If you own a television, you probably also use the right remote control. But in the TECHBOOK editorial team, opinions differ as to whether the input device is still up-to-date.

    The first remote control for TV devices came onto the market in 1950 and was still connected directly to the television by cable. Modern models, on the other hand, use Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and motion sensors to implement inputs on the screen. In the opinion of TECHBOOK editor Adrian Mühlroth, the next step is to do without a remote control altogether. Editor Laura Pomer, however, sees things differently…

    “The TV remote control is obsolete” – Adrian Mühlroth, TECHBOOK editor

    First of all, I have to admit that I neither own a smart TV nor watch linear television. The 55 inch TV in my living room is for streaming and gaming only. I’ll explain in a moment why I think that’s an important point, why the remote control is now superfluous.

    In the past, you had remote controls for practically everything: TV, receiver, DVD/Blu-ray player, stereo system and much more. It wasn’t uncommon to have two, three, or even more controllers on the living room table. Today, the receivers are integrated into the television, the DVD player has disappeared and the stereo system has been replaced by Bluetooth speakers or smart speakers. In most cases, all that remains is the remote control for the TV set itself. But why not banish this remnant from another time from everyday life?

    How am I supposed to switch on and operate my TV?

    Well, that entirely depends on what you’re using the device for. For example, I use Google Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV, and a Roku Stick for streaming, and PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch for gaming. Linear television hasn’t been interesting to me for ten years because I prefer to watch series and films in their original language. But you don’t have to be an OV lover to see that streaming is steadily displacing linear TV. According to Statista, streaming in the USA has 2022 exceeded linear television for the first time.

    The share of streaming usage versus cable TV in the USPhoto: Statista

    So why do I need a remote control with channel selection, teletext control and umpteen other buttons, half of which I don’t even know what they do. Modern remote controls, such as those from Samsung, are no longer comparable to the overloaded button strips that used to come with every television. So if I do without the remote control entirely, I’m only going one logical step further.

    Remote control for Samsung Smart TVs
    Remote controls for Samsung’s Smart TVs do without many buttonsPhoto: Getty Images

    Instead, I use my iPhone to either control the streaming stick or just throw content directly onto the TV. It works perfectly and I don’t have to have a remote control lying around all the time. Which is also good because my son who is one and a half years old can’t hide them somewhere. The only problem so far has been turning on the television, because my older television still requires an infrared signal. At the moment I’m either using an Android smartphone with an infrared transmitter to turn it on, or I’ll just pull the remote for the Roku or Fire TV out of the closet just to put it away again as soon as possible.

    The days of the TV remote control are numbered

    The Displace company has just presented a television at CES 2023 that works completely without a remote control. Instead, it is controlled via an extendable camera and air gestures such as swiping and scrolling. Roku also announced its own televisions at CES, which can be completely controlled via the smartphone. Many other manufacturers already allow operation by voice command.

    Roku's TV remote app on iPhone
    Roku’s TV remote app on iPhonePhoto: TECHBOOK

    All of these things make interacting with the TV more natural than a remote control with fixed and unchanging buttons ever could. A smartphone can customize the buttons depending on the content shown. Input via speech or gestures is much more natural anyway, but has not yet matured enough to really work reliably. At some point in the not too distant future, however, we will get to the point where these technologies can replace the remote control. In the meantime, I’ll start.

    “I don’t want to do without the TV remote control” – Laura Pomer, freelance editor at BOOKs

    Whoever holds the remote control has “the power”. In any case, I grew up with this wording. And I don’t want to give up that power.

    Turning on the TV means for me at the same time switching off a bit. Leave the day behind me, forget work or private stress for the time being. I sit down on my cozy couch to let myself be actively sprinkled – and yes, sometimes the linear TV program can even help me with that. Sometimes while zapping through the channels, I find something that interests me. If not, I’ll switch to the next. If I prefer to stream, I can do it with my remote control. Incidentally, I don’t shy away from picking up an additional one (for the Fire TV Stick).

    Sometimes the simplest solution (for me) is the best

    It makes sense that the industry is always pushing ahead to “simplify” everything related to home entertainment. It is therefore not surprising that TV sets will soon be able to do without a remote control. But does everything really have to get easier? And above all: Is that it at all?

    At the moment, watching TV without a haptic remote control is only possible if you use a remote TV app instead. On the one hand, I would have to download the umpteenth application software onto my smartphone – and for this, regular software updates. Quite apart from that, I use my smartphone often enough. At the latest when I’ve started a series that I want to devote my full attention to, I put it as far away as possible. I don’t want to use it as an alternative remote control, and by the way I don’t want to have to yell at my TV for any voice control.

    My humble opinion may be somewhat backward. Mostly older readers can probably identify with it, who may find technical progress exciting and often useful, but sometimes rather complicated. The functionality of TV remote apps and Co. is of course extremely difficult. In order for users to be able to control their TV without a remote control, manufacturers work with different connectivity standards, and the more steps involved in a process, the more things can go wrong. Watching TV means offline time, so the risk of a system crash really has no place here. In contrast, the classic remote control works via infrared rays, which are sent to the receiver of the television simply by pressing the buttons. All you need for this is a sufficient battery, which you can thank for an extremely long service life. And hopefully in the distant future.