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Make Your Phone a Streaming TV Remote Control

Set up your phone or tablet as a remote for your Chromecast, Roku, Apple TV, or Amazon Fire TV.

Apps in this Guide

We've never had better options for streaming music, movies, and TV. The Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV Stick, Roku, and Apple TV are in the "impulse buy" price range, and each has unique upsides thatmore

We've never had better options for streaming music, movies, and TV. The Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV Stick, Roku, and Apple TV are in the "impulse buy" price range, and each has unique upsides that can make it difficult to settle on just one. But you don't want to wrestle with a pile of remote controls -- and you don't have to: You can control all four streaming devices with your iOS or Android phone or tablet and free apps. Here's how to make your phone your remote control, from the easiest method to the slightly more involved.

Controlling an Apple TV with an Android device

There are no official apps for this, unfortunately. Be wary of apps that claim they can do it. For Android users, your best bet is to stick with the Apple TV's physical remote. You may also want to consider using a Harmony remote, which can interact with a variety of electronics, though it's an added cost.

Check your wifi network before you try connect

A common error is to forget to put your phone or tablet on the same wifi network as your streaming device, or to forget to enable wifi on your phone or tablet. Once you do that, you should be able to sync up.

Apps to Stream Media to Your TV

Amazon Fire TV

Amazon Fire TV

When you open the Amazon Fire TV Remote app (Android, iOS), it will go straight to the device selection list. If the Fire TV is on the same Wi-Fi network as your phone or tablet, you should see the Fire TV listed here. Tap it, and the television will display a four-digit code. Enter this code in the app, which will now be linked to the Fire TV. The app will then give you a brief visual walkthrough of how it works.

Most of your phone or tablet screen becomes a touch control that you use to navigate the Fire TV interface on your TV. You can also drag and hold from the top of the screen to send a voice search to the Fire TV.

Roku

Roku

To control a Roku player or Roku TV, download the app (Android, iOS ) and connect to your local Wi-Fi network. Open the app, tap Continue, and let the app search for Roku devices on the same network. If you see none listed under Select a Device, then either your phone or your Roku may be connected to the wrong Wi-Fi network.

If your Roku is connected to your network by Ethernet cable instead of Wi-Fi, you may need to tap the manual setup button. The app will then ask for the Roku's IP address, which you can find by pressing the home button on your Roku remote, going down to Settings, pressing right on the directional pad, pressing right again to access the Network settings, then pressing down to show your Wired (Ethernet) connection. Enter the last number of this IP address into the prompt in the app, and you should be linked up. Tap the Remote button in the app to turn your mobile device's screen into a virtual Roku remote.

Apple TV

Apple TV

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Unfortunately, Apple TV has a Remote app for iOS only. There are several unofficial options for Android, but you may be better off sticking with the physical remote.

You'll also need a free Apple service called Home Sharing. Once you have the Remote app, open it, tap Settings, and select Home Sharing. Log in with your Apple ID username and password, then go to your Apple TV. If it's the fourth-generation model, choose Settings and then Accounts, select Home Sharing, and log in again with your Apple ID, if requested. With the older, third-generation Apple TV, go to Settings, click General, Remotes, Remote App, and then log in if asked. At this point, an Apple TV icon should appear in the app. Tap it to begin using your iPhone or iPad as a remote control. Tip: The Menu button is your back button, just like on the physical remote.

Google Home

Google Home

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The Chromecast is arguably the easiest streaming-media device to set up, because it doesn't even need a physical remote. Instead, you grab a free app called Google Home and use that mobile device as your remote instead. Your phone or tablet then communicates with the Chromecast using your local Wi-Fi network.