Turn your iPhone or iPod touch into a handy backup remote control device for your TV or entertainment system.
It’s happened again. The darn remote control has gone walkabout, and you’ve got no other way of changing the channel or music track, adjusting the volume, switching A/V sources or even turning your TV, DVD player, set-top box or stereo on and off. Or do you? If you have an iPhone or iPod touch, there’s a good chance you can use that as a remote control instead, whether by using free vendor-developed software or by using a third party accessory that transforms your iPhone into a universal remote control.
If you use a computer for most of your entertainment playback, there are also iPhone apps for remotely controlling programs like iTunes, VLC Player, XBMC and Boxee. The advantage of using iPhone remote control apps over the standard remote control is that most of them work over Wi-Fi instead of infra-red, which means you don’t need to be within line of sight - you could change channels and tracks, adjust volume and perform other tasks from any room in the house if you wanted to.
We’ll start with your TV remote control. If you bought a smart TV in the past year from Samsung, Philips, Toshiba or Panasonic, you can download a free app from iTunes that will work as a remote control for that TV (Samsung Remote, Philips MyRemote, Toshiba TV Remote and Viera Remote, respectively). There are lots of remote control apps for boxes that connect to your TV as well, such as Remote (for Apple TV), iControlAV2 (for Pioneer Blu-ray players and AV Receivers), Panasonic Blu-ray Remote 2011 (for Panasonic Blu-ray players), Foxtel Guide (for remotely recording shows and moving between channels) and T-Box Remote (for Telstra T-Box).
There are certain audio systems that come with iPhone remote control apps too. The Sonos music system has an app called Sonos Controller for iPhone that works just as well as the dedicated Sonos Control touchscreen remote (which would set you back an extra $549) for accessing all of the Sonos music streaming features. There’s also the Onkyo Remote for Onkyo network A/V receivers, Pioneer ControlApp for Pioneer’s network audio player, and again, Remote for playing music through your TV using Apple TV.
If there’s no remote control app for your A/V device, you can retro-fit it for iPhone remote control access using the Griffin Beacon Universal Remote Control ($94.95 from the Apple Store). This is a small accessory that connects to your iPhone over Bluetooth and to your various A/V devices over infra-red, and it pairs with the free Dijit Universal Remote control app, which has a built-in library of continuously updated device codes as well as a learning feature for any devices that aren’t supported. The advantage of the Griffin system is that you can use one remote for various devices; the disadvantage is that it doesn’t work over Wi-Fi like the other apps, so you need to be within line of sight.
As for your computer, there are a few dozen apps for controlling specific applications, including Remote for iTunes, Rowmote for multiple Mac programs (such as Quicktime, DVD Player, Front Row and Safari), VLC Remote Control and PowerDVD Remote Free.