Samsung Galaxy S4


As you no doubt have heard, the age of the Samsung Galaxy S4 is upon us. It’s an impressive phone with great specs. But is it an iPhone killer? Well, maybe not; Apple’s dominance has never depended upon having the better product. But it could very well be a Universal Remote killer.

You see, the Galaxy S4 is equipped with an IR port — a useful addition that has been strangely absent on the iPhone, as well as most other mobile devices (apart from a handful of Nokias, Xperias, and the mighty HTC One). Yes, Bluetooth has taken over most of the wireless connectivity duties on modern phones because it has better range, doesn’t need line-of-sight, and doesn’t depend upon specific device codes to establish a connection. But there’s one area in which Bluetooth adoption lags, and IR still decisively rules: remote controls.

Nearly all remote controls depend on infrared transmission and reception. Armed with an IR-equipped phone, and an app that can access the appropriate codes for your device, you can happily forget about lost remotes and multiple remotes forever. We already know how much we use our phones while watching TV. Nielsen says at least 40% of us do it every day, and 85% do it at least once a month. The use of the smartphone as a “second screen” is a foregone conclusion for programmers and advertisers who are falling over themselves to engage the mobile user. Using your smartphone as your universal remote simply makes sense, but it also unlocks a lot of potential.

Android users already have access to outstanding TV remote apps like Dijit and Unified Remote. These apps allow you to do things with your smartphone that even the most powerful (and expensive) universals struggle to match. You’ll always have the most updated database of remote control codes, without having to scour through lists of devices and punch in each number by hand. You’ll also be able to create custom button layouts and touchscreen gestures, or bring up programming guides right on the phone screen instead of your TV.

Samsung created their own universal remote app, recently renamed WatchOn, based on considerable experience with universal remote apps. Users loved the Peel Smart Remote for the Galaxy Tab as well as the company’s own Smart View app, which controls Samsung Smart TVs over the local network. But WatchOn is uniquely designed for the specific hardware and software capabilities of the S4, not to mention taking advantage of Samsung’s existing On Demand library — among other things, you’ll be able to browse and purchase TV shows and movies right from your device to view on your TV.

Your standard universal remote couldn’t even dream of doing all of these things. Even the insanely powerful Logitech Harmony One Advanced remote can’t do that. Plus, it certainly can’t make calls, surf the web, or play Angry Birds — despite having an MSRP of about a hundred bucks more than the Galaxy S4.

So in addition to having the power to control your TV (and your Blu-Ray player, home theater system, or even household appliances like fans and lighting), Samsung has given the S4 an intuitive app to make it as easy and powerful as possible. Like everything about the S4, you’ll have to give yourself a little hands-on time to really grasp all the possibilities; maybe a few hours in front of the TV will do it?