Can your iPhone replace your remote controls?

May 5, 2011 at 7:43 AM ET

ThinkFlood /
The ThinkFlood RedEye turns your iPhone into a universal remote control.

If I were to line up all of the remote controls for the components I use with my TV, there’d be four, not including the game system controllers and keyboard. So I’ve tried out a number of universal remote controls, including some good ones such as the Acoustic Research Xsight. Like my other remotes, though, it always seems to get stuck in the sofa cushions or tucked into some improbable spot.

Unlike my remotes, my iPhone is rarely out of sight for long. So could any of the new iPhone solutions replace my remotes?

The short answer is yes. With its high-resolution touchscreen, the iPhone has a perfect display for controlling all of your gear. So when you load a remote control app and add an infrared transmitter to send commands to your components, you’re in business.

ThinkFlood /

There are several solutions available, but three impress me.

For someone who wants a traditional universal remote experience, I’d go with the ThinkFlood RedEye mini ($49 on, plus free app on iTunes). You find your components in the RedEye app’s database and can then control components separately with screens that replicate each remote’s buttons. Plus you can set up activities, like “Watch TV,” which can have a custom set of buttons, including shortcuts to your favorite channels. The RedEye mini infrared transmitter plugs into your iPhone’s headphone jack, leaving the charging connector open.

L5 Technology /

If you’re looking for a custom solution, the L5 Remote ($60 on, plus free app on iTunes) is the best solution. You can arrange and name just the buttons you want to use, or start with a preset layout for common devices, like cable boxes and TVs. You then “teach” the app each button’s command code by pointing your original remote at the L5 transmitter and pressing the button. The transmitter plugs into the charging connector.

There’s also the Peel ($99.95 on, plus free app on iTunes). It pairs a smart program guide with basic remote control functions like volume control, channel and source. Best of all, you don’t need to attach a transmitter to your iPhone. There’s a separate piece that receives commands from your iPhone via your home’s Wi-Fi network and pass them along as infrared codes to your components.

Depending on your needs and preferences, any one of these iPhone remote control solutions is a good choice. My favorite, though, is the Peel.

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