You can turn your Android phone into a universal remote control. Here’s how

If you use a smart TV or streaming media player, you’re in luck. Roku, Fire TV, and Google/Android TV all have official ready-to-use apps for controlling playback and more. Even brand-specific TV operating systems like LG’s webOS and Samsung’s Tizen have apps in the Google Play Store.

If you don’t have a smart TV or streaming box, all hope is not lost. While IR blasters (infrared lights that control TVs just like a standard remote control) were built into some Android devices in the past, this is very uncommon these days. The good news is that there are aftermarket IR blasters you can buy to replicate this functionality.

The smallest connect via a 3.5mm headphone jack (if you still have one) or USB-C, but there are external ones made by companies like BroadLink and SwitchBot that can also be controlled over Wi-Fi. These will be placed somewhere with a clear view of your TV’s IR sensor and IR flash patterns based on your input into the device’s app. They have a built-in library of thousands of devices, meaning all you have to do is tell them what kind of TV, Blu-Ray player or soundbar you have and it will do the rest. Best of all, they usually cost less than $50 on Amazon and support Alexa and Google Assistant.