Mossberg on 'Peel' App: ‘Good Step Forward’ for Universal Remotes

Aiming to help cut living room clutter, a new app called "Peel" lets users turn their iPhone or iPod Touch into a universal remote, with the help of a piece of "fruit.”

Wall Street Journal personal technology columnist Walt Mossberg reviewed the software and the transmitter – which is called and shaped like “fruit” – on FOX Business Network Thursday, saying it is reasonably priced for anyone who feels hassled by other universal remote solutions.

Check out more tech reviews by Walt Mossberg on FOX Business

"It depends how much of a hassle you find the current way of doing it [using remotes for various devices],” Mossberg said. “If it's not a hassle for you, then you won't spend 100 bucks, but I think 100 bucks is a reasonable price for this.”

While the app itself is free, the required-for-use battery-powered Peel fruit transmitter costs $99.  According to Peel, the device "sits almost anywhere in your living room, with no lights, no buttons, and no cables, and it controls your whole entertainment system, including the TV, cable box, Blu-Ray player, AV receiver, and more."

Peel's app lets users' iPhones and iPod touches talk to the transmitter, telling it what do to.

Mossberg said he was able to control live TV, record shows on a TiVo (NASDAQ:TIVO), stream from Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) through an Apple TV (NASDAQ:AAPL), and start DVD movies all from this one app on an iPod touch, which he thought was "pretty good."

The universal remote concept, Mossberg said, has some issues, but the team at Peel (some of whom came from Apple), have made a product that's "a good step forward."

Peel has plans to integrate more deeply with Netflix and TiVo, and an app for Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android is being worked on, he said.

In his Wall Street Journal column, Mossberg went into drawbacks of the device, which go hand-in-hand with using a smartphone as a universal remote.

One problem is that, obviously, people aren’t always at home. And if they walk out with their iPhone that has the app, the living room loses its remote, he said.

There's also the fact that smartphones and iPod touches go to sleep after a short period of inactivity, he added.  This means that users will likely find themselves often having to wake and unlock their iPhone or iPod Touch just to change the channel, whereas with a traditional remote, they need only to hit a button.

Mossberg's column also mentioned that an enhanced iPad version of the app is in development for June.