Posted by : Amanda Stein Monday, July 1, 2013
Smart phones and tablets are the latest additions to home theaters. Most of the equipment in a home theater has the potential to interact with a mobile device.
If you have a home automation system, also known as a smart home, you can control everything from your window blinds to your AV receiver using your phone or tablet. You don’t even have to be in your house to work some of these systems. You can turn on your sprinklers while on vacation. The app you use will depend on the home automation system you have installed in your house. These apps are generally brand specific.
The good news: universal remotes are going obsolete. Home theater owners are starting to use their phones and tablets to turn on TVs, change channels, turn up the volume on their surround sound systems, stream movies to their TVs or projector, etc.
The bad news: your television and many other electronic devices respond to infrared signals, which your phone cannot produce. To use a universal remote app, you need to purchase a device that will convert your phone’s signal into an infrared (IR) signal.
A few manufacturers make IR devices. High end, more expensive systems have small objects that you can place in your home theater and leave there. Less expensive IR devices plug directly into your phone RedEye stands out for working with a range of mobile gadgets; in addition to iOS and Android phones, it works with iTouch, PCs and Kindle Fire.
There are two basic types of media streaming apps: apps that let you stream from a website and apps that let you stream from your own media library. The most popular streaming sites for movies and tv are Netflix and Hulu. Newcomer, Crackle, is gaining popularity. Pandora and Spotify dominate the music streaming market. All of these sites have mobile apps that allow you to stream to your phone or tablet. You can plug your mobile device into your AV receiver and hear Spotify over your surround sound speakers or watch Netflix on your big screen.
iPads and other tablets have a limited amount of space; music and video can take up a lot of that space. Apps like Air Video let you stream any format of video from your computer to your mobile Apple device. You can keep all your files on your desktop computer and still view them on your mobile device.
Odds are that if you have a home theater you have a cable or satellite TV provider. Most major providers have convenient mobile apps that will enhance your home theater. DISH has a well-rated mobile app that allows subscribers to watch On Demand movies and TV on their mobile device in any place. It even connects to social media sites, in case you want to easily let all your friends know what you are watching. HBO Go is a similar app that gives subscribers access to HBO programming. You can start watching a show on your home theater and finish watching it on your tablet.
There are a variety of apps available to help with technical aspects of your home theater. Confused about your equipment? Look it up in Home Theater Glossary. Worried that you are keeping your neighbors up with your sound system? DB is an app that measures the decibel level in your room and gives you a handy comparison. For example, your speakers may be as loud as a screaming baby. HTCables has pictures of all the cables and ports you may find in a home theater, so you can figure out if you have the cables you need.
If your smart phone is your remote control, you may find yourself searching the couch cushions for your phone when you want to change channels. With the Find My Phone app, you can use your computer to tell your phone to make a chirping sound that helps you relocate the phone.
Post by Sydney Olson, writer and an audio/video enthusiast who works at a home theater store in Houston, TX.