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$50 Gadget Turns the iPhone Into a Universal Remote

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Using Griffin’s new Beacon accessory you can turn the iPhone or iPad into a full-blown universal remote.

The Beacon, from accessory maker Griffin, uses Bluetooth wireless connectivity to connect with a base station that can then transmit to a large assortment of living-room entertainment devices. This includes stereo systems, sound bars, high-definition televisions and the Xbox 360. It does this via an app called Dijit.

iPhone 3GS, iPhone 3G, original iPhone users need not apply however, the $50 accessory is only compatible with the iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, all versions of the Apple iPad, and the fifth and fourth generation versions of the iPod Touch. There’s also a version of Beacon for those using Android powered phones and tablets. This version includes compatibility with the Samsung Galaxy S3, Samsung Galaxy S4, Samsung Galaxy Nexus, Motorola Droid RAZR, and any device running Android 2.3 or later.

Griffin's Beacon universal remote accessory for iOS and Android devices.

Griffin’s Beacon universal remote accessory for iOS and Android devices.

As smartphones continue to grow, accessory manufactures are looking for new ways to extend the usage scenario of a user’s smartphone. For example, add-ons like Square and PayPal’s card reader accessories, have popped up with growing frequency.

This ubiquity also means that manufactures are looking for new ways to prove that making the upgrade to an advanced device is worth it. Lately this has included positioning their devices at the center of not just a user’s communications, but empowering them to replace an increasing array of devices. Though this trend has been more pronounced with cameras (Nokia’s Lumia line outright declares war on pocket cameras with enhanced sensors), using your smartphone as a remote is starting to catch on.

For example, the recently announced HTC One includes an IR sensor that is embedded in the device’s power button. Users can simply change the channel without ever having to hunt around underneath their blankets for a remote that they haven’t been able to find. HTC has even built an entire software experience around being able to use that IR sensor with a guide of what’s available to watch on TV, negating the use for even high-end remotes like Logitech’s Harmony series. The Samsung Galaxy S4 also features an IR sensor to act as a remote control.

Read: 6 Ways the HTC One Could beat the Samsung Galaxy S4

With smartphone makers more willing than ever to release accessories and software centered on the device in your pocket (take the rumored smart watches from both Samsung and Apple as an example), the universal remote won’t be the last to fall victim to the tendency to consolidate control of our household appliances on one dependable device.

Travis Pope is a Reporter-at-large for GottaBeMobile. He's currently enjoying a romp in the dangerous quicksand that is Microsoft's Windows 8, Windows Phone 8, and Xbox ecosystem.

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