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Why have 'they' not made a cellphone with a learning remote? Answered

How often are you spending more time looking for the TV, DVD, Stereo remote than the time it would actually take to just get up and push the button on the unit? Cordless phones have 'pager' function where you can press a button on the base unit causing the handset to beep. A lost cellphone may be found by ringing it. But very few manufacturers of entertainment system (that i have come across) include a "finding' feature with the units' remote control. WHY NOT? Surely Cellphone manufacturers could "easily?" include a learning remote with the rest of the 'hugely useful' features on them the we use EVERYDAY...like FM radio, biorhythms, international roaming, bottle opener. You see my theory is-- a. that I tend to know exactly where my cellphone is 99% of the time. It is personal. b. The TV, Stereo etc. remote on the other hand are communal. I mean other poeple, like my kids, use them often and thus the remote gets left ANYWHERE. So the two ideas i have put forward is 1. Learning infrared remote in a cellphone and 2. a pager for a remote (new thread pending)


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11 years ago

There are remotes for mobile phones, just not infrared ones. I can control all of the media functions of my home theater and stereo from my iPhone.

But that's because my home theater is a computer and my sound system is a Sonos and it does it all over the local network.

So why not infrared?

Years ago, before bluetooth and wifi, a lot of mobile devices used to have bi-directional infrared beaming. Remember the Palm III? Yes, back in 1998 there was a pocket gadget that had a universal IR remote application. They were used to exchange information between devices. If you had a laptop with IR (and a few did back then too) you could sync contacts and appointments with your PC.

But they weren't great at being universal remotes. They were low powered and you often had to sit really close to the device you were trying to control just for it to pick up the signal.

But then bluetooth and wifi and digital cell networks and SD cards happened and all of those things are better at getting information out of a device than the slow, line of sight, infrared. So the feature was eventually dropped.

It costs money and development resources to add a feature like this into a phone. first you need to decide where on the outside of the case you're going to put the IR emitter and receiver. The emitter is going to have to be big and powerful, so it's not a small decision in a compact cell phone. Sure it's only about about a cm3 but that's one less cubic cm that can be used for other stuff inside the phone. Now that you've figured out where to put it you need to wire it to the main circuitry of the phone. They need to be carefully placed so that they don't cause or receive and interference to other electronics, that they don't screw up reception and broadcasting of any of the antennae. It's a giant pain.

But what about that other useless stuff they put in phones like accelerometers and compasses? They're different because they're tiny, low power, solid state devices, that can be soldiered directly on the main board without lots of extra trouble.

Then once you have the thing in place you need to program for it. Sure, there the interface for you to use it, but there there needs to be support at the operating system level, which is somewhat tricky and specialized programming.

So it's a pain.

And, honestly, the phone doesn't make a better remote than the real remote. Like I said, I can control all of the media in my house with my phone. But I rarely do. Why? Several reasons:
  • I can't use the remote control while using the phone. So when a phone call comes in I can't mute the music.
  • It's an application. So whenever I want to change a channel or skip a song I have to launch the app, wait a bit, and then do my thing.
  • It's no good in the dark. This one's a pet peeve of mine, but I don't like remotes that I can't use in the dark, by touch. When I'm watching a movie I don't want retina burn from having to look at a mobile phone to turn up the volume in a suspenseful scene.

But not everyone agrees. There are at least two companies (one, two) who are making remote control adapters for the iPhone, and at least one for the Blackberry.

So there you go.


Reply 11 years ago

Great reply. Thank you. The second idea I have been thinking about is a pager for the remote. This would entail substituting one of the AA batteries for a unit (the same size as an AA Battery) that would 1. Double the voltage (or Current) of the remaining battery 2. Have a receiver 3.A mini piezo siren There would also be a transmitting unit that would stick on the back of the TV, Stereo etc. So when the remote can not be found, a simple press of the button on the transmitter would cause the unit in the remote to beep, or such. Your thoughts?


Reply 11 years ago

There are products that have the same function (example one, two, three) but I'm not aware of any in that form factor.

You might be able to shrink the electronics to a very small package and maintain most of the power of the battery. If you've got $20 to experiment you could buy one of the above mentioned finders, rip the receiver apart and see if you can fit the guts into a AA-size package. Maybe use an N-sized cell for power.

Neat idea!