Last month, CNET reported that Apple was granted a patent for a steering-wheel remote, a clever-sounding gizmo that would allow drivers to control audio playback without having to look at or interact with their iPhones.
Of course, who knows if or when this product will see the light of day. Fortunately, there's another one that already has: the Satechi BT Media Remote. I've spent the last couple days test-driving one, and I've arrived at this conclusion: Best. Accessory. Ever!
OK, maybe I'm a little overenthusiastic about a Bluetooth remote, but it solves exactly the problem described above. When I'm in my car, listening to a playlist, a podcast, or Pandora, I have no control over the iPod app unless I look at my iPhone. And that makes for some seriously distracted driving.
It's also a boon when I've got my iPhone sitting in a speaker dock halfway across the room, and want to switch tracks without getting up.
The remote provides a full set of playback controls: play, pause, last track, next track, volume up/down, and mute. There's also a Home button you can use to activate Siri, though obviously if you're going to invoke her, you can probably press your phone's actual Home button just as easily.
The BT Remote will definitely appeal to semi-serious photographers, as its volume-up button doubles as a shutter-release button (just like on the iPhone itself). So if you've got your iPhone mounted on a tripod, you can snap photos without actually having to touch it (which risks blurring the image). This could prove handy for times when you want to be in front of the camera, too, like for group shots.
There's a panel on the front of the remote that slides down to reveal 0-9 number buttons, which seem to exist solely for the purpose of pairing it with your iDevice. Speaking of which, the BT Remote can pair with just about any Bluetooth-equipped Apple device (including Mac Minis, MacBooks, and newer iPod Touches).
I tested it inside my Kia Sportage and with an Altec Lansing speaker dock. In short order I fell in love with being able to control the audio functions from afar, or at least without any screen interaction.
At $39.99, the BT Remote may seem a little pricey. Of course, I'd be surprised if Apple's rumored remote weren't similarly priced. And Satechi's product includes volume and mute controls, which don't appear on Apple's patent diagrams. Perhaps we'll learn more at next week's Worldwide Developer Conference, but I'm pretty happy with the Satechi BT Remote right now. It's not something everybody needs, but I definitely want one.