When I’m on the treadmill, I like to watch videos via Netflix on my iPad, which I’ve mounted to the console. This provides an entertaining distraction from the otherwise less-than-thrilling experience of literally going nowhere fast. My biggest problem has been trying to manipulate the iPad while in motion. Say I need to adjust the volume, or pause the video, or even close the app altogether. If I’m walking or running, it’s hard to achieve the precision required to tap the appropriate onscreen icon. Usually I’d end up swiping, which on an iPad, is an entirely different action. My aim was to control the iPad without having to touch it, so I began the search for a remote control.
Historically, there have been three methods of remotely controlling iOS devices, like the iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch: Inline with headphones; via a dock connector; or with BlueTooth. The inline connector is the button on the Apple headphone cord that allows for adjustment of volume, or playing and pausing a given track. Some even allow skipping back and forth. I tried this first, using Belkin’s Headphone Adapter with Microphone. While it was useful to be able to adjust my volume and play/pause music tracks (to which I also work out), I was still tethered to my device with a not-quite-long-enough cord, and the play/pause function did not work on the Netflix app. I wanted a wireless remote.
The 30-pin Dock Connector has been the go-to standard connector for Apple’s iOS devices since April 2003 with their third-generation iPod. This meant that every stereo system designed for compatibility with iPods and iPhones (and some even with room to fit iPads) featured this connector. I tried one device, a clock radio from AT&T, which let me plug in my iPhone (but an extra cable was required to connect the iPad) and use the radio’s remote. Alas, the radio was never designed for the purpose I had in mind, and again, the Netflix interactivity was no-go. Plus, it was another bulky piece of equipment I had strapped to my treadmill, which posed certain safety risks. The other consideration I had to make was the now out-of-date 30-pin Dock Connector, which Apple phased out in favor of the smaller Lightning connector in September 2012 starting with the iPhone 5, and extending to their other devices through the end of the year. Not only was this radio not fully compatible, but it was an expensive investment in old technology. My last resort was Bluetooth.
Controlling some functions via Bluetooth is not a new discovery. My Jaybird Bluetooth headphones let me adjust the volume, skip back and forth, play and pause music, and even accept phone calls (when paired with the iPhone, naturally, not the iPad). The two drawbacks are 1.) I’d have to reach up to my ear to press the relevant button, and 2.) This still doesn’t affect the Netflix app on my iPad. Did anything exist that extended my iPad’s functionality past its touchscreen?
As it turns out, one device fit the bill: the Scosche controlFREQ II. Not only does this device (FINALLY!) control the Netflix app’s play/pause function (although the iPad still wants to play iTunes music by default); but it also has a button that acts as the iPad’s “Home” button, allowing me to quit apps and even engage Siri from a distance. App switching (after a quick “double-tap” of the “Home” button) is still possible, but I still had to reach out and touch the icon of the app I want to run. Other than that minor quibble, it’s the best (and frankly, only) remote option for working with my iPad without having to dangle a cord or utilize the now-defunct 30-pin connector.
Some other functions that I haven’t really made use of yet include a remote shutter button, so I can set up my iOS camera and stand back to take a proper picture; a dedicated Mute button, for when holding down the “Volume Down” button is too time-consuming; and, most curiously, a hidden 12-key keypad, numbered 1-0, with a “pairing” key and an “Enter” key. The keypad (hidden under a sliding cover) only works in text-enabled apps (so no trying to dial your iPhone with it), but the buttons only enter their respective numbers. There appears to be no way to program them so that, for example, if I were to hold down “2” it would cycle through “A-B-C” as is the case on some other devices with numeric-only keypads. There is also a button on the remote for bringing up my device’s onscreen keyboard, but again, since it requires me to type on the actual screen, I don’t see the benefit of that particular function.
My only other complaint about the remote is that when the time came to pair the remote to my device, I had to type the pairing code (a four-digit numeric sequence, followed by “Enter”) on easily the smallest number keys I’ve ever used. I’d recommend keeping a pencil nearby so that you can press–with the eraser–the necessary keys for pairing.
I’ve been a fan of Scosche’s mobile accessories for some time, and I expect that this remote will stick with me, for use on my current iPad, as well as future devices to come. Recommended.