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Don’t throw out the remote just yet!

By Nicola Freeman

Like a lot of families, we seem to spend way too much time searching for the remote. Except it’s not just one remote. In the living room alone, we have remotes for the TV, the cable box, TiVo, and a music center. If you count all the other rooms, there must be at least a dozen of the annoying little devices, most of them stuffed down the sides of sofas.

So I was more than interested to read an article in the New York Times over the weekend which suggested that the TV remote could soon be a thing of the past.

The recent introduction of Google TV and the re-launch of Apple TV have both been accompanied by downloadable smartphone apps. These apps allow owners of the iPhone and some Android phones to use the devices to activate the TVs, search for programming, and perform other tasks like recording and deleting individual shows. More apps are expected as the number of homes with an Internet-connected TV steadily increases.

However, as Jared Newman at PC World points out, there are some other issues that need to be addressed before we can start thinking about throwing out the remote. The first is battery life. As most smartphones can’t go a day without the need for a recharge, the daily hunt for the phone charger is likely to be at least as frustrating as the search for the remote.

Secondly, with 10 or more TV manufacturers and at least five different cell phone operating systems, it’s going to be years before everyone gets around to standardizing equipment. No-one is going to want to choose a smartphone based on the TV they may or may not buy sometime in the future.

Finally, you are adding yet another task to a device that already works overtime as a texting hub, a gaming console, a camera, and a mobile web browser – and, oh yes, occasionally as a phone. And I can only imagine the scene where everyone is trying to use their phone to change the TV to a different channel at the same time.

On second thoughts, in this multi-tasking, multi-purpose digital age, there’s a lot to be said for a device that only has one function in life. I think we can live with the TV remote after all.

Comment by Robyn Wright of RobynsOnlineWorld.com, posted 11/4/2010, 7:44 AM:

I still want one of those cool universal remotes with the touchpad screen on it to control my TV and all the electronic stuff. They always are a fun gadget. As much as I love my iPhone, I don't want to use it as my remote for the TV all the time.
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