Can you turn your phone into a universal remote?

Using your phone as a universal remote is no longer a tech dream.
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Smartphones can do a lot of things these days. They give us turn-by-turn driving directions, show us the best places to eat nearby, check us in for a flight, and entertain us while we're waiting in line. But can we use them to turn on our TV or lower the volume on our stereo? The short answer: Yes. You'll need to download an app and purchase a few pieces of equipment, but using your phone as a universal remote is no longer a tech dream.

TVs, DVD players, cable boxes and stereos use an infrared (IR) signal to know when to do things like change the channel or play the DVD. To convert your phone into a universal remote you'll need to purchase a device called an IR blaster that takes the commands you give on your phone and converts them into infrared signals. There are different devices that can do this, from pear-shaped orbs you sit on your table to covers that fit around your phone to adaptors you attach to the front of phone. Some IR blasters attach to your Internet router and capture signals from your phone and then transmit them to your TV, stereo or DVD player. Other devices send the signal directly from the equipment attached to your phone to the device you want to control.

There are numerous apps available for download that work with the IR blasters to control electronic devices. Some just have basic functionality while others can be programmed to turn on multiple devices with just one tap of the screen. Some apps allow you to program which room in your home you can control so you can switch back and forth easily between devices. Other apps allow you to rate TV shows you're watching and make suggestions based on the shows you like.

So download the apps, connect the blasters and change those channels like a real techie! Just keep in mind you won't be able to surf the channels when your phone conversation isn't as interesting as what's on TV.

For more information about turning your phone into a universal remote, follow the links below.

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  • Hauppauge. "IR Remote Blaster Support." (Aug. 16, 2011)
  • O'Brien, Terrence. "Voomote One Turns Your iPhone Into a Well- Organized Universal Remote." Engadget. July 25, 2011. (Aug. 16, 2011)
  • Patel, Nelay. "Peel Turns Your iPhone into a Universal Remote Using a Wireless External IR Blaster." Engadget. Dec. 8, 2010. (Aug. 16, 2011)