Setting up your Galaxy S5 or S4 as remote for your TV, set top box (STB), Blu-ray, DVD player, and even your air-conditioner (AC) is super-easy. The built-in remote app is centred around TVs, but it does have support for the other devices if you know how to work around it.
Turning your phone in to a remote is one of those features that sounds 'kind-of' useful in theory, but in practice turns out to be a pivotal moment in your tech life. Like when you made the upgrade from DVD to Blu-ray, the benefits seem small at first but in time you realise there’s no going back.
If you have the Galaxy Gear 2 smartwatch you can use that for a few of them as well! It also has a built-in IR blaster and an app for taking command of your TV, set top box or AC.
Setting up the TV remote
Start up the Smart Remote app on your GS5 or GS4 (it’s called WatchON on the Galaxy Gear 2) and follow the prompts. Once you’re finished you’ll get a ‘Just for you’ screen with multiple channels displayed.
To set up your TV remote tap the remote icon near the top right and follow the prompts. If you have multiple TVs of different brands in your house you’re still covered.
Hit the menu icon in the top right and select [Change room]. Each room can be set up with its own devices and remotes. Switching between rooms is easy and is one of the more useful features of this app.
The remote itself is surprisingly well thought-out. The basic features are on the main screen, but the less commonly-used ones can be accessed by sliding the tab up from the bottom. This tab also lets you switch between different device remotes.
Another great piece of ingenuity is that a slimmed-down remote widget becomes the default state of your lock screen. If you've been listening to music or anything like that then it won't show up, but if you've been playing games or browsing the web you don't even have to launch the app.
Controlling other devices
Once the TV remote is done for a room you can start adding other devices. For some reason you can’t add anything before the TV remote. It’s as if the app creators expect not only every house to have a TV, but every room in every house to have one. It’s a little annoying but ultimately easy enough to side-step. At worst you can just create a fake TV remote and then just switch to another device.
To create a non-TV remote, tap the remote icon . Then tap the menu icon in the top right and hit [Add device]. This is where you can add Blu-ray, STB, AV Receiver, Streaming Media Player or the all-important Air Conditioner. You’ll only be allowed one of each type of device per room.
Switching between devices is easy enough. Open the remote screen for any device and slide the bottom tab upwards. Then hit the change remote icon and select the device you want in that room.
Not every device is supported
The list of included brands and devices is fearsome, but inevitably some will fall through the cracks. If you have an older model device, or an esoteric brand, then you may not be able to use the remote app.
If you like you can easily send feedback to the developer regarding your device brand and model number in the hopes that eventually you’ll get to join in. Whether or not that actually works is still something we’re waiting to hear on.