How to use your iPhone as a TV remote

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

Image: Grace Cary via Getty Images – Illustration: Maria Diaz / ZDNET

Whenever the Roku, Fire TV, or regular television remote gets lost between the couch cushions or is thrown somewhere by a toddler, I look for the individual manufacturer’s app to control the TV. But if you have a compatible smart TV, such as a Roku or Fire TVor a Apple TV 4Kyou can ditch extra apps and just use your iPhone as your new remote.

Also: Add an AirTag to your Apple TV remote

Before you get started, make sure your television is on and connected to the same network as your iPhone.

When using your iPhone as a remote, keep in mind that not all televisions have all the controls. Depending on the television, you may not be able to turn it on or off or access the volume.

How to use your iPhone as a remote control for your TV

We have a 2.4 GHz network at home for all of our smart devices, including all smart TVs and streaming devices such as our Roku TV Sticks and Fire TV Sticks. Whenever we want to use AirPlay or control the TVs through our phone, it only takes us a handful of seconds to switch networks.

iPhone with network settings on the screen.

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

Image: Maria Diaz/ZDNET

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

iPhone control center.

Go to the Control Center by swiping down from the top right corner of the screen.

Image: Maria Diaz/ZDNET

The remote control button may be located in your control center. If you can’t find it, tap the AirPlay icon (circles with a triangle at the bottom) in the top right.

AirPlay icon and the remote control button on the iPhone.

Select the AirPlay icon or the Remote button.

Image: Maria Diaz/ZDNET

The available televisions are on the same network and are compatible with AirPlay. Select the television you want to control.

Also: AirPlay to a TV

Once you’ve tapped the AirPlay icon, your screen should look something like the first image below. Select which television you want to control.

When you tap the remote control button from the control center, it will take you directly to the remote control options, like the second image below. Select the television you want to control.

Remote control icon on iPhone.

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

Image: Maria Diaz/ZDNET

TV choice options on iPhone.

Image: Maria Diaz/ZDNET

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

Function for iPhone remote control.

This is what the iPhone remote looks like.

Image: Maria Diaz/ZDNET

Since then I’ve been trying to make something out of “remote boats”. Everyone Loves Raymond episode where Frank gets one, and I don’t understand why no one in my house wants to let it happen.

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

But using our iPhones as remote controls has made our remote boats almost obsolete. While the iPhone remote has limited options, I can finally stop keeping track of all the various little remotes of our streaming devices that seem to be the perfect size and shape to slip between the couch cushions.

FAQ

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

You can if you have one Apple TV 4K. Otherwise, you would have to download a separate app to use your iPhone as a remote, such as a universal remote control app or the Fire TV or Roku TV. While the newer Fire TV smart TVs support AirPlay, the Fire TV sticks and cube are not AirPlay compatible.

Why don’t I see the remote button on the Control Center?

If you can’t see the remote control option in Control Center and want to add it, go to Settings, then choose Control Center, then add the shortcuts you want to add, including the remote control option.

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