The remote has been changing for years but there is not really one successor to the remote as we know it. We now see many apps appear but for this you have to have your smartphone always at hand. Manufacturers also try out new versions with touchpads, motion sensors and speech recognition. What will the remote control of the future look like? Is it perhaps the Spin remote, a remote control that is far from what we are used to, does not have any physical buttons and lets you operate other devices in your home next to your TV. In this review we look at the Spin remote (SDC-1), a product of Dutch soil.
What is the Spin remote?
The Spin remote is a kind of rotary knob with which you can control various devices in the house. The remote control comes without physical buttons, but instead you can program the movements you make with the device to perform certain actions. You can run the remote control in different ways and the bottom can also be used as a touch pad, and for the parts of this touchpad you can also set what they have to do. Different sensors in the device register what you do and ensure that the movement is linked to a command that you have set yourself in the corresponding app. Thanks to a ring with LEDs, the Spin remote gives each profile (every device you want to operate) its own color.
The Spin remote looks very chic and sleek with a brushed aluminum finish and a nice ring with LEDs. It is a device that you can put on the table without being in the way. The top has the Spin logo, which also lights up when you use the remote control. The device lies comfortably in the hand, both in terms of shape and weight.
Installation and configuration
We have used several universal remote controls in the past but the installation was already covered nine times out of ten. Some things were not possible, or you had to have a lot of technical knowledge. That is a thing of the past with the Spin remote. The remote control is completely focused on ease of use; a child must be able to do the laundry and a child must be able to set up the remote control and also use it.
The first step is to place the batteries in the Spin remote and download the Spin remote app for iOS or Android. Then turn bluetooth on your smartphone and start the app. Within a few seconds the Spin remote will be found (if it is nearby) and you can start with the configuration. The app is also very simplistic and tight, without bells and whistles. No advanced options; the focus is on the profiles you can create for the various devices you want to operate. It is nice that in the (small) menu you will find some videos about how you can connect devices and set the profile for them.
Creating a profile is very simple, but before you do that it is good to know what the Spin remote is compatible with. The device has infrared transmitters that send the signal 360 degrees and thus control all devices that work on infrared (take your TV or decoder). You can therefore link these devices. In addition, Spin developers offer remote integration with smart home devices. You depend on the devices they (want and can) support and at the moment they are Sonos, Philips Hue and LIFX. Nest will soon be added to this offer.
Please note; the Spin remote does not support RF signals. Some TVs and decoders (for example from Ziggo) work with a remote control that sends signals via RF. These can not be replaced by the Spin remote.
When you create a profile, for example for your TV or Hue lamps, then you first have the choice of a color (the color in which also the LEDs of the Spin remote change) and an icon (only visible in the app) . Then choose a name for the profile and you can set the profile to your own liking. Please note; the developers of Spin remote determine which setting options you have per profile (infrared, Nest, Hue, etc.). For example, with infrared devices you can only switch channels or determine the volume by turning the remote. The touchpad on the back can be used for further functions. For Hue lamps, you can only determine the brightness and color, but you can not choose a scene.
If you have created a profile then you can get started with setting any movement (rotation) that you can make with the Spin remote. In the image below you see the possibilities that you have. Only the scroll function is not working at the moment (will be added later this year) and the swipe functions are limited in the possibilities for which you can use them. Presets have been created for the touchpad (for Sonos, Hue and infrared) that you have to use. The touchpad will be released later this year so that you can hang other functions on parts of the touchpad yourself.
So, you choose a profile, choose a movement (or a touchpad action), select the function you want to link (brightness lighting, channel change TV, color lighting, song of music, volume, etc.) and choose the device on which this function must be performed (infrared, Hue, Sonos, LIFX, etc). Then it depends on the device you have chosen which options you get. If you choose infrared, the Spin Remote must learn which infrared signal to send. You do this by holding down the relevant function’s button on the original remote control of the product, pointing it at the Spin remote and learning how to send the signal. If you have chosen Philips Hue, you can still select the lamps that have to respond to this specific function. The same applies to Sonos and future compatible devices.
It is a whole story, but without a manual or technical knowledge, the Spin Remote can be set up by anyone. It is just as good to see what possibilities the Spin Remote offers you and which functions of the infrared devices you want to take over. For example, apart from the function to change the channel by turning, we have put all menu functions of the KPN decoder on the touchpad. This way we can directly call up the menu and navigate in it.
The simple setting of the remote control and the various possibilities you get are of course ideal on paper. But, it all depends on the operation and the ease or the device really invites to be used. Fortunately, the Spin remote is also a simple device that is even fun to use.
Thanks to the integration of various sensors, the Spin remote knows exactly how you hold it and which movement you make. The movement is not registered or registered badly. In the beginning, however, it was the case that we sometimes ‘surpassed’ it with turning. For example, it was difficult to reach the desired color of the Hue lamps or we ran through a number of TV channels too far. Fortunately, there is the possibility in the app to adjust the sensitivity of the spinning so that this problem disappears. In addition, the remote gives firm and clear feedback thanks to vibrations. So you also feel what you are doing.
