|Round-up: Android TV remote control apps|
Thursday, 15 March 2012 09:50
Using a phone as a remote control is not a novel idea nor is it widely-adopted but it can be quite handy.
The most obvious scenario of when it would be useful is if the original remote control is nowhere to be found, but there are other benefits.
Back in the day I used my trusty Nokia 3650 and 6600 smartphones with infra-red functionality along with a third-party IR universal remote control app on TVs. It was as easy as choosing a manufacturer from a list and sometimes even a model and voila - an extra remote in my pocket. I also tried it out on TVs in-store (yes, I have a dark history).
Fast-forward to today when smartphones are more powerful and prevalent than ever, you have apps that are a lot more complex, and infra-red on mobiles has largely been shelved. Today, equivalent apps are far more polished and mostly work over a WiFi connection and even Bluetooth.
Modern day apps typically allow the user to control the following functions: Volume up/down, channel change, power on/off, media playback, software keyboard for easy text input and sometimes even a free cursor for browsing.
Manufacturers have also taken to creating their own apps as opposed to a third-party single app that supports multiple models across brands. They are usually free but often only support the upper model range of TVs.
Samsung Remote and Smart View
Samsung has developed official remote control apps that work with its SmartTV series of LED televisions. It pretty much works in the same manner as the fancy touch-screen remote controls on its high-end TVs. Samsung went with two sets of apps for different versions of TV (and Blu-Ray) with alternative versions specifically optimized for tablets so they have quite a few on Google Play.
Interestingly, the phone or tablet can be turned into a game controller with gyroscope support for those simple, time-sinking games that come with the TV (dependent on model).
There are several unofficial apps as well, most noteworthy for me is Smart TV Remote Control + DLNA which, as the name states, additionally has DLNA support. It looks as though they will be adding LG TV support quite soon.
The official LG TV remote is not as pretty as the Samsung variety but it's powerful nonetheless. They have a separate LG Remote for Blu-ray players.
Sony's Remote for Android works on its Bravia range and BD/DVD players, AV receivers and more. I haven't used it myself but it seems it's possible to send a url from a phone to browse on a TV and vice-versa.
I reckon that PS3 control would have been a nice touch too but I guess not everyone is a gamer.
Like Samsung, they have a separate app for tablets.
If a TV is hooked up to an Internet connection or an intermediate playback device such as a PC, there are countless other media playback options and as many remote control apps. YouTube Remote and Boxee have been my personal favourites.
TV manufacturer-developed mobile device remote controls are a very good start, but could do with some embellishments. Instead of a separate media sharing / DLNA or Blu-Ray app, this functionality would be best integrated into one media remote.
What would also be appreciated is something like Peel Smart Remote & TV listing app that brings more of a personalized experience by recommending TV shows and has an online social sharing component.
I believe there is a lot still to be explored in the mobile phone and TV relationship even beyond the humble remote control. I'm looking forward to seeing how it evolves.
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