Infrared, usually referred to as “IR,” is a technology that’s long been used to remotely control televisions, stereos, and DVD players. It’s still in use today, which is the reason behind the ubiquitous “universal remote” so you don’t have to have ten remote controls sitting in your living room. Okay, let’s face it, most of us probably DO have ten remote controls sitting around our living room.
Here’s the deal. Back in the late nineties when Palm Pilots introduced mobile computing to a large number of consumers, the Palm devices supported infrared transfer and had a built in IR transmitter and receiver. It was a fairly weak device, but the idea was that Palm users could transfer contact information, small files, and other data over IR. It was SLOW. What it did do, however, was control your television set. And a few small developers enjoyed this enough to produce and sell IR boosters for the Palm that allowed it the same power as any IR remote control device.
Now that Palm is dead and those days are behind us, what has replaced that technology? Answer – nothing. Smart phones, the undisputed successors of the hand-held computing legacy, possess no ability to send or receive IR. What does this mean? It means you can’t use them to control your television or your stereo, or your Bluray disk player, unless you can connect those devices to the internet and shuttle data between them.
If phones did have IR capability, it would be a simple matter to pre-program them (give them an app) with all current and previous protocols for all IR devices. You’d just enter the make and model of your television, and BOOM, you’d be able to use your phone as a remote. The same is true of tablet devices, the iPad, the iPod, the Kindle, you name it. So why don’t the manufacturers of these devices add infrared transmission and reception to them? Well, I think the answer is obvious. Every additional thing is a cost that they have to pass on. The thing is, who wouldn’t want to be able to control their entertainment system with their tablet or their phone? Particularly since your phone is usually on your person, and your tablet (if you own one) is likely lying around your living room?
I see this as a missing piece, a mistake on the part of OEMs who have put these things together without caring about IR. Sure, it’s old technology, but it’s also the one televisions and stereos still use. It doesn’t make sense to eliminate that transmission medium while it’s still widely in use. Buy a new television and you’ll see what I mean – it’s STILL using IR for the remote control. Androids have recently added to their list of features NFC. Why put in NFC technology over IR? I have no idea. I’d much rather control my television with my phone than pay my grocery bill.