Air Mouse logo

Forget the iTunes Remote. The newly released Air Mouse 1.5 ($5.99) makes a mean universal remote out of the iPhone and iPod Touch. With it, you'll be able to control almost any program on your Mac or Windows computer.

I was always a big fan of this app, which works with the help of a Windows and Mac servers to establish a local network between the computer and the iPhone. It then gives you two modes for controlling the keyboard and mouse: a touch pad, and a slightly less effective (read: higher learning curve) and more traditional air mouse that you activate by pressing a button and arcing your arm. Version 1.5 completely blows away every competitor we've seen by adding an incredible array of new features without bumping up the price.

Air Mouse media controls
Air Mouse for iPhone and iPod Touch just got way more assertive. (Credit: CNET)

One of these stellar additions is the second keyboard, packed with the function keys, up and down arrows, escape button, and other secondary keys of your physical keyboard that were left off the main typing keyboard. More buttons give way to a controller screen that holds court over a range of media players, another that navigates through your browsers, and four additional blank buttons you can program as a mini app-launcher using the Air Mouse server app.

It gets better. When you switch from a desktop app, for instance, to the browser, Air Mouse will pop up the browser navigation controls. Ditto for the media screen, which moves to the forefront when you open any player, including live TV. The clever iPhone app lets you customize the common controls from the computer-side server app.

A few other tricks make touch-pad navigation better to use: support for landscape mode and multitouch navigation, which was one of people's top requests. You can also now tell the keyboard to scram in either touch or air mode. I got my best results by firmly shaking it vertically once.

Air Mouse 1.5 may still have some rough spots, like the precision-hungry air navigation mode, but it also has a suddenly interesting and extremely useful feature set that makes it a valuable remote tool for the conference room, living room, or computer room.

Jessica Dolcourt reviews smartphones and cell phones, covers handset news, and pens the monthly column Smartphones Unlocked. A senior editor, she started at CNET in 2006 and spent four years reviewing mobile and desktop software before taking on devices.