There are countless universal remote control apps for smartphones, but chances are you don't really need them. A bunch of apps, including the likes of Spotify and YouTube, have built-in remote functions tucked away in the menus. Here's how to find them.
Illustration by Tina Mailhot-Roberge
Spotify's Connect feature is one of the lesser-known features of the app. If you're a premium subscriber, you can use the phone or tablet apps as a remote control for your computer as long as you're logged into the same Wi-Fi network. From the mobile app, tap the Now Playing bar, Connect button (the speaker icon) and then pick your computer. Now your mobile device is a remote.
Just like Spotify, Rdio has a remote function where you can easily use your iOS or Android device to control the web and desktop apps. As long as you've logged into the same account, Rdio automatically recognises that it's being used on another device. From the mobile app, tap the "Rdio is playing elsewhere" button on the bottom of the screen and you can start using it as a remote.
The YouTube app can function as a remote for smart TV, video game consoles and computers as long as you're on the same Wi-Fi network (much as it can with the Chromecast). Pairing the app with the device of your choice is simple enough, but varies slightly depending on what you're using. You can find step-by-step instructions for various devices here.
Netflix is available on numerous devices, and you can control many of them using the Netflix app on your phone as long as you're on the same Wi-Fi network. Just start up Netflix on your video game console or smart TV, open up the Netflix app on your phone, and you should see a button in the bottom right corner to connect the two together. Now you can pause, skip and play from your phone.
Apple's Keynote iOS app doubles as a remote if you're using the same app on your desktop, which is an obvious inclusion but something you might have forgotten about. The process of pairing the iOS device with your Mac is a bit cumbersome though:
- Open Keynote on your iOS device
- Select "Presentation manager" and tap the play icon
- Open Keynote on your Mac
- Select Keynote > Preferences
- Click the Remotes windows and select Enable
- Click the link next to your iOS device and wait for the four digit codes to come up
- Verify the four digit codes match
Once you're paired up, you can use your iOS device to cycle through slides or whatever else.
The Xbox SmartGlass apps are billed as a way to add a second screen to your Xbox One or Xbox 360, but they can also be used as normal remotes for your Xbox device of choice. Once it's paired together with your console, the app can act as a universal remote for all your entertainment offerings as well as the Xbox interface itself.