Is Time Running Out for the TV Remote? Nope.

By  |  Monday, November 1, 2010 at 1:37 pm

Over the weekend, the New York Times pondered whether the television remote control is on its way out, thanks to smartphone and tablet apps that can do the job instead.

Although doomsday predictions can be dangerous for any technology, I’ll gladly join the chorus of people who think the remote should be put out to pasture.¬†But before that can happen, a lot of things need to change in the phone and TV industries, all of which will take a very long time.

As the Times points out, smartphone users need to be mindful of battery, given that today’s best handsets don’t last much longer than a full day. Until battery life is a non-issue for powerful phones, they won’t be ideal as remote controls.

The logistics of smartphone ownership also pose a problem. Dedicated TV remotes can be used by anyone, but if Mom’s the only one with a smartphone that controls the television, it’s back to the old remote for everyone else if she leaves the room or takes a call. Smartphones can’t fully replace the remote unless all TV users have one. (Comscore says roughly one sixth of the U.S. population owns a smartphone now.)

The actual television and set-top boxes are still the biggest hurdles. You can use an iPhone as a universal remote today, but not without a clunky IR dongle like this $50 accessory from L5. Add one for each TV or each phone, and the smartphone universal remote becomes an expensive investment. The other option is for networked devices to start including their own apps, to be controlled by Wi-Fi. Samsung and Mitsubishi are working on smartphone apps for their televisions, the Times reports, and you can already use a smartphone to control Google TV, Apple TV, Sonos, iTunes and more. But then you’re dealing with a patchwork of apps, with spotty support across major smartphone platforms.

In other words, the smartphone remote control, in its current state, can be just as clumsy as the remote from your cable company. It just looks nicer.


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2 Comments For This Post

  1. jltnol Says:

    Interestingly enough, I recently bought a new hi end Sony Receiver( stDA4600), which has a computer setup application that only runs on Windows.

    However, they also make an excellent iPhone amp that can control the receiver, as well as lots of other boxes in my TV room thru the included IR blaster.

    Way cool!

  2. dholyer Says:

    Not all of us have or care to become an Apple iProduct junkie.

    Another reason the TV remote will not die is American desire for comfert of the chair in front of the Boob Tube that may be as big as the wall. If the TV remote dies, and with Sony killing the Walkman recently. It will not stop AA and AAA battery use but it will slow their consumption a whole lot. I do bot think Eveready or Duracell will let the consumption market from TV remotes dies, thus they will not let the TV remote die.