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Phones aren’t just for calling, texting, and playing Pokémon Go 4 Ways Playing Pokemon GO Can Improve Your Life 4 Ways Playing Pokemon GO Can Improve Your Life You're likely one of the many people obsessed with Pokemon Go. Did you know the game can have positive effects on your life and the world around you? Here's how! Read More . Did you know they can also act as remote controls for your television?

Whereas TV remotes are forever being lost down the back of the sofa, we all tend to keep a much closer eye on our smartphones. And ultimately, anything that can reduce the number of gadgets lying around our homes is a good thing, right?

The way phones can be used as TV remotes can be broadly split into two categories: ones that use an infrared (IR) blaster, and apps that can be used to control hardware like Rokus and Chromecasts Chromecast Vs Apple TV Vs Roku: Which Media Streamer Suits You? Chromecast Vs Apple TV Vs Roku: Which Media Streamer Suits You? Media streaming devices are simply awesome. Those little boxes that connect to your TV can add a wealth of entertainment options to your living room. But which device is best for you? Read More .

In this piece, we take a look at both types.

Phones With a Built-In IR Blaster

It seems IR blasters in Android devices are in decline. Only 12 months ago we saw a whole host of flagship phones come equipped with the technology, but manufacturers seem to be leaving the tech behind in their more recent releases.

For example, the Samsung Galaxy S6, S6 Edge Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge and Gear VR Review and Giveaway Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge and Gear VR Review and Giveaway Samsung sells more Android devices than any other manufacturer, and thanks to some aggressive marketing, the Galaxy brand is almost synonymous with Android. Read More , and S6 Active all had one, as did the LG G4 LG G4 Review and Giveaway LG G4 Review and Giveaway The LG G4 refines what was great about the G3, and it manages to stand out in a crowded market thanks to a great camera, removable battery, gorgeous screen, and optional genuine leather back cover. Read More , the HTC One M9 HTC One M9 Review and Giveaway HTC One M9 Review and Giveaway Metal design? Check. Expandable storage? Check. All the most powerful internals? Check. On paper, the HTC One M9 is one beast of a phone. Read More , and the Samsung Galaxy Note 4.

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Samsung Galaxy S6 Phone

However, the Galaxy S7 Galaxy S7 Edge Review and Giveaway Galaxy S7 Edge Review and Giveaway Samsung's back again with some new smartphones: the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge. It's still a premium device with uniquely curved edges, but should you consider upgrading? Read More , the Note 5, and the HTC 10 HTC 10 Review and Giveaway HTC 10 Review and Giveaway There's little to complain about with the HTC 10, aside from the mediocre battery life and quiet speakers. But there's nothing about it to get excited about, either. Read More all chose to omit it. Thankfully, LG chose to retain it in the G5 LG G5 Review and Giveaway LG G5 Review and Giveaway It's rare to see a flagship smartphone that actually innovates at this point. They're all starting to blend together as similarly-sized unibody metal slabs with nearly identical features. Read More .

Phones that ship with an IR blaster typically come with their own app to control it, but these apps are often not very full-featured. If your phone has an IR blaster, you should look at downloading a third-party option.

Third-Party IR Blaster Apps

Here’s a quick look at three of the best IR blaster apps for your Android.

1. Smart IR Remote

Smart IR Remote claims to support 900,000 devices, making it the most wide-ranging IR app in the Google Play Store.

It will theoretically work with any IR-enabled device in your home, so its usefulness extends beyond the television and satellite box. You can also control your air conditioning units, ceiling fans Simple Ways to Automate Your Ceiling Fan Simple Ways to Automate Your Ceiling Fan In this article, we take a look at the hottest smart ceiling fan solutions currently available on the market and the technology behind them. Read More , hi-fi, and DSLR cameras.

The app also works with a huge number of Wi-Fi gadgets such as Sonos speakers, Philips Hue Lighting, Kodi, and Amazon Fire.

DownloadSmart IR Remote ($6.99) on the Play Store

2. SURE Universal TV Remote

SURE Universal TV Remote is a rising star in the IR app sector. It won the “Grand Award” at the 2016 Asia Smartphone App contest, and it can already boast almost 10 million happy users.

Like the aforementioned Smart IR Remote, it can control any device that can receive IR signals. It’ll even let you send photos and videos directly from your phone to the TV using Wi-Fi and DLNA.

DownloadSURE Universal TV Remote (Free) on the Play Store

3. Universal TV Remote

As a free app, Universal TV Remote by Twinone is ad-supported, but it’s still a great way to test out IR blaster apps and see if they’re right for you.

Universal TV Remote Android App

The in-app graphics aren’t quite as slick as the other two options, but it works just as well. It’s also really easy to set up — you just choose the control you want to emulate from the menu, and you’re ready to go.

DownloadUniversal TV Remote

What If Your Phone Doesn’t Have an IR Blaster?

Don’t despair. Even if your shiny new handset doesn’t come with a built-in IR blaster, you still have options. Third-party manufacturers are making devices that plug into your phone and instantly give it IR functionality.

Irdroid

Irdroid doesn’t look very fancy, but it does the job wonderfully well. It plugs into your phone’s headphone jack and emits an IR beam. You’ll need a AAA battery to power it.

Getting started is easy: plug in the module, install the app, and it should work immediately. All LIRC remotes are supported, as are products from Samsung, LG, Motorola, Sony, Panasonic, and Philips. It has a range of about 30 feet (10 meters).

Irdroid

There are different models available, with the cheapest (but ugliest) version being sold for just $15.

