For those of you that have not heard of Unify4Life, in short, it is a company that is transforming your BlackBerry into a universal remote control for your AV equipments, garage doors, lights. Anything you need a remote control for Unify4Life wants to be there to help you control it from your BlackBerry. Unify4Life’s immediate offering is an AV Hub that talks to your BlackBerry via Bluetooth and talks to your AV equipments via IR (infrared).
The Unboxing and Hardware Setup (or lack of)
The Unify4Life AV Hub comes in a sleek black box, making a great gift box set. When I first got it, I couldn’t wait to open the black box up. In side the box is the actual Unify4Life AV Hub itself along with the power cable. Perhaps I missed it when I first saw the presentation at WES back in May 2008, I thought the setup was going to be a major pain due to all the spider wires that I would have to stick on to all the infrared ports on my TV, DVD, Sound system…etc. Boy-o was I pleasantly surprised to find out that the AV Hub itself can communicate with all my AV equipments via IR without setting up spider cables. Sweet!
Really, all I had to do is find a good place where the AV Hub has an unobstructed view to all my AV equipments and then plug in the power cable, and voila, I’m done with the hardware setup. As I previously mentioned, you can have spider cables setup so the unit sits right beside your AV equipment and the AV Hub sends signals via the wired spider cables.
Configuring My AV Equipment
If you are one of those people that save all the manuals you get from TVs, DVD, satellite and cable boxes, then configuring AV equipment on Unify4Life’s owner website is going to be cake. As for me, nope, I am definitely not one of those. What exactly do you have to do to get your AV setup? You need to know the type of equipment (easy as pie), maker the equipment (not tough), and exact model number. The last one was a bit tough. I had to go to lengths and open up the back of my AV center and track down the model number for my TV, Cable Box, DVD player, Amplifier.
Just to be fair, the Unify4Life’s owner website is still in beta form when I tested this in early October. Also, I have since then spoke to Unify4Life and they will have search functions to make setting this up a lot easier than what I went through.
A “minor” feature request from the dev team at Unify4Life: If some how I can point each of my AV remotes at the Unify4Life AV Hub and it “learns” about the AV Equipment that way, it would be make the setup grandma-proof (no disrespect to Grandmas every where).
The Test Drive
I think the following says a lot about the product “value proposition”:
When I showed the Unify4Life TV Listing to my father, he was very impressed that he can search through the TV Listing for the show that is coming on within the next six hours by keywords and phrases, and when my father has found the shows he wanted, he can either change the channel right from the BlackBerry or he can schedule it so the BlackBerry Calendar reminds him when the show of interest is about to come on. People, this is the end of aimless channel surfing as we know it (unless you actually enjoy wasting time surfing through channels without knowing what you actually want to watch).
Now, you might be wondering, is the TV listing local and current? You bet. Now, I don’t live in a small town in the mid-west but rather in a small town in the “Tri-state area near NYC”. What I do know is that Unify4Life subscribe to a 3rd party feed and that 3rd party’s only job is to get the TV Listing feeds right, so I wouldn’t worry.
When I started using Unify4Life, I noticed that can control each of my AV equipment individually using the Unify4Life BlackBerry application. For instance, I can go to my TV control area and change the volume of the TV, change the input source. If I go to the cable box control area, I can change the channel, see tv guide from my cable service provider (not that I would since I can search through Unify4Life’s TV Listing – see above). Likewise, if I go to my DVD control area and control my DVD player. But what if I’m watching a movie that I just got from Netflix and I want to change volume on my amplifier but also control DVD player at the same time?
Unify4Life is one step ahead because they already thought of that.
Unify4Life also categorize your equipment via “activities”. For example, when I am in Movies Activity mode, the screen shows me just the buttons that I would need: button for me to fast forward and backwards for the DVD player, but also the volume for my AV system.
Unify4Life app showing activities and my devices
Overall I think this product is a great gift for the technophile in the family, it is practical and it will literally replace all the remotes in the house. This is just me, but I have many BlackBerry smartphones at home, so one of them is dedicated to being my remote. One feature request is to allow multiple BlackBerry Smartphones to be added to the account so families with multiple BlackBerry Smartphones will entertainment need not wait for that BlackBerry to come back home.
Unify4Life app putting the controls that I need while I’m watching movie
I’m in the process of tweaking my setting so I can control my MacBook DVD player with my BlackBerry. Stay tune for an update to this post.
What’s Next for Unify4Life
As I mentioned in the first paragraph, Unify4Life has a garage door hub that will allow you to open your garage door using the same BlackBerry that controls your AV system. Now, some of you would say, why would I do that if I already have a garage opener in the car clipped right on my visor? Well, what if you are walking your dog or taking a walk with your family? Do you want to go into your car, get the garage opener, and likely to later forget to put it back for yourself to use the next day? My point exactly!
What I’m really excited about and can’t wait for is to control my thermostat with my BlackBerry. Having thermostat control from my BlackBerry would just make my winter months of getting up in the middle of the night to adjust the temperature a thing of the past!
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