Powered by Peel, the HTC One helps discover what to watch - and then ​deftly turns into an infrared remote control

A common thread among smartphone manufacturers this year is the inclusion of an infrared port and television remote control and show discoverability. That is, you use your phone to control the TV and change channels and volume and stuff. You also have a way to see what's on, and to easily tune to it.

Know what? It works pretty darn well.

More: Read our complete HTC One review

To be clear, we're not talking about watching TV on your HTC One. We're talking about watching TV with your HTC One. See the difference? The idea behind all this (for HTC as well as other manufacturers) is that there's a pretty good chance you're sitting there with your phone in your pocket anyway. Might as well put it to use. Whether that's a good idea? Well, we'll leave that for another time.

For now, let's take a deep dive into the TV app on the HTC One.

A hidden IR blaster on the HTC One

HTC One IR Blaster

Know that black power button sitting atop the HTC One? It's not just a power button. It's also pulling double duty as a hidden infrared port -- or IR blaster as the kids are calling it these days. 

The HTC One's not the only device with an IR port -- it's had a bit of a resurgence in the current generation of hardware from a number of manufacturers. That's there it is on the HTC One. Right up top.

Setting up TV on the HTC One

HTC One TV app

Fire up the TV app for the first time, and you'll have a little setup work to do. Choose your country, ZIP code and sevice provider. (There's an over-the-air option if that's how you roll, too. You'll also be asked to sort through which channels you've got in your plan. The list is ridiculously long -- TV's like that now, we suppose -- but it's important. Don't forget about your premium channels. 

For you newfangled Internet-type video viewers, there are options for Hulu Plus, Crackle and HTC Watch, as well.

HTC One TV app

Now comes the part where you choose your favorite TV shows. That's good and bad, depending on whether you like being recommenced something that you already like in the first place. We'd rather be recommended something we might not otherwise find on our own. "Law & Order" is always on somewhere. 

That's it for the setup. Should just take a few minutes. 

Showing shows on the HTC One

HTC One TV app

Now you'll be at the main viewing screen. Here's where you'll see shows that have been recommended for you, or that are on now, or that are coming up soon. Keep scrolling down in the first pane and you'll eventually see shows being shared by friends on Facebook or Twitter. (That it's at the bottom is fine by us.)

Pan one screen to the right and you'll see shows that are coming up this week. Depending on reruns, there's also a pretty good chance they'll be the same as shows that are on today. Pan over another screen and you'll see "My Videos," which is just a gallery of the videos you've got on your phone. And finally pan over one more screen and you'll see scheduled show reminders.

To watch a show, just tap on the thumbnail. To get more information on a show, tap the three dots on the bottom right of each thumbnail. 

At the top of the app, above the show thumbnails, you've got a dropdown menu (for recommended shows, movies, TV programs, sports, social and a tried-and-true channel guide), a power button for turning everything off, the remote control button, a search button, and the overflow menu for settings and tips and tricks.

By the way: If this all looks and sounds a lot like Peel, it's because it's powered by Peel. It's not quite as full-featured as the proper Peel app, but if you're familiar with one, you'll be right at home with the other. (Scroll all the way down to the bottom from the thumbnail menu and you'll see a tiny "Powered by Peel" badge.)

Pro tip: Note the blue progress bar beneath the thumbnails, showing you how much of a particular program remains.

Changing channels with the HTC One

HTC One TV app

To have the TV app switch to any shows, you'll have to have the infrared remote set up. It's a pretty basic process. Pick the make and model of your TV and box, help it double check that things are working, and you're good to go.

Now you can hit the remote icon in the top of the app to use your phone as a remote control. Or tapping a show in the main screen will tune to it. Note how the top of the display lights up red when the IR remote is in use. 

The bottom line

The TV app on the HTC One probably won't replace your remote control, especially if you've got a good universal remote. But it's a fun extension, and a nice backup. And, frankly, if you're too lazy to walk a couple feet to pick up the actual remote control from the other side of the room, it can be a lifesaver. (It's cool. We don't judge.)

