Analysts estimate that by the end of 2011, the number of Apple iPads sold worldwide could be as high as 50 million units. Stimulating this demand is a community of software developers that has now released more than 500,000 apps for Apple’s iOS devices.
For home theatre enthusiasts, the exciting news is that within the last year a multitude of apps have been released that can control most elements of your home theatre, including your high definition television, A/V Receiver, Blu-ray Player, home theatre personal computer (HTPC) and various media extenders such as the Apple TV, Squeezebox and Boxee.
Due to the overwhelming number of new iOS apps being released every day, it is difficult to keep up with all of the new releases, so the following is an overview of my favourite home theatre-related apps, along with some other recently released equipment-specific apps that may be useful in many home theatres.
Audio Video Receiver Control
If you have bought a networked home theatre receiver in 2011 then there is an excellent chance that an app for controlling your device exists. Since the start of the year, Denon, Onkyo, Pioneer and Yamaha have released apps that let you take control of your receiver from anywhere on your home network. Excellent for home theatres with a multi-zone setup.
Boxee Remote Boxee Remote is a popular and free cross-platform home theatre PC media centre application that lets users play video files on their HDTV. The Boxee software also gives users access to various Internet streaming services, including Netflix. The Boxee remote app turns your iOS device into a Boxee Remote Control.
CineXPlayer This is a $3 app that’s essential for downloaders who wish to watch native Xvid movies on their iPad, iPhone or iPod touch.
Find My iPhone I’m always looking for the lost remote and now I often find myself searching for the iPad. Solve the problem by installing the Find My iPhone app. If you can't find your iPad, just go to me.com and send a signal to your iPad. For the next two minutes, your iPad will play a sound at full volume so you can quickly find it in your house.
Good Reader If you are having a problem with your A/V receiver or HDTV, then maybe it’s time to review the manual. The Good reader is a robust PDF reader that lets you search, annotate and read digital versions of all your manuals right on your iOS device.
HDTV and Blu-ray Remotes
Within the last six months, most major consumer electronics companies such as LG, Panasonic, Samsung and Sony have released free iOS apps to control their network enabled High definition televisions and Blu-ray players. The apps generally only work with models released in the last six months so be sure to check the iTunes store for suitability with your HDTV or Blu-ray player.
Logitech Squeezebox Controller The Squeezebox is a popular networked music player that plays Internet radio or digital audio across a home network. This app lets puts a fully featured Squeezebox remote on your iOS device.
If you trying to decide what movie to pick up at the local video store of if you can't figure out who played in a particular movie then download the free Movies by Flixster and IMDb Movies and TV apps. Flixster uses the popular movie aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes to give you the critics viewpoint on virtually any North American movie from the last 20 years, while the IMDB app lets you find out more information about your favourite actor, director and movie. No movie lover should be without these apps.
RedEye The Red Eye infrared remote is a great way to turn your iOS device into an infrared remote extender remote controller for all of your home theatre devices. Using hardware sold separately, the RedEye app lets you send remote control signals to your home theatre using your home network.
Remote Developed by Apple, Remote gives Mac and PC users the ability to control iTunes and Apple TV over you WiFI Network. If you want to stream video or audio from an iTunes server to your TV or stereo then get this app.
Remote HD This $5 app lets you view a live display of your Mac, PC or Apple TV screen from your iOS device. Great when you want to keep your computer or Apple TV out of sight but still want to control them remotely. If you are looking for just a remote track pad app for your Home Theatre PC, be sure to check out Mobile Mouse, which also works with Apple TV
Sonos Controller When I am asked to recommend a multi-room music, I often point readers towards the Sonos multi-room music system. The Sonos system is expensive but thanks to the gorgeous and well-designed Sonos music app, it’s a joy to use.
Air Video Air Video is one of my favourite apps. After installing the free Air Video server on your computer, this $2.99 app will let you stream your entire video library over your local network. Ideal when you want to watch a video on you iPad while lying in bed, working out or sitting in the backyard. The free server software also lets you convert your AVI, DivX and MKV files into a iPad or iPhone friendly video library so you can watch videos when you're away from home. Another popular streaming app to consider is StreamToMe which delivers much of the same functionality as Air Video.
VLC Remote VLC is a free cross platform media player that belongs on every Mac, Windows and Linux computer. VLC is a lightweight application that comes without bloatware and is legendary for its ability to play virtually any media file you can throw at it. The $4.99 VLC Remote app allows you to control search folders and play media files from your computer while sitting at your couch.
Wake To save electricity, most of my computers are programmed to switch to a low power or "sleep" mode when left unattended. If you stream video or music from a centralized computer, you sometimes need the ability to remotely wake up your computer from standby. This 99 cent app is compatible with all "Wake on Lan" capable devices.
Finally, for those readers whose iPad is their home theatre system, then consider the following Canadian apps that will let you stream some of your favourite TV shows and podcasts to your iPad:
- CBC News - stream the latest CBC news videos to you iOS device;
- CityTV Watch the latest episodes, with commercials, of popular shows such as Modern Family, Cougar Town and 30 Rock;
- NFB Films - view thousands of videos and full length movies from National Film Board at no charge;
- Vevo HD This app lets music lovers watch more than 25,000 music videos from more than 7,500 artists.
All of the apps discussed in this story can be found on the iTunes Canada app store and range in price from free to $4.99.
Hugh Thompson is the owner and publisher of Digital Home, a consumer electronics news and information website. As a voice for the Canadian consumer, Hugh is a frequent guest on radio and television programs across the country discussing the latest in consumer electronics and the business of convergence in the Digital Home.
Hugh's column will appear on the first Wednesday of the month.