Splashtop is one of my all time most used apps, and one of my key tools for using the iPad mini as a portable computer. However, the more I use it, the more obvious the issues with the app becomes. Here are my biggest annoyances with Splashtop, and the reasons I’ve started looking for a replacement.
Dual screen support
Splashtop’s dual screen support is so horrible I sometimes wonder if the people who designed it actually ever used the finished product. If you remote control a computer, it will change the resolution of the primary monitor, and let you see that, while leaving the second monitor alone, running at full resolution. This makes it a massive pain in the butt to switch screens, since it then has to change the resolution of the second monitor, switch to display that, and revert the monitor it just “left” back to its full resolution. It’s not exactly quick. This is a fairly massive problem when you’re remote controlling a dual screen setup all the time, since many apps are set to open on the secondary display, as that’s where they were closed. I often find myself having to change monitors twice just to move the bloody window I just opened back to the display I opened it on.
To make matters worse, you cannot use Splashtop’s mouse mode to move the cursor over to the other monitor. As you probably know, moving the mouse between screens on a dual screen monitor setup is as easy as moving it off the screen on one screen and it appears on the other. If you switch from touch to mouse mode in Splashtop, trying to move the cursor off screen will just stop it at the end of the display. That means you can’t just move the cursor over to the other monitor, grab the window (which is easily done blindly), and pull it back where it belongs.
To top it all off, the three finger swipe that the gesture help screen promises will switch displays, simply doesn’t work for me. No matter what I do, it just moves the screen around, and does nothing to switch displays.
There’s so many ways to fix this problem that it makes me wonder if Splashtop is trolling me. First off, why the mouse issue? Also, why not change the resolution of both screens to make switching easier? Or allow the user to display both screens side by side, either by zooming out, or having one hidden off to the side so you could just pan from one to the other? Or, offer the option to automatically disable extended display mode when connecting with Splashtop; that way the PC itself would fix the issue.
External display support
This is another one of those gigantic gaps in Splashtop’s functionality that makes me wonder what on Earth the developer is doing. If ever there was an app that would benefit from iOS’ ability to let apps use external displays in dual screen mode, it would be Splashtop.
You could use the external display as the actual monitor, placing a trackpad and keyboard on the iPad itself. Run the controlled computer at the resolution of the external display, and really get a remote controlled computer. Connect a keyboard, use the iPad only as a trackpad, and have an awesome setup right there.
Or, if controlling a dual screen computer, put one screen on each display. Imagine the possibilities with for instance PowerPoint, which actually has a dual screen presentation mode. You could connect your iPad to a projector, connect to your computer via Splashtop, and use the full power of a PC presentation app in dual screen mode.
But nope, that’s not how Splashtop works. Connect an external display, and it will mirror the screen using the standard mirroring system in iOS, nothing else. Talk about missing an opportunity.
Splashtop displays a couple of buttons on the screen at all times, specifically a keyboard button and a toolbar button. You can move this between the bottom left and bottom right corner, but you cannot hide it completely, unless I’ve missed something critical. The placement of these buttons means it will either cover the Start button or the system tray on a controller Windows machine, both places you really need access to. This either leaves you moving the buttons constantly, or zooming/panning to try to get to what you need. The irony is, there is a built-in gesture for hiding/showing the toolbar itself, it’s just that even if you use that gesture, it still shows the on-screen buttons all the time.
Blank display mode doesn’t work properly
I often use Splashtop at home in order to view my PC screen on a much more portable iPad mini, giving me more freedom. It’s rather annoying to have two PC screens on the background when this happens, blinking away as they mirror what you do in the wrong resolution for those screens. Normally I would just hit a shortcut I have on my iPad that sends my computer a command to turn off the monitors, but moving the mouse in Splashtop immediately turns them back on. I guess that makes some sense since the computer thinks I’m moving the mouse, but it’s still very annoying.
That leaves you with Splashtop’s own option for privacy, which displays black screens on the computer side. I would still prefer the screens to be off, so they don’t act as small lamps (which they do when they’re on and display a black image), but at least it would be usable- if it worked.
Using that setting throws my computer back to the Windows 7 Basic theme, which isn’t really a problem aside from looking bad. What is a problem is that the task bar stops working properly, so that nested app windows no longer pop up an index of individual windows in that group anymore. So, if I have two separate Google Talk windows open, I can’t switch between them at all while using Splashtop in this mode. Nor can I close them, or anything like that.
The company behind it is horrible
The final reason I’d love to switch away from Splashtop is that the company Splashtop annoys me. I’ve used Splashtop since it was the underdog, the tiny little unknown remote computing app that was grateful for every new customer willing to give it a shot. As it grew, prices rose, the human aspect of the company disappeared, and one of the most drastic transformations into a greedy corporation I’ve ever seen occurred. It’s now a company that splits out new features into in-app purchases or separate apps, charges subscription fees not only for subscription services, but also access to new features altogether, and uses marketing practices that are outright illegal here in Norway by claiming apps are on sale despite them having been “on sale” since they launched.
In short, Splashtop is one of those companies whose product I like, but that I frankly wish bankruptcy on just to teach them a lesson.
I remember the early 2011 Splashtop that you could tweet to and get a response. Now the company doesn’t even bother responding to tweets from users, an increasing number of which refer to the complete lack of customer support. Then again, it’s not surprising. After all, you have to have completely given up on customer support when your 13 million users are met with a support page that hasn’t been updated since September, and now contains both info and screenshots that are out of date.
Finding a replacement is hard
Unfortunately, finding a replacement for Splashtop is hard. The apps I have tried often fall very short of Splashtop when it comes to speed, especially over the internet. For this to be a viable replacement for a laptop for me, I need to know I can log into my computer from anywhere, any time. I’ve used Splashtop on my iPad via a WiFi hotspot on my phone, while on the bus, and it worked well enough for what I needed to do. I need that sort of reliability, simple as that.
Another issue is that a lot of remote PC apps think they can sell $15+++ apps without offering a trial. Splashtop got to where it is today by starting off selling its service cheap, and it’s just so darned unfortunate that the very same company got corrupted by the power it obtained with this strategy. Remote PC access is such an important tool to me that I wouldn’t hesitate to throw down $50 on an app that does everything I need better than Splashtop, but what I won’t do is buy lifetime licenses for 10 different $15 apps just to find that one app that is better.
I welcome suggestions from anyone reading this, but I prefer them to be from seasoned remote PC users that have actually tried Splashtop 2 over an internet connection and knows what sort of connection quality we’re talking about. A lot of recommendations I’ve seen are from people who have ever only used one service, one app, and that’s not very helpful.