Why an IR Blaster remains Useful on Phones in 2020

Why an IR Blaster remains Useful on Phones in 2020

IR Blaster


There’s a chance (albeit, an ever-decreasing one) that your phone comes with an IR blaster. These allow your phone to talk with everyday devices in your home, like TVs and DVRs, using invisible bursts of electromagnetic radiation.

If you’re perennially losing your remote, phones with IR blasters are extremely handy. But how do they work, and where are you ready to get one?


When Infrared Was King


Readers of a specific age might remember using infrared to share files and internet connections between their phone, PDA, or computer. This feature (dubbed “IrDA“) was common within the 1990s and early ’00s before Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.

At the time, IrDA was revolutionary, but it’s way back ceased to be mainstream. Modern data transfer technologies are simply better. With Bluetooth and IrDA, both infrared ports don’t get to be nearby or have a line of sight.

They’re also significantly faster. The IrDA port on my Apple PowerBook G3 tops out at a sluggish 230.4 kbps. Compare that to Bluetooth 5.0, which supports speeds of up to 2 Mbps, or Wi-Fi 6, which features a base speed of 1.2 Gbps, and should even go up to 10 Gbps.

It’s worth emphasizing that IR blasters aren’t the same because of the old IrDA ports of yesteryear. They use a different protocol called Consumer Infrared (CIR), and operate at much slower speeds.

That means you’ll get to ditch using your shiny new phone to connect to your late-’90’s laptop.


What Is IR Used for in 2020?


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

Because IR blasters for TVs and set-top cable boxes are so prevalent, Microsoft’s Kinect for Xbox One incorporated one, as well. That’s how the Kinect hardware lets Xbox One control a TV.

Some phones, a bit like the Unihertz Jelly 2, accompany universal remote apps preloaded. If yours doesn’t, there are options on the Google Play store.

Lean Remote is one of the only and offers an honest range of support for household electronics. Your mileage will vary, of course.

Few U.S. Phones Offer IR Blasters


In the early 2010s, Android phones routinely shipped with IR blasters. Manufacturers like Samsung and LG included them on their devices, but this gradually stopped. However, IR blasters are still frequently shipped on phones from Chinese manufacturers, like Huawei and Xiaomi.

Below are a few of the most recent phones that provide IR blasters.

TCL 10 Pro

It shouldn’t be surprising that TCL ships an infrared blaster on its top-tier phones. After all, the Chinese tech brand is most generally known for its affordable smart TVs, and there are 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 tall, 6.47-inch display. There’s also a 3.5mm headphone jack which is somewhat of a rarity lately.

It’s one of the few phones with an IR blaster sold within the U.S.

Xiaomi Poco F2 Pro


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

This is one of the few Xiaomi phones available within the U.S. While the firm hasn’t formally entered the American smartphone market, it’s been widely imported by resellers, and thus, are often found on Amazon.

Huawei P30 Pro remake 


Announced earlier this year, the Huawei P30 Pro remake could also be a modestly updated version of last year’s flagship from the embattled Chinese tech giant.

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

The P30 Pro remake isn’t readily available within the U.S., although it’s widely sold in Europe for around $800.


Make Your Own


I wasn’t joking once I said IR blasters were getting rarer. While it’s certainly true that they're going to be found, only a couple of are included on devices sold within the U.S.

Fortunately, the electronics behind an IR blaster are very simple. If you’re handy with a tool, it’s possible to form your own and plug it into your phone’s 3.5mm headphone jack. Your mileage will vary, however.
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