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Galaxy S7: Goodbye, IR Blaster

The newly launched Galaxy S7 is what the Galaxy S6 should’ve been: a smartphone with class-leading camera performance, a beefy battery, a microSD card slot, and water-resistant, all while still being a decent looking phone. In many ways, it’s the true successor to the Galaxy S5. Only problem? It’s missing an IR blaster.

An Occassionally Useful Gimmick

First introduced on the original HTC One, many thought it was a silly idea and nothing more than a gimmick. Then, it appeared on the Japanese version of the Xperia Z. And then on the Galaxy S4. And then the LG G2. Soon, it became a item to tick off a checklist when examining the specifications of a flagship Android phone.

I didn’t think it was a superfluous feature. In fact, I felt that it made lots of sense. Instead of having to dig out your remote from under the cushion of your sofa, you could just whip out your phone and tap a button. That was how it was meant to be in an ideal world.

Let Down by Poor Software

Unfortunately, Samsung’s IR implementation never reached its potential because it was beset with poor software. First of all, it assumed that you had a television–the software forced you to program your television’s and cable box’s remote before it could add anything else.

Next, it didn’t allow you to program your remote. Perhaps this was in part a hardware limitation as the Samsung phones only had an IR transmitter but not a receiver–but this meant that I could never get my phone to control my air-conditioner or my fan. HTC’s and LG’s IR implementation allows you to point your remote at the phone, which will then read the transmitted command and allow you to program it as a button. Easy peasy.

The Future of IR

While the LG G5 still retains an IR blaster, one wonders if they will still remain on future phones. The smartphone market is full of followers, so if one major vendor decides to give it up, the rest may follow suit. Let’s see if the next iteration of the HTC One still retains the IR blaster. Till then, the jury is still out.

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