Patent suggests Apple might turn iPhones, iPads into universal remotes

Mar 23, 2012
Tech

Rumors have been flying that Apple is intending to roll out its own branded HDTV set sometime in the future, and a new patent from the company suggests the remote control for that TV could be your iPhone. According to a story from Patently Apple via Mashable, Apple is working on technology that can turn […]

Rumors have been flying that Apple is intending to roll out its own branded HDTV set sometime in the future, and a new patent from the company suggests the remote control for that TV could be your iPhone.

According to a story from Patently Apple via Mashable, Apple is working on technology that can turn its iOS mobile devices into universal remote controls that can even control devices that are already on the market, and potentially, any TV sets that Apple might roll out sometime in the future.

Universal remotes today require users look up and enter access codes for the devices they want those remotes to control. With the iOS app Apple has proposed, the code look-up and programming portion of the situation would be automated, allowing users to skip the use of code manuals to find the correct brand of their device. Device owners would find their codes by snapping a photo of the device, which gets transmitted to iCloud and used to track down the correct code. Then the app creates a virtual version of the remote on the iPhone or iPad.

The patent just hit the U.S. Patent and Trademark office this week, although Apple filed it back in 2010, Mashable reports. And, as Mashable points out, Apple has tons of patents – it’s filing patents all the time, basically. Many of those patents lead to new features for iOS devices, but just as many (if not more) lead to nothing: Apple just hangs on to them, and they might become useful in the future, or maybe not.

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Apple already does have something of a remote control app. However, Remote isn’t for TVs, DVD players and DVR devices. Instead, it allows iPhone and iPad owners to control iTunes on various devices remotely, as well as Apple TV set-top boxes. Somewhat like the universal remote patent, Remote uses users’ local Wi-Fi network to access devices and control them once configured. It’s not too robust, but Remote does allow users to switch songs in iTunes, adjust the volume of devices, and perform other similar functions.

We’ve seen a lot of cool patents come out of Apple, so this one shouldn’t be seen as more than a cool “what if” situation, not a sign of something that’s definitely coming down the pipe. That said, a universal remote app sounds right up Apple’s alley, especially when coupled with the possibility of an Apple branded TV set. But as always, we’ll have to wait and see.

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Phil Hornshaw

Phil Hornshaw is a freelance writer, editor and author living in Los Angeles, dividing his time between playing video games, playing video games on his cell phone, and writing about playing video games. He’s also the co-author of So You Created a Wormhole: The Time Traveler’s Guide to Time Travel, which attempts to mix time travel pop culture with some semblance of science, as well as tips on the appropriate means of riding dinosaurs. Check out his profile.

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