|In a nutshell, the answer is NO – a good universal remote is far better.Let’s face it, we all love our smartphones. In a compact design, they allow us to do all kinds of things related to work, social, and play. Not to mention, there is an app for virtually everything. It’s no wonder why some think smartphones may be a good alternative to universal remotes as a mean to control home theater or media room systems.
These days, almost every media system component has a free app designed to let you control it from your smartphone. Additionally, there are a few apps that attempt to replicate a universal remote. The primary advantage these have over a good universal remote is cost – you can find download one for little to no cost.
If you go the route of individual apps, you are actually worse off than a tabletop full of remote controls. Switching between apps is just a shade faster than picking up different remotes, but there is another aspect you should consider. Many components controlled by an app use IP control and in most cases, when these components are in their “sleep” mode, the IP control will not work, meaning you’ll have to get up and go turn them on.
The biggest reason though is what we call the “head bobble”. If we look at our use case with home theater and remote controls, 90% of what we do involves either up/down/left/right/enter or fast forward and play. These commands are used by every manufacturer to navigate to our choices or skip commercials on recorded content. The great thing about a regular remote with buttons is that you can navigate by touch. With a smartphone, this is not possible, so we go into this “head bobble” of look up, look down, look up, look down…well you get the picture!
Additionally, most universal remotes have an RF option which allows you to hide all of your gear completely out of sight. Another fun part of the RF option is the ability to control a second zone. Most home theater receivers have what is called a zone 2 output which is great for a pair of patio speakers. Take your RF remote outside and you have the same easy operation.
As you are well aware, a smartphone can be great at many things, but a dedicated universal remote remains better at being a remote.
Photo credits: Universal Remote Control
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