November 14, 2011 | by Andrew Kameka
Pros: Excellent recommendations for TV broadcasts, customizable, great design
Cons: Remote function works on only one device, very inconsistent
Television sucks. Not just the quality of shows on-air, but also the challenge of endlessly scrolling through the long list of what’s playing in order to find something actually worth watching. Peel Smart Remote is an Android app that seeks to give users more control of their television. The app connects to a television and cable box to become both a personalized guide and a secondary remote. At the moment, only the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus can use the remote function, but other Android phones and tablets in the United States should be able to use the guide aspect.
Results will vary when setting up Peel, but my experience was frustrating. While I commend Peel for attempting to simplify the TV set-up process – the remote sends codes to televisions and cable boxes until the right signal is discovered – it took several attempts before I finally got my Toshiba HDTV and Comcast cable box operational. I sadly then had to uninstall and reset the entire process because it performed so poorly, slowly, and inconsistently when changing channels. Things went from bad to worse when the app refused to list HD channels for live sports broadcasts. Sports are the only reason I have HD service, so it was disappointing to see Law & Order listed on TNT HD but have Peel not navigate to Oregon vs. Stanford on ABC HD. In the end, it made more sense for me to abandon Peel and use my standard remote.
However, I didn’t walk away completely sour from Peel; the app truly is smart when it comes to recommendations. Peel takes cues from user preferences on television shows, movies, and sporting events, then spits back fairly accurate recommendations of interesting broadcasts. Someone who claims to be a big fan of reality TV, comedy, lifestyle, and baseball will get a nice mix of options for what’s broadcasting at any given time (schedules revealed up to a week in advance). Thumbnails for shows like Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, Shrek the Third, and VH1 Video Pop-Up will appear, along with a brief description and a link to tune to that network (GTab 7+ only for now). Users can also mark a show as a favorite or cut a program so it’s no longer shown. That can also lead to better recommendations.
Peel does a good job of highlighting interesting programs. A complete TV guide is not available in the app, but it does let users browse by genre and get targeted recommendations. While I was greatly disappointed by the remote function – which, again, will vary by user and television provider – having a heads-up on broadcasts that may interest me was beneficial. Far from perfect, Peel does a decent job saving users from bad programming fatigue. It’s certainly better than aimlessly flicking through channels.