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Use your phone as your TV remote

You have a remote for your television and another for your DVR. Then there are the remotes for the cable box, receiver, video game system and DVD player. It’s easy to have half a dozen remote controls cluttering your coffee table.You can banish the clutter with a universal remote. These can be programmed to control all your home theater gear. With the right app and add-ons, your smart phone or iPad can also handle the job. Let’s take a look at what’s available.


There are plenty of options for using your iPhone as a universal remote. They also work with the iPad and iPod Touch. You need two things. First, you need an app. The virtual buttons allow you to input commands. The app requires hardware that connects to your iPhone. It generates an infrared signal that controls your home theater.

 L5 and New Potato Technologies make dongles that attach to the iPhone’s dock connector. Expect to pay between $50 and $100. But the RedEye mini ($50) stands out from the crowd.

 The RedEye connects to your phone’s earphone jack. A free app generates tones. The dongle then converts these tones to IR signals.

 The RedEye app takes an activity-based approach. You don’t need to worry about selecting the right inputs. Just press a button to watch TV or a movie. You can also create customized remote layouts based on activity. Shortcut gestures make it even easier to control your home theater. The app features an interactive channel guide. You can launch shows directly from the guide.


 For the BlackBerry, there’s the AV|Shadow ($100). There’s nothing to attach to your phone. Instead, plug the small box into a power outlet and place it by your home theater. Then, install an app on your phone. The phone sends a Bluetooth signal to the box. The box emits infrared signals to control your gear.

 The included app lets you customize buttons to your liking. You can also set up activities. That means you don’t need a degree to turn on the TV or watch a movie. Just select the activity you want. The app also features an interactive program guide. The program guide is free for the first year. Then it’s $20 annually.


 Unfortunately, turning an Android phone into a universal remote is easier said than done. The RedEye mini hardware should work with Android phones, but there’s no Android app that works with the hardware. ThinkFlood plans to develop an Android app.

There are plenty of apps that help you control components over your network. But, since the commands are sent over Wi-Fi, you can only control networked components. For example, the TiVoRemote app ($1) controls your TiVo DVR. And RemoteDroid (free) turns your phone into a wireless mouse and keyboard for your home theater PC.

 There’s also the YouTube Remote app (free). It works with Leanback, YouTube’s full-screen player. Sign in to Leanback on Google TV or your home theater computer. Then sign in to the same account on your phone. The app lets you select videos to play on your television.


 Maybe you don’t have a smart phone. Or maybe you want a dedicated remote. In that case, you can buy a universal remote from your local electronics store. Many manufacturers make them. Logitech’s Harmony remotes are perhaps the most popular.

 There are several Harmony models. I recommend the Harmony One ($200), which controls up to 15 devices. It will grow with your home theater system. Thanks to one-touch activity controls, anyone can use the remote. Press a single button to watch TV or play a DVD. The color touch screen is easy to see in the dark. And the remote works with more than 225,000 devices.

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