Many devices are commonly controlled by infrared remote controls these days – televisions, video recorders, air conditioners, and more. Using your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch as a universal remote control gives you many accessibility advantages. You can make use of whatever accessibility features your iDevice has – VoiceOver, Zoom, Switch Control, etc. – and there’s no need to learn to use a new device.
iDevices can’t send out infra-red signals themselves like remote controls can, so there needs to be an extra piece of hardware to send the IR signals. Most systems have the IR transmitter (also called an IR Blaster) in a “hub” that communicates with your iDevice using wifi signals, so as long as you’re within the same wifi network your remote will work from everywhere – there’s no need to be in the same room or in line-of-sight to use the remote successfully. This can be an especial advantage if you have a bunch of IR devices in different places, behind cupboard doors, or if you are mobility impaired.
All the devices listed in this article are also capable of learning new infra-red codes if they aren’t already “aware” of the device you want them to learn. I want to control a Conia air conditioner so it’s something I paid special attention to.
The iRed IR transmitter plugs into the 3.5mm headphone jack of your phone or tablet, and works with the free iR Universal Remote Control app. Because the transmitter is attached to your phone, you do need line-of-sight from your phone to the device you want to control.
Because the iRed plugs into the headphone port, you can’t use it at the same time as you’re using corded headphones. I don’t know whether it interferes with speaker sound but most things that plug into headphone ports do interfere with speaker-based sounds, so it seems probable.
There are a huge number of negative reviews in the iTunes store on this app, going right up to the present time and also alleging that the company does not provide any customer support. From 71 reviews total, only 11 of them have more than two stars! I suggest extreme caution if you proceed with this system but I am including it in the list because it’s significantly different to anything else here.
The iRed transmitter costs €29.90.
Square Connect’s system consists of SQ Blaster (the hardware device) and SQ Remote (the app).
The SQ Blaster hub can be purchased from the following locations:
The TouchControl website is one of the least user-friendly sites I’ve seen in a long time. Even as a huge tech geek I couldn’t figure out what was going on … their TouchControl app is USD$4.99 from the iTunes Store, and if you want to know more you’ll have to figure it out for yourself. This one is for extreme geeks only!
Roomie works with a variety of infra-red adapters from USD$77 upwards, as well as the L5 Universal Remote Accessory listed above. Be careful of what you buy though – the cheaper ones use corded ethernet connections and must be physically connected to your wifi modem, you probably want one of the ones labelled “Wifi” which start at USD$90.97.
The Roomie Remote app costs USD$9.99 from the iTunes store.
This is a UK company that makes stuff for TVs (remote controls, TV mounting brackets, and digital aerials) who are branching out into tablet remotes.
Their NEVO app works on iPad but not iPhone and will set you back £59. Every time I tried to look up more details, Safari crashed on me and I don’t have an iPad anyway so if you want more details about this you’re on your own!
Harmony is Logitech’s universal remote controller range, and the “Smart control” bundle includes the “Harmony Hub” which sends the infra-red signals, a physical remote control as backup, and free Harmony Control app.
Logitech Harmony Smart Control will set you back USD$129.99.
These are devices which plug into an iDevice but are designed to fit the old “30 pin” style charging ports. Most will work with a genuine Apple 30-pin-to-lighting adaptor but the fact that there is no visible plan for a native lightning connector for these devices nearly 2 years after that connector became standard does not fill me with hope about their futures. I would not recommend purchasing these devices.
Technology in this area is changing extremely fast and many devices are only being made for a short while. I found one article written in 2012 and listing four recommended devices – and two years later, three of them are no longer available!
These devices are no longer being made:
- Griffin Beacon
- NewKinetix Re
- ThinkFlood RedEye
- VooMote Zapper
- Cremote’s Bobby Universal Remote for iPhone
- FastMac iV Plus
- GEAR4’s Unity Remote
If you find them second-hand they may still function but this can’t be guaranteed and, especially for assistive technology purposes, it seems a bad gamble to make.
I must say with the number of defunct or seemingly-nearly-defunct remotes I found while researching this story it’s a fairly depressing tale! I think I’m going to buy a Logitech Harmony Smart Control – it’s not the most powerful or most adaptable one available but it seems that it will do what I need it to do and Logitech is a trusted name so it seems likely to be well supported. Wish me luck…
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