Lost remote control? No problem: How to use your iPhone as a TV remote control

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

Every time the Roku, Fire TV, or regular TV remote gets lost between the sofa cushions or thrown anywhere by a toddler, I look for the manufacturer’s app to control the TV. But if you have a compatible smart TV, such as roku or Fire TVor a Apple TV 4Kyou can do without additional apps and simply use your iPhone as a new remote control.

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

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

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How to use your iPhone as a TV remote control

We have a 2.4GHz network at home for all our smart devices, including all smart TVs and streaming devices like our Roku TV Sticks and Fire TV Sticks. Whenever we want to use AirPlay or control the TVs from our phone, it only takes us 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.

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.

Access the control center by swiping down from the top right of the screen.

Image: Maria Diaz / ZDNET

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

AirPlay icon and the remote control button on the iPhone.

Select the AirPlay icon or remote button.

Image: Maria Diaz / ZDNET

The available TVs are on your same network and compatible with AirPlay. Select the TV you want to control.

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

Tapping on the remote control button in the control center takes you directly to the remote control options, as in the second image below. Select the TV you want to control.

Remote control icon on iPhone.

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

Image: Maria Diaz / ZDNET

TV selection options on iPhone.

Image: Maria Diaz / ZDNET

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

iPhone remote control function.

This is what the iPhone remote control looks like.

Image: Maria Diaz / ZDNET

I’ve been trying to make “distant boats” a thing since that episode of Everybody Loves Raymond where Frank gets one, and I don’t understand why nobody in my house wants to do that. It may have something to do with me and my husband being outnumbered by toddlers and preschoolers. But using our iPhones as remote controls has almost made our remote control boats obsolete. While the iPhone remote has limited capabilities, I can finally stop tracking all of the various little remotes on our streaming devices that seem to be the perfect size and shape to slip between the couch cushions.


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

You can if you add an Apple TV 4K. Otherwise you would have to download a separate app to use your iPhone as a remote control, e.g. B. a universal remote control app or Fire TV or Roku TV. Although the newer Fire TV Smart TVs support AirPlay, the Fire TV Sticks and Cubes are not AirPlay compatible.

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

If you can’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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