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WD TV Remote iPhone app: Mostly a hit

CNET editor Dong Ngo goes hands-on with Western Digital's iOS WD Remote app for its WD TV players.

Owners of the WD TV Live Hub and WD TV Live Streaming box just got an early Christmas present from Western Digital.

Editors' note: This post was updated at 3 p.m. December 22, 2011, to add information that the Android version of the WD Remote app is also available.

The WD Remote app includes a volume control, a function that's not available on the hardware remote control of the WD TV players.
The WD Remote app includes a volume control, a function that's not available on the hardware remote control of the WD TV players. Screenshot by Dong Ngo/CNET

The company released the latest firmware for the two players that adds a slew of improvements and support for a number of other streaming services, including Vudu, SnagFilms, and Flixster.

However, the biggest addition is the fact that, together with the new firmware, WD also released the much-anticipated WD TV remote app for the iPhone, iPod Touch, and Android devices. This app allows you to control the WD TV Live Hub or the WD TV Live Streaming via Wi-Fi signal on the same network they are connected to.

This app was initially planned to be released back in October, when WD TV Live Steaming was announced, but it was delayed till now. I tried it out and found it to be an excellent complement to the devices' limited remote control.

You now can directly enter information via the phone's keyboard instead of having to fumble around with the onscreen keyboard using the remote control. You can also quickly search for media files and can even control the playback volume, a function the hardware remote control doesn't offer. And since the remote app works via Wi-Fi, you don't need to hold the phone in a line of sight to the player. Those who have multiple players can control all of them from within the app.

In my test with two players, the app loads quickly and found the devices immediately as long as they are in the same network. With other player apps, such as the one for the Seagate GoFlex TV, you have to run an initial setup to find and add the device to the list first, each time the IP address of the player changes.

The WD remote has a few misses, however. It unfortunately is designed to work only with the two above-mentioned WD TV players, which are the latest generations out of five players that WD has released. Owners of the other three are left in the cold. It's also doesn't work natively on the iPad.

The WD TV Remote app is available for free in the App Store and Android Market; the new firmware can be updated automatically when a supported player is connected to the Internet.