How to use your iPhone as a TV remote control

Close-up of a person sitting in bed holding a smartphone with a remote control on the screen while the TV is on in the background.

Photo: Grace Carey via Getty Images – Illustration: Maria Diaz/ZDNET

Every time a Roku, Fire TV, or regular TV remote gets lost between the couch cushions or tossed somewhere by a toddler, I look for the manufacturer’s single TV control app. But, if you have a compatible smart TV, such as a Rocco or Fire TVor Apple TV 4KYou can get rid of extra apps and simply use your iPhone as a new remote control.

also: How to add an AirTag to the Apple TV remote

Before you start, make sure that your TV is turned on and connected to the same network as your iPhone.

When using your iPhone as a remote control, note that not all TVs will have all controls. Depending on your TV, you may not be able to turn it on or off, or access the volume.

How to use your iPhone as a TV remote control

We have a 2.4GHz network in our home for all of our smart devices, including all smart TVs and streaming devices like Roku TVs and Fire TV sticks. When we want to use AirPlay or control TVs through our phone, it only takes a few seconds to switch networks.

iPhone with network settings on screen.

Make sure your iPhone is connected to the same network as the smart TV you want to control.

Photo: Maria Diaz/ZDNET

You can find your iPhone’s Control Center by swiping down from the top right of the screen.

iPhone Control Center.

Access Control Center by swiping down from the top right of the screen.

Photo: Maria Diaz/ZDNET

The remote control button may be in your Control Center, if you can’t find it, just tap the AirPlay icon (the circles with the triangle at the bottom) at the top right.

AirPlay icon and remote button on iPhone.

Select the AirPlay icon or the remote control button.

Photo: Maria Diaz/ZDNET

Available TVs will be in the same network as you and will be compatible with AirPlay. Select the TV you want to control.

also: How to broadcast on tv

If you click on the AirPlay icon, your screen will look like the first image below. Select the TV you want to control.

When you press the remote control button from the control center, it will go directly to the remote control options, like the second image below. Select the TV you want to control.

iPhone remote control icon.

Once you’ve selected the TV you want to control, you can click on the small remote on the left to access the TV’s controls.

Photo: Maria Diaz/ZDNET

TV selection options on iPhone.

Photo: Maria Diaz/ZDNET

Your iPhone is now also a remote control for your TV or streaming device.

iPhone remote control feature.

This is what the iPhone remote control looks like.

Photo: Maria Diaz/ZDNET

I’ve been trying to make “distant boats” a thing ever since the episode of Everybody Loves Raymond where Frank gets one, and I don’t see why no one in my house wants to make that happen.

also: This hidden iPhone feature can help you fall asleep faster

But using our iPhones as a remote control made remote boating almost unnecessary. While the iPhone remote has limited options, I can finally stop tracking down all the different little remotes from our streaming devices that seem to be the perfect size and shape for slipping between the sofa cushions.

Instructions

Can I use my iPhone as a remote control for a non-smart TV?

You can if you add Apple TV 4K. Otherwise, you’ll have to download a separate app to use your iPhone as a remote control, such as a universal, Fire TV, or Roku TV remote app. Although newer Fire TV smart TVs support AirPlay, the Fire TV Sticks and Cube are not compatible with AirPlay.

Why can’t I see the remote control button in Control Center?

If you don’t see the Remote Control option in Control Center and want to add it, you can go to settings, Then select Control Center, Then add the shortcuts you want to add, including the Remote Control option.

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