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  • Writer's pictureSimon Salvin

Is the Universal Remote Dead?

Yes, it appears so, which is the saddest thing I’ve encountered recently, and something I hadn’t been keeping up with.

If you’ve read any of my previous articles regarding my smart home setup you’ll know I hate remote controls, coffee table clutter and a frustration to many families, they either don’t know which remote to use, again because there’s just too many of them, or they get lost down the side of sofas!

All the remotes, barring the Apple TV remotes in my bedroom & office, live in a drawer. They gather a minimal amount of dust waiting for the day I upgrade and send them off with their respective equipment to a new home.

I use a Logitech Harmony hub. It sits in a cupboard with all my equipment and my controller is my iPad. And when my wife wants to control the system, its on her iPad. We always know where that is without fear of losing them, and it doesn’t matter if one of us isn’t at home.

The Logitech Harmony remote app on iPad
The Logitech Harmony remote app on iPad

So when I was listening to one of my regular tech podcasts recently, I heard that Logitech had discontinued the Harmony line, I had to double check this.

It looks like I was year late to this news as it was early 2021 when that bombshell was dropped, but in further investigation of the market I also discovered an amazing US product by the name of Seven Hugs had also ceased their production.

Logitech have promised to support their Harmony products for the foreseeable future, so for now there’s no panic. The devices are seeing a premium in the second hand market, so demand is still well & truly out there. In fact I’m trying my hardest to secure a piece of it. The Elite remote control, a touch screen remote to do everything that the iPad does, except maybe just quicker & more convenient than having to unlock an ipad and launch an app when you need to pause the TV. Is it overkill? Maybe, maybe not? It’s just become the way in which we control our entertainment.

Logitech Harmony Elite touchscreen remote control
Logitech Harmony Elite remote could be my next purchase even though its now discontinued

Now there are still universal remotes which litter the pages of Amazon, but in reality they are really cheap trash that offer nothing in terms of premium device or experience.

There are a number of reasons why this withdrawal has happened, firstly it just doesn’t have a wide enough appeal with the general public, all the people left heart broken posting across the internet are just tech geeks like me. My Dad & my brothers have no interest in this, a remote control is just that piece of clutter that’s been doing its job for years on end, just like the light switch, as they scratch their heads in disbelief that I talk to my apartment when I want to turn on/off the light, dim it or even set a scene with a choice of millions of colours. Some may see it as the future, but its not, its the here and now, and everyone else is just hanging on to the past.

Remotes controls clutter a coffee table
Piles of remote controls - a thing of nightmares

More and more remotes are now being supplied with Bluetooth. There’s no longer the need to point the remote at the device you’re in need of controlling. Devices can be hidden away behind cupboard doors. A lot of these remotes can control multiple devices. Sky Q, Apple TV and now BT TV Pro all spring to mind with Bluetooth remotes and I’m sure theres lots more, especially receivers in a home cinema setup. But still, they’re not a full multimedia system control and more that one remote would need to adorn my coffee table. If you thought I as going to say remotes basket you can stop and leave right now, the thought of wicker repulses me.

And then there’s the rise of the even smarter TV, the one you can talk to, ask it to do everything you need. I’d love to know the stats for uptake in this technology. I talk to Siri all day long, its an integral part of my life that makes everything just that little bit easier, if only to save me 5 minutes in a day, I’ll take it, but for those settled on remotes and light switches its either an annoyance or lost art.

Unfortunately the systems these companies are employing are either Amazons Alexa or Google through Android based TV sets. These days if anything has an on switch it will have Alexa control, but for those of us who appreciate of privacy and security, living in an Apple bubble we’re not about to drop our guard and invite Her in to our homes.

Roomie Remote app on iPad
Roomie Remote maybe the fall back I turn to

I have one product to fall back on, Roomie Remote, an iPad app home control system. One I used in the past. My only criticism is the high yearly subscription charge which was the reason I moved back to the Logitech system. If all else fails I’ll explore this once again in the hope they also survive the demise of the universal remote. Of course they will, they’re not a remote, they are a integrated home controller, built by software developers with a passion for a premium control system for geeks like me.

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