Tired of using 3-4 different remotes to control your TV? Tired of losing your remotes? Well what if I told you that you can turn your iPhone into a universal remote control. That way you can control all of your devices, using a device that you have with you at all times.
This isn’t what most would consider a crowded category, but as with all consumer electronics, some models are better than others. To help you make the right decision, we’ve decided to put together a list of the best gadgets for turning your iPhone into a universal remote.
Why you need it
Before we get started, let’s take a moment to talk about why you would want to turn your smartphone into a universal remote: convenience. Imagine being able to turn on your TV without getting up and grabbing the physical remote from across the room. Now imagine tapping a single button on your iPhone, perhaps labeled Video Games, and your TV, receiver and Xbox One all turn on simultaneously. Whether you have too many remotes, or not enough, universal remote hardware and software can make operating your home entertainment system and smart appliances both easy and convenient.
What to look for
Before you decide to turn your smartphone into a universal remote, there are a few things you should know. The first is that you should stay away from apps that claim to get this done without hardware. Save for select Android handsets that have built-in IR sensors, and Wi-Fi connected devices like the Apple TV and HomeKit products, most consumer electronics communicate via infrared sensors. Since the iPhone doesn’t have IR, you need a device that has IR as well as Bluetooth or Wi-Fi to translate between your iPhone and, say, your TV. From there, you’ll want to look at things such as throw distance, if line-of-sight is required (can the device sit in a closed cabinet or behind the TV?), and the app’s interface. If it looks like it would be a nightmare to use, it probably is. And now for our roundup.
Logitech’s Harmony line is one of the highest regarded in the universal remote space. Harmony remotes are known for their wide range of device compatibility and simple setup, and those traits carry over to the Home Hub. The Hub turns your smartphone into a universal remote and integrates control of home entertainment and home automation devices in one easy-to-use Harmony app. It works with over 270,000 devices, supports Alexa for home control, and uses a mix of IR, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth tech for control so it can sit in a closed cabinet.
The Pronto and Peel is also fairly well known in this space, and it claims compatibility with over 450,000 devices, ranging from air conditioning units to Blu-ray players. Features include seamless Bluetooth pairing with your smartphone for easy setup and reliable connection. The app can remember programming for more than 50 devices, and it has a smart TV guide that can offer up recommendations to you based on your preferences and past viewing behavior.
Broadlink’s RM Pro smart remote is surprisingly powerful, especially for the price. It’s capable of controlling all infrared devices and appliances working on the 433mhz – 315mhz frequencies, and it works on both Wi-Fi and cellular networks for wireless control. The software is super impressive as well, with features like scheduling, custom scenes, and sleep/away modes. As with the other solutions mentioned here, the Broadlink RM works with both Android and iOS devices and comes with a 1-year warranty.
The small but mighty Blumoo turns your mobile device into a high-end remote control allowing you to control all your equipment and stream your music all through the Blumoo Mobile App. And it’s super simple to setup: simply place Blumoo in the room, plug it in, and download the app to get started. The mobile app has been designed to be super easy to navigate, yet fully customizable to do what you need. Like the Harmony Hub, Blumoo works with over 250,000 types of devices and appliances.
Orvibo Smart Wi-Fi IR Remote Control
The Orvibo is one of the lesser-known products on this list, and one of the hardest to find reviews on, but depending on your needs and price range it may still be worth a look. Its features include a scattering cone design for powerful 360-degree signaling, support for over 8,000 appliances and devices (they claim 95% of IR appliances work with Orvibo), and a rich HomeMate app. You can schedule and link functions, meaning you can create a 1-touch Home Theater scene that will turn on (and off) all of the appropriate lights, appliances and devices.
Buy for $30 (sale price).