Can You Use Your Phone as a Remote for a Non-Smart TV?

Two girls happy on their smartphones on a red couch in front of a TV.Two girls happy on their smartphones on a red couch in front of a TV.

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It’s still possible to own a non-smart TV—even by today’s standards and the current state of the entertainment market. Either you’ve had one for a while or purchased one of the few remaining non-smart TVs available. Either way, universal remotes are still the same, overly convoluted visual nightmares they always were. With that said, is the smartphone an option when it comes to non-smart TVs?

Provided that you are willing to download an app—or purchase some physical hardware—you can certainly use your phone as a remote for a non-smart TV. If your phone has an IR (infrared) blaster, you’re definitely in luck. If not, purchasing a separate IR blaster that connects to your phone is your only option.

The market is moving away from non-smart TV sets, and you will likely have more trouble finding any as the years go by. If you’re in the market for one or currently own one, replacing your old, outdated, battery-devouring remote with your phone is a good option.

Apps to Connect Your Phone to Non-Smart TVs

The apps available are for both iPhone and Android, even though iPhone users will have to purchase the additional hardware:

  • AnyMote Universal Remote + WiFi Smart Home Control: AnyMote has over 10 million downloads on Google Play and is generally well-regarded. You can find it on the App Store as well.
  • Twinone Universal TV Remote: With over 30k downloads, Twinone has a simplistic look, especially if you want to get away from the ridiculous complexity of today’s universal remotes. You will find it on Google Play, but not, however, on the App Store.
  • Lean Remote – Universal Remote Control: You’ll find this app on Google Play and a comparable version on the App Store.

These are some of the more popular and highly downloaded universal remote control apps on either the App Store or Google Play. However, there are many different options to suit your visual style, ease of use, or popularity.

IR Blaster Dongle for iPhones and non-IR Android Devices

IR blaster dongles are available to purchase for either Apple or Android devices.

Unfortunately, iPhones don’t have infrared blasters, and you’ll have to purchase a separate dongle for them to work. Additionally, Apple ditched the AUX input when it introduced the iPhone 7 in 2016. So, if you want to purchase an IR blaster plug-in for anything after iPhone 6, you’ll also want to invest in the Apple Lightning Headphone Jack Adapter.

Apple is very particular about how its products are used. Be careful when purchasing a third-party headphone jack adapter, as it may not work, or it may have limited functionality.

There is a current list of Android phones that come with IR blaster here.

There are also IR WiFi hubs available to tie all of your electronics in and allow for smartphone remote control of your non-smart TV:

The hubs eliminate the need to purchase a dongle and also function with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. Some of the hub options are also compatible with IFTTT.

Do These Devices and Apps Do Other Things?

The beauty of a universal remote control app, adapter, or hub, is that it’s universal, and that means you can control more than just the TV. Anything that communicates with IR will tie into your smartphone app. TVs, Blu-ray players, surround sound systems, and air conditioners are just a few products that are compatible with IR.

Your smartphone can essentially serve as a hub, even with the addition of an IR hub. Newer phones support features such as voice command and air gestures as well. Even without a smart TV, an IR-enabled smartphone will go a long way toward converting your home into a smart home.

With the addition of IFTTT—in some IR hubs—many of the things that you physically control around your home have the potential to be automated. Since Amazon Alexa, Google Home, and Apple HomeKit are also available on some devices and apps, downloading an IR app, purchasing an adapter, or adding an IR hub will increase the flexibility of your universal remote.

Final Thoughts

Not owning a smart TV doesn’t mean you can’t integrate it into a smart home or something as simple as a universal remote download. You can control your non-smart TV with a smartphone. The only thing you need to be aware of is the compatibility of your phone with IR.

Without a built-in infrared blaster, your options are still wide open. There are plenty of choices in the marketplace for adapters and hubs that will turn your phone into a universal remote—both for non-smart TVs and smart TVs—and a whole lot more.

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