Beacon, as well, for just viewing TV guide listings. Tablet owners will enjoy the split interface, with basic TV controls available on the right side of the screen, and TV listings on the left side.
Of course, the question is whether there’s any advantage in ease of use with having to connect over Bluetooth versus using something like an IR dongle; in large rooms, this could be an issue. Still, having tablet support along with phone support makes this a possibly incredibly useful accessory for all Android owners. Of course, for those who already have the iOS Beacon, it seems odd to think that despite the standardized Bluetooth protocol, Android couldn’t be used to control those devices. The Griffin Beacon is available now for $69.99 from Griffin’s website and from retail locations that sell Griffin products like Best Buy. Note that the Dijit app requires Gingerbread or higher in order to run.