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Use Your Phone As A Remote Control

Updated on September 3, 2014

Your Phone as a Universal Remote

Universal remotes - a single remote which can control all of your audio visual equipment - used to be pretty cool. But as the humble telephone continues to take over the technology market they are becoming obsolete. Rather than replacing all of your remote controls with a single universal remote, you can now do away with dedicated remote control devices altogether and just use your smartphone instead.

You can use your phone to control your television, set top boxes, music equipment, Blu Ray and DVD players, games consoles and pretty much anything else that you currently use a remote for.

This article will guide you through the various ways that you can go about turning your smartphone (iPhone or Android) into a universal remote control.

Proprietary Apps

Before you start buying any additional products you should probably check whether the electronic equipment you want to control comes with its own app. If you have a Sky+HD box, for example, you can download a free app which will turn your phone into a Sky remote by sending signals over the internet.

Learn More About the Sky+HD App here

Obviously this is the easiest and cheapest way to go, but the app will be limited to controlling a single device. For a more comprehensive solution you will need to buy a little piece of hardware - but don't worry, the prices are roughly comparable to those of a universal remote.

My Top Recommendation

5 stars for Zmart on Value for Money!

The Dongle

The cheapest and easiest way to control any electronic device from your phone is through a plug in dongle. These little gadgets simply clip onto your smartphone and turn it into a universal remote control. There are two main products on the market at the moment:

Zmart: Plugs into the audio jack so it can be used with any smartphone. This 5 ounce dongle comes with a pre-populated library of more than 200,000 IR codes so it can control most devices straight out of the box.

Re: This iPhone only dongle is slightly larger than the zmart, but has slightly more customization options in terms of making your own menus.

The Re Dongle

Is Using Your Smartphone Better Than Having A Separate Controller?

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An iRule App

WiFi to IR

There are several products on the market which are able to receive commands from a smartphone app using your home WiFi connection, and then translate that into an IR command to send out to control your electronic equipment.

These products will generally have a base station that you place on a surface somewhere which sends out the signals to your equipment, but good systems will also be able to use 'IR eyes' which you stick on to the front of your equipment, meaning that you can put the base station anywhere and you can still control your devices even if they are in a closed cupboard. These products allow for more sophisticated customization options compared to dongles.

Here are a couple of the best systems:

  • iRule: iRule is a newcomer to the market, but is quickly developing an outstanding reputation for quality. The software costs from $50, the hardware from just under $100, and it offers loads of customization options. Although one of the main uses of the iRule system is as a universal remote control, it can actually do much more than that. iRule can control pretty much any WiFi enabled device, meaning that you can use it to design and create your own apps to control advanced home automation systems. This does mean that it is more complex and difficulty to set up, however, so if you aren't particularly tech savvy you may need to pay a professional installer to set it up for you.
  • Bitwise Controls: Like iRule the Bitwise controls system is much more than a universal remote, and can be used to create your own apps to control a whole house automation system. It is the most flexible of the three products I've mentioned here, allowing you to control electronic equipment via IR commands, serial RS232 ports, General Purpose Input/Outputs or Relays. It is also capable of receiving signals back from devices reporting their status. There is a range of controllers or base stations to choose from and you can easily set it up to use IR eyes. There is a reasonably large database of IR codes, but its fairly easy to learn new ones if your equipment isn't listed. If you have any design skills you can design your app from scratch without any progamming, or if you don't have any artistic flair you can buy a customizable layout. Unless you are a true tech geek you will probably need the services of a professional installer.

The Bitwise Controllers and Apps

A Demonstration of Some of the Advanced Features of Bitwise Controls

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    • MPG Narratives profile image

      Marie Giunta 3 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      We have so many different remotes in our house so this idea sounds great to me. Will give it a go. Thanks for sharing great tips on how to use technology better.

    • electronician profile image
      Author

      Dean Walsh 3 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Glad you found it useful MPG, it can certainly help to reduce clutter.

    • JG11Bravo profile image

      JG11Bravo 3 years ago

      It's good for those of us who don't have a device with built-in IR functionality to have options. Don't get me wrong, my Nexus 7 and Droid DNA are great, but I'm all about integration. My TV is about the only thing I don't control with my phone.

    • electronician profile image
      Author

      Dean Walsh 3 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Integration is definitely the way forward - there is so much you can do that most people don't take advantage of. You should definitely give it a go - for the price its well worth it.

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