The Spin remote shows by means of colors which profile has been activated. For example, TV is green, and Philips Hue is orange. We have also created Nest, but compatibility with the Nest will be added later this year. You select the desired profile by tapping the logo at the top twice. You can then have assignments carried out by means of various movements and twists. In our case turning the spider on the table is responsible for the brightness of the Hue lamp behind the couch (orange) and changing the TV channel (green). If we turn the Spin upside-down and turn, we scroll through the colors of the Hue lamp behind the TV.
With the touchpad on the bottom (in the green TV profile) we get to the menu of the set-top box and we can, for example, browse through the guide. In rare cases it is not possible to program a certain function on the Spin remote. Consider above all advanced functions such as AV receivers. In such a case there is simply no button available and the function can not be created. It is also a pity that the scroll function is not working yet. For now you are dependent on the arrow keys that you set on the touchpad. This touch pad does not have any clues or descriptions, it is purely on feel and with what you have programmed in mind. Still, it would be nice if something lights up or appears (a small display?) So you know where to use left, right, middle, top and bottom in each profile. Especially for people who have not programmed the app and want to do something, it is unfortunately haphazard touch and see where we end up.
Devices respond very smoothly to the remote control, and thanks to the many infrared transmitters it does not really matter how you hold the device, the TV, the console or the set-top box reacts almost immediately. A minus point that we have experienced is the bluetooth connection that regularly falls away or needs to be repaired. But, this turns out to be a downside for iOS users, as we explain in a section later in this article. The bluetooth connection is only necessary when communicating with devices via the smartphone, which is the case with Philips Hue and Sonos. It can also happen that the Spider sometimes gets rid of it, for example if you put it too hard. Then the profile changes automatically and you have to tap twice to find your desired profile.
But, what do you do with several people at home? You encounter two problems: first you set the Spin remote all the way to your own liking and since there is no description on the device itself is visible, the operation by another will not run smoothly (without clear instructions). In addition, some devices need to be operated with the bluetooth connection so your smartphone must be present. The first problem can still be solved by explaining properly to your friend or another family member what the functions are, but the second problem can only be solved by having other people in the house create their own profiles. When you are not at home, your girlfriend can connect a year with Spin and automatically upload all her profiles. This way Spin is immediately completely personal and configured as desired.
The fact that the Spin remote does not have any ‘fixed’ function makes it possible to keep everything fit. If a certain rotation or movement does not work well for you, you put the relevant function under a different movement. This way you can keep playing to set the ideal operation for yourself. This also ensures that the developers of the Spin remote have a lot of freedom to add new functions and compatibility with multiple devices.
Android vs iOS
There is another important part that we need to explain. There is a difference between the operation of the Spin remote on iOS and on Android. Due to the way the operating systems work, the Spin remote on Android has more ‘freedom’. For some devices (for example, Philips Hue and Sonos), the remote is connected to your smartphone via bluetooth. This connection must be active when you want to operate the Hue lamps. On an Android device, the connection is automatically maintained as the app continues to run in the background. Turn off your Bluetooth for a while (during the time you’re away from home), then on Android that connection is immediately restored when bluetooth is switched on again and you are close to the remote control. The app is also automatically started when your phone is restarted. So you do not really have to worry about it, provided you have bluetooth on. On iOS it is a different story because according to the developers of the Spin remote it is not possible to automatically restore the bluetooth connection when bluetooth is switched off, the range is lost or the app no longer runs in the background. iOS users therefore have to restart the app themselves, connect the remote and then they can use the remote again for the Hue lights. This only applies to devices that require first pairing via bluetooth between the remote and the smartphone. This is no problem for infrared and Wi-Fi devices.
Depending on new developments
The spin remote has an infinite number of possibilities in the base but the product is only just on the market and the compatibility with smart home equipment is not yet yours. The company says it is busy working on support for multiple devices and adding extra functions (and unlocking for example the scroll function and fully personalize the touchpad). In the short term we can expect at least Nest so you can control the temperature with the Spin remote. What we really look forward to is the use of so-called routines, also called macros. This means that multiple functions are under one button. With one touch you can switch on the TV, the decoder and the speakers. Especially since the audio of our TV sounds through external speakers, this is a welcome function. There are plenty of possibilities and also in the field of hardware the company says it has many plans. So we are not surprised if we see a second version of the Spin remote next year, perhaps with even more possibilities and a touch display at the bottom.
All in all, we find the Spin remote (SDC-1) a remote control that actually shows how the operation of all your devices can, other than that we are used to and with an appearance that does not mar the coffee table. The Spin remote is very easy to install and configure, offers a wide range of useful functions, and also works smoothly and quickly. Learning all the functions by heart is a bit longer than with a traditional remote control where everything is visible, but we got it pretty quickly. If you have an advanced home cinema setup you will miss some functions and possibilities, but for everyone else it is an ideal replacement for all those other remote controls. However, we also have to say that iOS users (like us) will probably have to connect via bluetooth to the manual connection. That is not a fault of the product, but a limitation of iOS. Since many smart home devices are dependent on this connection, it is something to be included in your purchase decision. In addition, there is absolutely room for improvement, with the addition of more smart home devices, the support of RF signals, the unlocking of the scroll function and the addition of a display on the touch surface at the bottom. But, what the Spin does remotely, he does well.