Ease of Use
I'd only use the Audio Streaming!
Summary : A great attempt at universal control, but let down with poor software and slight audio issues.
How many times do you look around your home and see a huge pile of controllers lying around. One for your TV, one for the cable box, one for the audio receiver and who knows what else you may have. Many of these manufacturers claim to support multiple devices, but you always end up with something not being fully controlled, or not being able to program the multi remote in the first place. Blumoo is trying to get rid of these remotes and give you a single controller for all your devices. They are not only providing remote control, but also Bluetooth audio streaming in a single sleek little box.
There have been a few devices released that allow you to control your entertainment devices from your Bluetooth enabled smartphone and Blumoo, from Flyover Innovations Inc, is another attempt at ultimate home entertainment integration. The Blumoo device can be purchase from the Blumoo website for $129, which isn’t too bad for what you get. The big question is; Does it do whats it’s supposed to do and does it do it well enough to warrant the price tag.
What is the Blumoo?
The Blumoo is a Bluetooth 4.0 connected Infrared (IR) repeating universal remote control and music streaming device. I think that pretty much sums it up in a single sentence. Continue reading to find more details, what it looks like and the features it contains.
The Blumoo system comes in a small cube shaped box that is filled with packing material. Not a bad things as you want your precious new toys to be protected, but it kind of gives the opinion that the Blumoo device is going to be bigger than it really is. Again, this is not a bad thing as the device itself is perfectly sized and boxing does it justice.
Inside the packaging you’ll find the Blumoo device with a tail cable permanently attached. On the end of the tail you’ll find a small breakout box providing the required connections to get you up and running.
Dig deeper and you’ll find the AC power adapter and what appears to be a fairly high quality audio hookup cable.
The Blumoo head unit is a very nicely designed little unit that fits nicely anywhere around your entertainment system and devices. It’s heavy enough to stay where you put it but lite enough to be convenient. The cable connection and overall layout are well though out and give it a classy look while not being obtrusive. I must say the Blumoo device looked sexy from the second it was removed form the box. I was very impressed with the initial look and feel. Some of Bluetooth streaming dongles you see look unattractive and out-of-place and you do your best to hide them out-of-the-way. This is not the case with the Blumoo.
If you take a look at the pictures below, you can see the front of the Blumoo Head Unit is glossy black finish and the body that makes up the front is sandwiched in a u-shaped aluminum frame wrapping front the top front edge, down the back and ending at the bottom front edge. It’s definitely a nice look and offers great protection. the casing also give the weight that makes the Blumoo Head Unit feel very sturdy when it’s placed next to your equipment.
The tail cable is permanently attached to the back of the Blumoo and passes through a slit in the back of the outer metal shell. This works well and keeps everything nicely hidden behind the Blumoo Head Unit.
The first thing your going to do is take everything out of the packaging and plug-in the power cord to the breakout box on the end of tail wire. the breakout box has three connections:
- Power connector
- IR Extension
- 3.5mm Audio connection
This is where I found my first disappointment. Blumoo provide an IR Extender port, yet they don’t provide an IR extender cable. IR Extender cables allow you to place and IR repeater in hidden places your Blumoo IR controller may not be able. Some people have their receivers hidden inside an audio unit to give a cleaner so you’d place an IR extender inside the cabinet. It’s a fairly common thing to do. The IR extender cables are very cheap so it’s not like they are saving much money by leaving one out of the box so I don’t really understand this.
Anyway, enough of the ranting, lets plug-in the power cord and get this baby configured.
An LED indicator on the front of the Blumoo Head Unit tells you your powered on by illuminating Red. when you get connected, the LED will turn Blue.
To start the setup you need to go and download the Blumoo app from the Android Play Store, or the Apple App Store if you’re using an iOS device. Once you’ve got the Blumoo app installed on your phone, the rest is very straightforward.
Launch the Blumoo app and it will immediately start looking for your Blumoo device and automatically attach to it. When I say automatically, I mean I had no prompts or questions of any sort. this does make it easy, but I would have liked some sort of confirmation along the way.
As far as features go, the Blumoo device and Blumoo Application offer a lot of functionality, including:
- Bluetooth 4.0 Smart Ready with up to 150 foot range.
- Five simultaneous connections.
- Powerful Infrared Transmitter
- It Extender functionality.
- High quality audio codec supporting 44.1kHz sampling
The technical specifications certainly aren’t anything to put down, unfortunately it just hasn’t been implemented very well. The application interface does not follow any standard Android guidelines, and can even be simply frustrating at times. Pressing the back button from almost any screens takes you out of the application. You are forced to use the Back or navigation buttons in the application to move around. On top of this, the application crashes constantly. I am running Android 4.4.2 KitKat on my phone, which has known to cause issues with some applications due its stricter security policies, but this is a new application for a new device and KitKat has been out for a while now.
*UPDATE: I tried the Blumoo application on a different phone and the application is not crashing anymore. The second phone is also running Android 4 KikKat so I don’t know why it happens on my Galaxy Note 2.
Ease of use
While the application has its issues, when its working properly, it’s very easy to use. Adding devices from the extensive device database is simple and configuring macros keys to perform multiple tasks in series is easy. The TV Guide is nice enough, although the fonts are too and its sometimes hard to read whats on which channel. The boxes containing the text are big enough to allow the names of the programs to wrap which would have made it much easier or given us the option to reduce the font size. The guide has no search options to help you sift through all the content you have available either. When you have so many channels it would have been nice to allow searching to find a program you’re looking for.
Performance is also a problem in the Blumoo application. Moving from screen to screen when the Guide has to load means multiple “Please Waits” and frequent crashes. This is also the same when you launch the application from your phone. I’m not sure what it’s doing every time it loads, maybe it’s searching for the Blumoo device every time, but it always has a long delay before you can actually use the application.
The device is new as is the software to control it, so I’m sure as new firmware updates are released and the application is updated, things will start to get better, but its difficult to recommend the product as it stands. The music streaming does seem to work well, and it’s even better after I received a new firmware update prompt from the application. Prior to the new firmware, I had frequent cracking noises as tracks changed and the sound quality seemed a little off. I’m happy to say that those issues appear to be resolved with the newest firmware. This bodes well for the company and we can see that they are working hard to fix issues and I have high hopes they’ll get it right soon.
The Blumoo device came with some pretty high hopes. The feature list, Bluetooth range and extensive device support got me pretty excited. If they can fix the application problems, this will be a great product. It’s now installed in the local man cave for guys in the street controlling the TV, Satellite and receiver and playing multiple streams, of music from all our devices. So it does work, but needs serious attention from Flyover Innovations Inc to get it to a product that anyone will be happy installing.
The hardware is ready, just keep an eye on the application and the updates they release to make sure it’s going to do everything you want it to do with the phone you have.
I can’t quiet recommend this as universal controller with the issues it has, but it does make a great music streaming device and has an excellent range. However, at the current $129 price tag it isn’t a very bank account friendly device for just music. It is a pretty decent price point if the app gets some attention and all the features work as they should. For more information, or if you want to order one by chance, feel free to take a look at the Blumoo website, or review their original IndieGoGo campaign.