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

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

Photo: Grace Carey via Getty Images – Illustration: Maria Diaz / ZDNET

Every time my Roku, Fire TV, or regular TV remote gets lost between couch cushions or a small child throws it somewhere, I look for the manufacturer’s single app to control the TV. But, if you have a compatible smart TV, such as a Rocco or Fire TVor Apple TV 4KYou can get rid of extra apps and simply use your iPhone as a new remote control.

Before getting started, make sure your TV is turned on and connected to the same network as your iPhone.

When using your iPhone as a remote control, note that not all TVs will have all the controls. Depending on the TV, you may not be able to turn it on or off, or reach the volume.

also: This accessory allows you to add AirTag to your Apple TV remote control

How to use your iPhone as a TV remote control

We have a 2.4GHz network in our home for all of our smart devices, including all smart TVs and streaming devices like Roku TVs and Fire TV sticks. When we want to use AirPlay or control TVs through our phone, it only takes 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.

Photo: Maria Diaz/ZDNET

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

iPhone Control Center.

Access Control Center by swiping down from the top right of the screen.

Photo: Maria Diaz/ZDNET

also: iOS 16: How to Make the Most of Your New iPhone Lock Screen

The remote control button might be in your Control Center, if you can’t find it, just tap on the AirPlay icon (the circles with a triangle at the bottom) on the top right.

AirPlay icon and remote control button on iPhone.

Select the AirPlay icon or the remote control button.

Photo: Maria Diaz/ZDNET

Available TVs will be in the same network as yours and compatible with AirPlay. Select the TV you want to control.

If you click on the AirPlay icon, your screen will look like the first image below. Select the TV you want to control.

When you press the remote control button from the control center, it will go directly to the remote control options, like the second picture below. Select the TV you want to control.

iPhone remote control icon.

Once you have selected the TV you want to control, you can click on the small remote on the left to access the TV controls.

Photo: Maria Diaz/ZDNET

TV selection options on iPhone.

Photo: Maria Diaz/ZDNET

also: The case to keep your old iPhone

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

iPhone remote control feature.

This is what the iPhone remote control looks like.

Photo: Maria Diaz/ZDNET

I’ve been trying to make ‘Distance Boats’ a thing ever since Everyone loves Raymond’s episode Where Frank gets one, and I don’t understand why no one in my house wants to make it happen. This may have something to do with the fact that toddlers and preschoolers outnumber me and my husband. But using our iPhones as a remote control has made remote boats almost unnecessary. Even though my iPhone remote has limited options, I can finally stop keeping track of all the different little remotes from our streaming devices that seem the perfect size and shape to slip between 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 will have to download a separate app to use your iPhone as a remote control, such as a universal remote app, Fire TV, or Roku TV. Although newer Fire TV smart TVs support AirPlay, Fire TV sticks and cubes are not compatible with AirPlay.

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

If you don’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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