App vs. App: Air Mouse and Snatch

[This is an iPhone blog App vs. App review! Last week, we ran our Shazam vs. Midomi showdown, with Midomi scoring the win. But which commenter won an iTunes gift certificate? Congratulations Patrick! Want your chance to win the winning app this week? Comment below!]

Ever used a laser pointer? Ever used a wireless mouse? Ever wish you could have both in one and more? Well, there are some apps on the iPhone that allow you to do just that! These devices work great! They turn the iPhone into a remote mouse with a virtual touch pad. You use your finger to control the mouse; left-click, right-click, scroll, it makes no difference! You can even create macros to automate launching applications! Let's take a look at two of these apps: Air Mouse [iTunes Link] and Snatch [iTunes Link]

Function

Air Mouse (ver 1.1): This product turns your iPhone into a remote mouse AND a "laser" pointer! You have two configuration options, both with a keyboard. One turns your touch screen into a track pad, and you use your finger to guide the mouse. The other is a laser pointer. Simply tap and hold to activate. Both options also give you left and right click, our can you double tap the screen for a single click.

Snatch (ver 2.1): This app offers a slightly different approach. You get your track pad, but lose out on the laser pointer. But what do you gain? Macros baby! That is right, you can program Snatch to launch your favorite apps with the touch of the screen!

Specifics

Air Mouse (ver 1.1): Offers only portrait orientation with a constant keyboard available (an update for landscape is said to be coming from the developer). This makes for a comfortable and natural hold of the iPhone as a mouse. You get a nice yellow hue under your finger as you move it across the glass, so you know you are touching the screen accurately. You can change the "type" of mouse you are using on the fly from the icon located in the top right corner of the touch screen. Simply touch it and it changes instantly. You also have shift, control and command keys with the on-screen keyboard to allow for more complex keystrokes. You even have a dedicated space to use as a scroll wheel... nice touch! Setup was a breeze. Air Mouse uses the local LAN you are on to transmit signal, just like the Apple Remote app. It was easy and painless. There is a "server" install, but more on that later.

The "laser pointer" feature is quite nice. It uses the accelerometer in the iPhone to track your movements onscreen, thus replicating the effect of a laser pointer with your mouse. Simply point the iPhone at the screen and make your gestures; tilt to the left or right, up or down and the on-screen cursor responds accordingly. I found this to be effective, but a little fickle and practice is definitely need, but it does work as advertised. Having the instant switch feature really enhances its usefulness as well. Switching on the fly from pointer to mouse is really an added bonus.

Snatch (ver 2.1): Though similar to Air Mouse, Snatch offers a few more  configuration options for the remote mouse. For instance, you are not limited to just portrait, you can also use landscape as well. How many mouse buttons would you like? You can create up to three virtual buttons with Snatch.

Multiple mouse buttons one of the advantages over Air Mouse; there are more options too. Air Mouse offers virtual no options where Snatch gives you just about any option you can think of. Let me give you a small selection:

  • Button placement (top or bottom)
  • Inertia (on/off)
  • Speed
  • Cycle between text or numerical keyboard
  • Plus a few others!

Just like Air Mouse, Snatch gives you the ability to cycle between "mice". You have a full screen mouse, a full screen scroll mouse and a full screen keyboard, very nice. Snatch does not offer the laser pointer function. However, Snatch does offer a very, very nice option; macros. You can launch any application on your Mac directly from your iPhone! The process works like this; you create the shape and color for your macro. You then use spotlight (built into Snatch in a clever way) to find your app and "save" it to the shape you want. Ta-da! That is it, Easy and convenient. You can have up to 36 macros! DOH!!

{Update: For those that are interested, there is also a free version of Snatch that can be found here [iTunes Link]. It is missing scroll, keyboard and macro functionality, but hey, it is a free mouse :-)}

Configuration

Air Mouse works on both a PC and Mac. Snatch, I am afraid only works on a Mac. Regardless of the app used, you still need to install a small application on your computer to allow your iPhone to communicate with your computer. When installed Air Mouse it "just worked" with zero configuration. Snatch was a little more temperamental. However Snatch also gives you the ability to add a password to your connection.

One more thing, and this is really important: These apps only work on your LAN. For example, you are at your house and the computer and iPhone are using Wi-Fi though the same router. These apps MAY NOT work at say, Starbucks or your corporate environment. However, Snatch does offer the ability to create your own Ad-Hoc network with your Mac, so this is not much of a problem for Mac users.

Conclusion

Both apps are great, but I have to say that Snatch takes top prize for me; it does more, gives me more options and I like the layout better. The pointer in Air Mouse is nice, but since you can't change the pointer to a red dot, for example, you might as well just use the remote mouse functionality instead. In this reviewers opinion, if you are looking for a remote mouse app for your Mac, look no further than Snatch, it really delivers and is only $2.00 more; well worth it for what you are getting.

Air Mouse Rating

4 stars

  • Solid app
  • Fast
  • No-hassle setup

Snatch Rating

5 stars

  • Portrait and landscape
  • More configuration options
  • Macros

Chad Garrett

Software trainer, blogger and mobile technology enthusiast living in the suburban Midwest.

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Reader comments

App vs. App: Air Mouse and Snatch

12 Comments

You guys usually have great reviews here on TiPB, but this one was a bit disappointing. I expected the Apps at hand being more deeply explored, especially the Macros function in Snatch.
For example, an important question before being the recommended Snatch is, do the Macros option work to configure for example the App to control VLC to play movies and Apple's DVD Player?
If not, do you guys know any good App that does that efficiently?
Thanks...

One thing that you neglected to mention is that if you simply want a great trackpad that just works, Snatch offers a Lite version for free. It doesn't have the keyboard, macros or other functions, but it is a great free trackpad. Snatch is definitely a winner in this case. Great app!

@Josh
The macros functionality does not extend beyond what is described in this review. I am not aware of a remote app for the DVD player, other then using Apple's own remote app and ripping the DVD to iTunes...
@Jason
My bad! You got me. I will edit the post to include the free link to Snatch lite.

So a macro in this case is just to open an app?Isn't that more like the definition of a shortcut rather than a macro?

How about the fact not everyone has a Mac. It would be nice to know if the programs work with Windows also. Air Mouse work for both Mac / Win. But Snatch is Mac only.

Snatch is more feature rich, but not very intuitive and doesn't support Windows, so I've been using Air Mouse. The Air Mouse developers admitted that the first version was very bare bones because they were more concerned about cross platform in the beginning, but that the new version coming out soon will more than make up for that. They gave me a glimpse of some of the new features (hope it's ok for me to say that) and it blows every other one of these remote apps out of the water, can't wait for it to come out.

Snatch 3.0 kills all. Check it out and it does work on PC. The additional remote screens are dope.

Snatch works extremely well on my Windows Vista HTPC. I even made a remote control which works great. It's been added to the hoofien website for anyone to use. Snatch gets my vote.