What you lose in a system like this is tactile feedback. You don't have the ability to pick up the remove and get to work -- by feel alone, without ever looking down at the remote in your hand. For me, that's a big thing. The less I have to think about a remote control, the better. It's all about muscle memory.

But in a pinch -- and this can be great at parties if you're up for a little hooliganism -- the TV app on the HTC One is a nice little addition to a platform already full of features.

More HTC One features


Reader comments

How to watch TV with the HTC One


Not a bad idea. I use my Galaxy Note to control my Roku player thingy and it works good. Of course it uses Blu -tooth but hey. hehe.

The roku can be controlled with any device with iOS, Android or WP... there are apps that control the roku if you are on the same wifi network.

"And, frankly, if you're too lazy to walk a couple feet to pick up the actual remote control from the other side of the room, it can be a lifesaver. (It's cool. We don't judge.)"

You hit the nail on the head.... those moments after a long day and you just plopped down soon realizing the remote is across the room... asking someone else further away to pick it up for you... Honestly... it makes me want this phone... along with the new T-mobile LTE in Vegas.

too bad my dishnetwork runs off of radio frequency and not old fashioned 50 year old infared technology. I love it, I don't even have to point the remote at the box, I can be in the other room if I want and change the channel.

Too bad you still have dish or cable services. There's plenty of good public channels and for everything else there's Netflix for 8.00 bucks.

I use Directv remote to control all my relievers with my phone. App works through the networked receivers connection and works flawlessly. It does not have all the program information though. Only what's currently showing on each receiver.

Yes coz I want my HD shows or movies on my 60 incher, not on my 4.7 incher. The Walking Dead would suck on my phone.

That is incorrect! The Walking Dead pretty much kicks ass on anything. If you could get it to fit on the old monchrome Nokia 6120 (hello, 1999!) I would watch that shit.

I have Peel on my Galaxy Tab 2 and unless they upgraded the app, it's worth getting up to get the remote. It is slow and not super practical. One of the biggest annoyances with it being slow and laggy is when you compare it to how easy and quick it is to change the channel on a remote. You can easily change channels without looking on a real remote and with Peel you have to physically look down and search through the screen, which doesn't seem like much, but compared to just knowing where the numbers are and hitting them without taking your eyes off the screen, it makes it a pain in the ass. Let alone the general lag from the app.

Tried this recently on my new Galaxy Note 10.1 (has an infrared port and came with the Peel app); didn't like it, too convoluted. I find it's much easier and more efficient to just use the DirecTV remote to access/control the HD-DVR's built-in channel guide and search features.

This is a lot like the TVii functions of the Wii U. Whereas the Wii U incorporates Amazon Prime video into its search functions, it makes less sense to me to tie up a gaming console to find out what's on TV. Your phone is a lot better at multi tasking.

Sounds like it would be cool for watching or finding stuff to watch on Live TV, but I hardly do that anymore since I DVR almost all my shows.

I absolutely love this feature. I already use my Nexus 7 to control my Xfinity, Sony Blu ray, Xbox 360 and now my TV with an IR device and Peel. I like the fact that I can use the on screen KB to do my searches. Much easier and faster to type and search.

There are a few additional feature that aren't mentioned here that are super useful...

1. When the TV app is running in the foreground, you can use the physical volume bottons on the phone to control the volume of your TV.

2. When you're in another app and the TV app is in the background, you can gain quick access to the remote control functions as well as the list of recent channels in the Notification Panel.

These convenient features along with the show recommendations, search and discovery, make this a very useful app on the HTC One.

BTW, the Samsung Galaxy S4 also has an IR blaster with a Peel powered app.

I don't have a cable provider, I do all my watching with Netflix/Hulu+/Amazon Prime Video, however I do all this through my PS3. I'm guessing there will be no integration for that, am I right?

Omitted is the mention of the fact that the biult-in HTC One TV app does not seem to support WiFi DirecTV control, as the Peel app does, so, if you've configured your DirecTV box (or one of them, as in my case) to allow "point anywhere" button access, you'll need to grab the regular Peel app to supplement.


I have Fios in white Plains NY. The only choice I had was Fios in Queens. When i hit the show i want to watch from the menu it adds several channels. not sure why. Any one know how to fix that?