Blumoo Controller

The Bluemoo Controller, which turns a smartphone or tabliet into home theater remote and a music streamer. (Flyover Innovations / September 25, 2013)

Designing an app that turns a smartphone into a universal remote control isn't a technological quad somersault off the 3-meter board anymore.

Flyover Innovations, obviously, didn't want to flop headfirst into the pool of same-old, Bluetooth-connected accessories/apps that command a television, Blu-ray player and DVR. For its first product, the crowdfunded company in Lenexa, Kan., added music-streaming powers to a stout little remote-control accessory named Blumoo. Judges, please note the enhanced degree of difficulty.

But is a $129.99 remote-streamer combo that occupies a smartphone or tablet, Apple and now Android, better than more sophisticated separates like an Apple TV music-video streamer ($99) and Universal Remote's URC-A6 ($19.99)? Maybe not to this judge, but Blumoo is much cuter than either.

Blumoo, arched backward like a slightly tipsy beer stein, stands less than 3 inches tall, with a semitranslucent polycarbonate HomeBase body framed in brushed aluminum by what looks like a handle. Drink up! Or maybe order up another command: Blumoo's infrared transmitter is compatible with more than 200,000 home-entertainment components.

The line of communication works like this: The free app, which includes the remote-control database for all (or most of) your home-entertainment equipment, sends commands via Bluetooth 4.0 (and its 150-foot range) to Blumoo, which then beams infrared commands instructing an HDTV to turn on, access a Blu-ray movie menu or change channels on a cable box.

Blumoo's kangaroo tail leads to an injection-molded harness with connectors for a power supply, an audio cable that connects to an audio-video receiver or soundbar and an infrared extender if the HomeBase signal cannot reach some of your components. Flyover Innovations does not include an extender, nor does it sell one on its website. (Generic extenders start at about $10.)

If Blumoo were a permanent part of my home theater, I'd need one. Blumoo could not communicate with my HDTV, audio-video receiver and cable box unless it was on the floor, in front of the equipment, in a high-traffic area.

No matter how deep a database, some components turn their backs on remotes like Blumoo. If they don't connect immediately, the Blumoo keeps sending codes until the component responds or it runs out of codes. At least the Blumoo is honest.

"I don't have the right code for that action," appeared on the screen more than once.

Lil' Blumoo couldn't learn how to turn an Apple TV on or off, though it could navigate its menu. Though the PlayStation 3 is listed as a streaming device in the Blumoo app's database, it did not work with mine. Yet despite listing only DVRs, it worked with a Motorola cable box.

So in my home theater, Blumoo was batting .600: It worked with a Pioneer receiver, Panasonic plasma HDTV and cable box but not with an Apple TV or PS3. The latter two are notorious noncommunicators — the PS3 comes with a Bluetooth, not infrared remote — so have faith in Blumoo's database.

After a painless setup, Blumoo operated like a stand-alone remote. It's the best remote-control app I've tried at setting up multifunction commands, or macros: After entering several individual commands, I could later press a single button and simultaneously power on the HDTV, the cable box and the Pioneer receiver and then shift the receiver to its TV mode.

Blumoo still isn't as good as a dedicated remote control, but it does more. A program guide downloads automatically to the app and provides both reminders and recommendations based on what you've watched.

And it streams. But this streamer uses Bluetooth's common A2DP profile, not the higher-quality aptX technology. Instead of sending music to my audio system from an iPhone via Blumoo, I could send it to the Apple TV via Wi-Fi.

The Blumoo app, for now, streams Spotify, Rdio, Pandora and iTunes Radio, but this is only the beginning.

Flyover Innovations, which made Blumoo an open-source hardware platform available to developers, added Android compatibility and an iOS app update recently. Already, it's smarter than the everyday remote-control app.

Blumoo Controller

Price: $129.99

The good: Controls home-entertainment devices, streams music to a connected audio system.

The not so good: Despite extensive database, will not work with all components. Might need IR extender for stacked components. Music streaming limited by Bluetooth.

Information: flyoverinnovations.com