Why an IR Blaster Is Still Useful on Phones in 2020

An infrared remote control pointed at a television screen showing the planet Earth.klss / Shutterstock

There is a chance (albeit getting weaker) that your phone has an infrared blaster. These allow your phone to communicate with everyday devices in your home, like televisions and DVRs, using invisible bursts of electromagnetic radiation.

If you constantly lose your remote control, phones with infrared blasters are extremely handy. But how do they work and where can you get one?

When infrared was king

Readers of a certain age may remember using infrared to share files and Internet connections between their phone, PDA, or computer. This feature (called “IrDA“) Was common in the 1990s and early 2000s before Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.

A PDA showing the time in Tokyo, Los Angeles, London and Paris.Milos Markovic / Shutterstock

At the time, IrDA was revolutionary, but it has long ceased to be popular. Modern data transfer technologies are simply better. With Bluetooth and IrDA, the two infrared ports don’t need to be nearby or have line of sight.

They are also much faster. The IrDA port on my Apple PowerBook G3 caps at 230.4 kbps. Compare that to Bluetooth 5.0, which supports speeds of up to 2 Mbps, or Wi-Fi 6, which has a base speed of 1.2 Gbps, and can even go up to 10 Gbps.

It should be noted that infrared blasters are not the same as the old IrDA ports of yesteryear. They use an entirely different protocol called Consumer infrared (cIR), and operate at much slower speeds.

That means you’ll have to forget about using your shiny new phone to connect to your late ’90s laptop.

What is the RI used for in 2020?

IR blasters are almost exclusively used to control other devices, such as TVs, set-top boxes, and air conditioning units. By downloading an app, you can effectively turn your phone into a universal remote control and control your whole world.

Because IR blasters for TVs and cable boxes are so prevalent, Microsoft Kinect for Xbox One incorporated one, as well. This is how Kinect hardware allows the Xbox One to control a TV.

Some phones, like Unihertz Jelly 2, come with preloaded universal remote applications. If not, there are options on the google play shop.

Lean Remote is one of the best and offers a wide range of support for home electronics. Your mileage will vary, of course.

Few American phones offer infrared blasters

In the early 2010s, Android phones regularly shipped with IR blasters. Manufacturers like Samsung and LG have included them in their devices, but it has gradually stopped. However, IR blasters are still frequently shipped to phones from Chinese manufacturers, such as Huawei and Xiaomi.

Below are some of the latest phones offering infrared blasters.

TCL 10 Pro

A TCL 10 Pro smartphone.TCL

It should come as no surprise that TCL is bringing an infrared blaster on board its high-end phones. After all, the Chinese tech brand is best known for its affordable smart TVs, and there are some obvious synergies.

Priced at $ 449, the quad camera TCL 10 Pro offers a Qualcomm Snapdragon 675, 128 GB of storage, 6 GB of RAM and a 6.47-inch large screen. There is also a 3.5mm headphone jack which is a bit rare these days.

It is one of the few phones equipped with an infrared blaster sold in the United States.

Xiaomi Poco F2 Pro

Xiaomi’s Poco F2 Pro combines flagship-level specs like a Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 processor and a 64 MP quad-camera setup, with a price tag under $ 500.

It is one of the few Xiaomi phones available in the U.S. Although the company has not officially entered the U.S. smartphone market, it has been widely imported by resellers and therefore may be found on Amazon.

Huawei P30 Pro new edition

Announced earlier this year, the Huawei P30 Pro New Edition is a slightly updated version of last year’s flagship from the struggling Chinese tech giant.

Unlike other recent Huawei phones, this device includes Google’s proprietary Android apps, so it has access to the Google Play Store. It comes with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage by default, and, yes, there is an IR blaster.

The P30 Pro New Edition is not readily available in the United States, although it is widely sold in europe for around $ 800.

Make your own

I wasn’t kidding when I said infrared blasters were getting rarer and rarer. While it is certainly true that they can be found, very few are included on devices sold in the United States.

Fortunately, the electronics behind an IR blaster are extremely simple. If you are comfortable with a soldering iron, it is possible to create your own and plug it into the 3.5mm headphone jack on your phone. Your mileage will vary, however.

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