YouTube update finally turns your phone into a proper remote control for your TV

YouTube mobile as remote
(Image credit: Google)

What you need to know

  • You can now connect your YouTube app to YouTube on your TV to use as a remote control.
  • This lets you control playback, like and comment, etc. on your phone while the video plays on a larger screen.
  • You'll receive the "Connect" prompt if both apps are signed into the same account.
  • The feature is available on both Android and iOS.

The YouTube app has learned to recognize when you've signed into it on multiple devices, and will now let you sync YouTube control between your phone and TV. This will let you use your phone as a remote control, saving you from having to "type" with an actual remote control.

To use this tool, simply sign into the YouTube app on your television, then open the iOS or Android YouTube app on your phone or tablet. You'll see a prompt "Watching YouTube on TV? Connect to easily access video details, comments, and more." If you tap Connect, your actions on your phone will sync to the TV app.

YouTube mobile as remote

(Image credit: Google)

Brynn Evans, Head of Design for YouTube on TV, said in the YouTube blog post that they found many YouTube users would already do this, playing videos on the TV and then opening them on their phones to check video info or comment on a livestream. Reportedly, 88% of people use a phone while watching TV and 71% look up information on what they're watching on the larger screen.

You could previously cast YouTube to your TV, but that required a device like the Chromecast with Google TV to receive it. This feature simply lets you open the app on your TV and phone to make the prompt appear, so long as both are signed in to the same account. You can then scroll quickly to the most-watched part of the video using your thumb instead of a remote.

YouTube mobile as remote

(Image credit: Google)

With YouTube users watching "700 million hours of YouTube content on TV daily" as of January 2022, this feature should help make the TV app much more manageable to navigate. 

Of course, Google plans to use this new YouTube app synchronization to make money. "We’re already starting to test new designs for our video watch page to help fold in more uniquely YouTube features — such as browsing and shopping for products featured in videos – directly to the big screen to help you decide when to pick up your phone and engage," the blog post concludes.

Michael L Hicks
Senior Editor, VR/AR and fitness

Michael is Android Central's resident expert on fitness tech and wearables, with an enthusiast's love of VR tech on the side. After years freelancing for Techradar, Wareable, Windows Central, Digital Trends, and other sites on a variety of tech topics, AC has given him the chance to really dive into the topics he's passionate about. He's also a semi-reformed Apple-to-Android user who loves D&D, Star Wars, and Lord of the Rings.

For wearables, Michael has tested dozens of smartwatches from Garmin, Fitbit, Samsung, Apple, COROS, Polar, Amazfit, and other brands, and will always focus on recommending the best product over the best brand. He's also completed marathons like NYC, SF, Marine Corps, Big Sur, and California International — though he's still trying to break that 4-hour barrier.