iPhones are versatile devices, but they resemble a familiar shape: the remote control. Being the pocket computers that they are, iPhones embrace this form with some of the most amazing remotes you could hope for. Here are our top picks.
Apple's free remote application, simply and aptly named Remote, is pretty much everything you'd want in an iTunes remote. It can search, browse and control any of your iTunes music libraries from your iPhone just as if you were playing the music locally. The same goes for your Apple TV. You can even bring up a keyboard to type things in to avoid the annoyance of selecting each individually with the Apple TV's infrared remote. Regardless of how you use it, since every iPhone user is also (to some extent) an iTunes user, it's a must-have. It's also 100 per cent free.
Remote | iTunes App Store
HippoRemote comes in three different versions, but even on the low (and free) end, it's pretty much the best iPhone wireless trackpad and keyboard you could want. It connects over VNC, so if you have VNC already set up there's nothing to do other than select a computer on your network and enter its VNC password. From there you can use the trackpad and keyboard just like it was a real, physical one. What's pretty incredible is HippoRemote's ability to even support multitouch gestures. I'm pretty much lost without two-finger scrolling at this point, so being able to do that on a virtual trackpad is just beautiful. If you want more than basic features (and no ads), you can upgrade to the basic version for $2.49 or the pro version for $6. Alternatively, if you'd rather not use VNC to connect and prefer a free piece of server software, give Mobile Mouse Free a try instead.
If the more complex remotes are a bit too much for you and want something a bit simple, like, say, the standard Apple remote, Rowmote is what you're looking for. Syncing up with a free piece of Mac-only server software you install on the Mac you want to control, Rowmote is basically an exact replacement for an Apple remote you'd otherwise have to buy. It'll set you back a dollar, but if you were planning on buying an actual Apple remote you'd be paying a whole lot more. Rowmote also offers a $6 pro version which adds a few features, such as a virtual keyboard and multi-touch trackpad. While you might find that a combination of other free applications handle this same functionality separately at no cost, Rowmote Pro rolls it all into one.
If you're an XBMC devotee and an iPhone user, you've probably already downloaded this app. XBMC Remote is a fantastic remote for any XBMC configuration you may have, whether you're running XBMC Live on a nettop or just as an application. While it can work just like a physical media centre remote (as depicted), you can also browse and search through your media shares and choose what you want. While it's great when your iPhone can mimic a standard remote control, it's pretty awesome to just click the name of what you want to watch and have it show up directly on your TV. XBMC Remote will set you back $4, but it's $4 well spent.
XBMC Remote | iTunes App Store
When you really want to control remotely, nothing gives you more control than VNC. There are a ton of VNC apps for the iPhone, however, and most of them are terribly expensive. Remoter, however, is currently on sale for $1.19 and is a pretty feature-rich VNC app. While the vast number of buttons were a little intimidating at first, their functionality is pretty clear and they're small enough to stay out of your way. Setting things up is as simple as entering your VNC information and pressing connect. Remoter gives you just about every option you'd need in a VNC client and, in testing, seemed perfectly stable (which is something I can't say about the other cheap VNC apps I've tried). Nonetheless, if the $1.19 sale price is a bit too steep for your tastes, you can always enjoy the average but free Mocha VNC Lite.
Remoter | iTunes App Store
There are a lot of really great remote apps, but some just didn't quite make the cut. Here are a couple more worth mentioning that didn't quite make the short list.
- SlingPlayer Mobile ($37) - Both pricey (for an app) and not exactly a remote, SlingPlayer Mobile is still worth an honourable mention. It lets you control your SlingPlayer remotely and watch your TV right from your iPhone.
- DVR Remote ($4) - DVD Remote is capable of controlling TiVo Series 3 and TiVo Premier DVRs. It's a pretty straightforward TiVO remote for your iPhone, but has some added bonus features like themes.
What are your favourite remote apps for iPhone? Let's hear 'em in the comments.