Logitech Harmony Smart Control

If you don’t want an ugly gadget sticking out of the top of your phone, you’re going to need to spend more money.

One option is the Logitech Harmony Smart Control Infrared Everywhere: Extending Harmony Ultimate Remote to Multiple Rooms Infrared Everywhere: Extending Harmony Ultimate Remote to Multiple Rooms The Harmony Ultimate series is a fantastic bit of kit which simplifies the mass of remote controls in your living room, and can be reprogrammed to control anything which works off infrared. Read More . It’ll set you back $89.99 on Amazon (CA/UK), but it’s a much more elegant solution.

It comes with a hub that connects to either your TV or cable box, and a smartphone app that communicates with the hub. From the app, you can control the channels, the volume, and video streaming services like Netflix.

According to Logitech, it works with more than 270,000 devices.

Official Hardware-Specific Apps

We are moving into an age where more and more people are cutting the cord 7 Pitfalls of Cord-Cutting You Should Consider First 7 Pitfalls of Cord-Cutting You Should Consider First Before you cut the cord to save yourself some money, there are a few things you should be aware of. Read More and canceling expensive satellite/cable TV packages.

This mass-cancellation has seen a huge movement towards media devices like Rokus (CA/UK), Apple TVs, and Chromecasts. There are lots of things you need to consider before you take the plunge 7 Questions to Ask Before Buying a Digital Media Player 7 Questions to Ask Before Buying a Digital Media Player If you're thinking about buying your first digital media player (also known as streaming device), these questions will help you to avoid making any grave mistakes. Read More  — one of which is how you’re going to control them.

Neither Apple nor Amazon make Android apps for their media boxes, but Roku and Chromecast do. I’ve said elsewhere on the site that I believe Roku to be the best option for anyone who’s serious about cutting the cord, and Chromecast is a Google product, so you know it’s well-supported.

Perhaps the best thing about the Roku app is that if you have the latest Roku Streaming Stick Which Roku Media Streamer Should You Buy? Which Roku Media Streamer Should You Buy? The current offering is split into five products – the Roku Streaming Stick, and the Roku 1, 2, 3, and 4. This article looks at what each product can offer, and tries to ascertain which... Read More (model 3600R), you can use your phone’s headphone jack to listen to the audio while keeping the actual TV on mute.

If you’re a Chromecast user 7 Things You Didn't Know You Could Do With a Chromecast 7 Things You Didn't Know You Could Do With a Chromecast You have finally taken the plunge and bought yourself a shiny new Chromecast, but what happens next? Here are seven things you didn't know you could do with one of Google's dongles... Read More , the app is a must-have — the dongle doesn’t come with its own remote, so without the app, it’s entirely useless.

DownloadOfficial Roku app (Free) on the Play Store

DownloadOfficial Google Cast app (Free) on the Play Store

Do You Use Your Phone to Control the TV?

Do you think smartphones are the future when it comes to TV controls? Are traditional remotes sliding into obscurity? Or is it the other way around? Is using your phone as a TV remote merely a passing fad?

I’m really curious to learn what you think. If you’ve used any of the apps or gadgets in this article, or you’ve found a great new trick that I’ve not covered, please let me know in the comments section below.

  1. Tale85
    November 5, 2016 at 11:02 pm

    For Roku users. Enter the Roku TV. Yes the Roku App works, but unlike the new Stick and other players the headphone ? function doesn't work. I went so far as to buy a new Stick to plug into it to get that function.

    Now the good news. Roku update 7.5 should arrive next week for the TV which will bring with it Private Listening (headphone) functionwith the app. Along with some other goodies.

  2. Carlos Luis Barón Carrero
    September 25, 2016 at 3:35 am

    Who won Pixel C?

  3. HarryMonmouth
    September 18, 2016 at 11:28 pm

    At this point I would avoid buying a phone that didn't have infrared built in for this purpose. Even if I am not watching TV I might want to listen to the radio or record a show. There are just way too many times each day when I press a button on a remote to not have a phone that can do this. I might have a few days during a week when I don't need my phone for a call, a couple of days when I don't use it for the internet, I might go a couple of weeks before taking a photo, but the IR gets used multiple times almost every single day. Mind you, at least I am getting to save a load of money that I might otherwise be spending on upgrades.

  4. kallen
    September 17, 2016 at 9:03 pm

    I think that remote everything is the way to go lights lightswitches tv even different rooms, rf control and irremote universal. Even go as far as room sensors, heating solar reporting even down to security cameras. I unfortunately dont seem to be getting them to work, I got an amazon fire phone,kindle,android tablet, android phone thl6 with ir adapters which I'm unable to operate,I've got led lights and TV's led bulbs and touch/rf light switches, I was thought that with the ir/Bluetooth wifi I'd be able to control them, I'm quite new to this and a silver surfer.

  5. Mahesh
    September 13, 2016 at 12:20 pm

    7 in 1 Machine
    ***** Five Star from my side

  6. Mahesh
    September 13, 2016 at 12:18 pm

    7 in One Machine
    ***** Five Star from My side

  7. Keith
    September 10, 2016 at 2:13 pm

    Can anyone suggest an app that can control both the latest Roku streaming stick and a NON-Roku TV? I used to have a Roku-ready stick, and I could control both the stick and my TV with one remote. But when I upgraded to the 3600R, now I have to use two remotes, since the TV uses IR and the Roku stick uses wifi (I know, 1st world problem). I Googled all over but couldn't find anything that worked with both.

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