Zit Seng's Blog

A Singaporean's technology and lifestyle blog

The Most Amazing Universal Remote Yet

It controls the TV, and it controls the cable TV set top box. It can show me programme listings in a very convenient timetable format. It can remind me about shows, and even recommend shows to me. Oh, that’s just the beginning. It has Wi-Fi, surfs the web, makes phone calls, and a whole lot more things.  It’s a phone, it’s a smartphone, it’s the Samsung Galaxy S4 (SGS4).

That was the WatchOn app. The universal remote app that controls your TV, DVD, cable set top box, etc. Remember the days from long ago when phones had infrared blasters? Then they just about completely disappeared in the last couple of years? Well, infrared blasters are back. The HTC One is the other notable smartphone that includes an infrared blaster.

I’d have expected that all the modern entertainment devices should have moved on to something newer like Wi-Fi with a remote control app. That’s at least the case with my Western Digital TV Live Streaming media player. But there’s some benefit with infrared. The protocol is simple, it is pretty standard, and it’s easy to “train” an app to learn device-specific infrared codes. That’s how the Samsung WatchOn app can become a universal remote.

This is one of those features of the SGS4 that critics may have labelled as fun but not much practical use. However, I’ve found it to be surprisingly useful, particularly in navigating channel and programme listings. This is one of the great things that come about from converging and bringing together multiple services across different gadgets for better usability.

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