Splashtop 2 receives new subscription-based feature that doesn’t really work all that well

2013 01 31 23.17.55 - for some reason we don't have an alt tag here

Splashtop 2 is one of my favorite apps. It allows me to remote control my computer, and unlike any similar service I’ve tried, it’s fast enough to stream video and games at home, and replace a laptop while on the go. Today the app received a new update for both its Android and iOS apps, and the update contains several new features.

To start at the lower end, the update now supports Windows 8 gestures when connected to a Windows 8 computer. I don’t know if that makes the Windows 8 version of the app redundant, but seeing as though the supposedly $50 app has been steadily decreasing in price under the excuse of being on sale, this might hint to that app being dead and integrated into Splashtop proper.

Another small feature, but still the best part of this update for me personally, is the added ability for the iOS app to run in the background. You can leave the Splashtop app for 5 minutes without disconnecting, which fixes a major annoyance with the app for me. This feature has to be activated in the settings, and is a life saver.

That brings me to the big new feature of this update. By paying $0.99/month or $9.99/year on top of anything else you’re paying Splashtop, you get access to a new custom interface editor. This feature essentially allows you to overlay custom buttons – and even a game controller – on top of the screen. The idea is that when using Office, you can use a custom profile with Office settings; when watching video, you can use one with media controls; when browsing, one with browser controls. Heck, you’re even supposed to be able to play games this way, using custom profiles with on-screen controls. Considering what I’ve done with Splashtop and gaming earlier, you’d think I’d be excited about this, and I was – until I tried it.

First off, the interface editor crashed thrice while I was trying to make a custom interface (iPad version). Second, the built-in profiles are very peculiar, with what’s labeled as the media player controls apparently being aimed at a very specific player; they didn’t work with MPC HC. After editing that profile and seeing the available buttons you can use in the interface editor, it became apparent that you only get the most basic keys, and nothing in the likes of media buttons like you’d find on a keyboard.

This problem is also very noticeable when trying to configure games. I tried Minecraft, and the WASD controls were fine. Then I tried to make mouse movement work, however, and had less luck. You can add a gamepad, but I frankly have no clue what that gamepad is supposed to work with. To me, it would make sense to at least have the option to make the gamepad emulate a mouse, which shouldn’t pose a technical issue since Splashtop is already doing that. Without that feature, the most common camera control method on PCs is not available, unless you could using the entire screen as a mouse. That rarely works at all, without even considering the fact that you’d then have to move your finger across the entire screen.

When you add all of those issues together, you have the reason(s) why I unsubscribed from the monthly payment plan right away. $1 is very little, but to me, the usefulness of this new feature isn’t even worth that. It’s a great idea, but very poorly executed – at least for now. The pricing scheme is also highly questionable. I’m all for charging for software updates, and a feature like this would be worth a $1 in-app purchase if it were for lifetime access, but paying $1 a month for something like this? That has to be an app-store first. You expect to pay a recurring fee for something that has recurring costs on the other end, not for unlocking access to a feature. It would be as if MMORPGs started charging a separate subscription fee for the game files, on top of the one for server access.

All in all, this is an update that looked awesome on paper, but left me more happy about being able to run it in the background on my iPad than anything else. I love Splashtop, but it’s gotten increasingly greedy, and I fear that a year from now, the monthly cost of using it will consist of paying for continued access to a lot of normally single-unlock features like this.

splashtop ipad - for some reason we don't have an alt tag here

Download: iTunes (iPad)

splashtop phone - for some reason we don't have an alt tag here

Download: iTunes (iPhone)

splashtop android - for some reason we don't have an alt tag here

Download: Google Play

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Andreas Ødegård

Andreas Ødegård is more interested in aftermarket (and user created) software and hardware than chasing the latest gadgets. His day job as a teacher keeps him interested in education tech and takes up most of his time.

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