How to control your TV with your phone if it doesn't have a built-in IR blaster
After being forgotten for a long time, the infrared sensor is seeing somewhat of a resurgence in mobile phones, with a bunch of handsets now coming with their own IR blasters, letting you easily control your TV, set-top box, home stereo, or even AC unit, from the comfort of your phone.
Those come with adjacent apps that have tons of TV makes and models preinstalled already, so there is a chance you can start annoying your sister by lowering the volume of that Bieber song right after you unpack your new handset. Some of those, like the apps on Samsung or LG phones, even let you manage more exotic gear, like your air conditioner, for example. What about phones or tablets that don't come from the factory with infrared sensors in them, though? Here are a few of your options:
The Irdroid project comes to the rescue for those who want to add an IR blaster to their phone on the very cheap. Irdroid is a tiny contraption that plugs into your Android device's audio jack, and emits... you guessed it... infrared signal. The device might look a bit unwieldy, powered by one AAA battery, but at $15 we wouldn't complain too much. Irdroid comes with its own Android app, which is an open-source port of the LIRC (Linux Infrared Remote Control) platform, and has hundreds of Samsung, LG, Motorola, Sony, Panasonic, Philips and other remotes preset already. The gizmo has an extended line-of-sight range of 30 feet (about 10 meters), too.
Of course, searching for Irdroid on your coffee tablet can be as annoying as searching for the remote in the couch cushions, so you can go all fancy, and get the Bluetooth or Wi-Fi versions of Irdroid. They would connect to your Android device wirelessly, while you can have the Irdroid gadget sitting directly in front of the TV, pointing at its IR port at all times. This convenience will cost you, though, with the Bluetooth kits starting at $49, and the Wi-Fi one, that you see in the picture, clocking in at the respectable $64, but that's the price to pay for comfort and always losing your TV remote. If you are interested in the Irdroid contraption, hit the link for more info on how to get it.
If you are not into shady open source deals, Logitech has you covered, for a price. Its Logitech Harmony Smart Control set can be found for $130 at places like Amazon, and consists of a hub that can emit infra red signal, an IR extender, a remote control that connects to the hub via Wi-Fi, and iOS or Android apps that can control the hub with the respective apps. Sounds like a complicated setup, but it is a foolproof way to add IR remote control to your living room with a mobile device that doesn't have the respective blaster.
Of course, if you have an iDevice, the situation with accessories is less shady, so you can get the L5 Universal Remote Control that plugs into your regular 30-pin, or Lightning (with adapter) ports, and lets you control the electronics in your homestead from the touchscreen of your iPhone or iPad with the embedded IR blaster.
Griffin's Beacon gizmo connects to your iPhone via Bluetooth, and beams the commands you input with the respective app to your TV. Position is key, though, as users are complaining there must be a clean line-of-sight between the Beacon and your television set, not to mention that Bluetooth is not always the most reliable of connections, with the fairly limited range and all. On the plus side, Griffin's Beacon is one of the cheapest ways to add IR remote control abilities to your iOS gear.