Saturday, July 18, 2009

Zeemote Review

We've just received our new Zeemote bluetooth controller and are excited to bring you our initial thoughts about the cool little device. Ironically, there's a lot to cover for such a simple little device, so let's get started.

A Little History...
About three months ago I read about the Zeemote on a mobile phone blog, and at first glance I had doubts about its usefulness. So, i did a little research and found some video of the Zeemote in action. Then it hit me how important such an accessory was for mobile devices. Gaming aside, this little thing changes the entire mobile experience of the modern smartphone and mobile computer. I decided I needed one for the NET9 lab, but it wasn't sold in my region. Fast forward to about a week ago and I had located one being sold on eBay. Now I've always been a little nervous about buying anything on eBay, and twenty bucks would be the maximum I would spend on something like the Zeemote at the time. So I bought it, got it, and it's worth more than I could have ever expected.

Originally the Zeemote was designed to offer mobiles a more comfortable or natural gaming experience. Some smart people noticed how complex and also limiting the mobile phone was for gaming and decided to make a wireless controller that most gamers would be use to. With the re-introduction of Nokia's N-Gage gaming platform, and the explosive growth of mobile gaming in general, the Zeemote couldn't have been introduced at a better time. Gaming with the Zeemote brings back memories of my old PlayStation days, except now the console and controller both fit in my pockets. This thing was designed with gamers in mind, and does an excellent job as a wireless mobile game controller.

Beyond Game Control
The Zeemote's usefulness reaches far beyond just game control. Navigating menus is a fluid process and in some cases more comfortable than using the mobile device's own navigation controls. Perhaps it's due to its smaller size or lighter weight than a typical phone. Whatever the case may be, it is definitely a more enjoyable experience to use the Zeemote to move around on a mobile device.

The Perfect External Input Device
For a device like the Nokia N97, the Zeemote shines brightly. Paired with the TV-out feature and multimedia capabilities of the N97, it's the perfect mobile setup when you're not mobile. The mobile device becomes so much more than a personal computer at this point. Also, there's a big advantage to reducing the "wear & tear" of the buttons and touchscreen by using the Zeemote. Of course devices like the N97 have advantages such as accelerometers, magnetometers, GPS, cameras, and other sensors built-in that the Zeemote obviously lacks. This brings a bit of a dilemma for developers as to how to support external input devices along with the features of the mobile device. Like any accessory out there, the Zeemote is limited in its uses, but is only limited by the capabilities of the device it connects to.

It will be interesting to see the Zeemote really take off, and I look forward to updated versions of the Zeemote in the future. The Zeemote team have recently expanded support to more mobile devices including the N97, and I suspect there will be a lot more news about Zeemote in the near future. We will continue playing with the Zeemote and bring you more thoughts and ideas on this cool new mobile controller.


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