New Delhi, India, 13 August 13, 2015: What is the most compelling app for which consumers would be willing to move to a new smartphone? Mobile payment gateways, you might think or a health monitoring tool? The surprising answer: people want to use their phone as a TV remote.
A global survey by Peel, the California-based company funded by ecommerce giant Alibaba, shows that infrared-based universal remote control functionality has emerged on the top of the list for buyers looking to upgrade to a new smartphone. The online survey had participation from 2140 smartphone owners worldwide. At 58%, users rated remote control capabilities way ahead of mobile payment capabilities (19%), finger print sensors (13%) and heart rate monitors (10%) as the feature they would be “most likely to use”.
Smartphone users in India, which is among the fastest growing smartphone markets, expressed a keen interest in remote control features, with 84% of respondents saying they were an“important” factor in their decision to purchase a new smartphone, just behind China (89%) and South Korea (85%). In the U.S., 52% said it was an important factor in their next smartphone purchase.
Says Peel co-founder and CEO Thiru Arunachalam: “While they have emerged globally as a major new use case for smartphones, universal remote capabilities are even more desirable in countries such as India because of the wider range of devices they can control in the home such as air conditioners, ceiling fans and heaters."
When asked to choose just one new feature to be available on their smartphone, 41% of the respondents from India chose “controlling their TV, etc. with IR remote,” followed by mobile payment capabilities (29%), fingerprint sensors (24%) and heart rate monitors (7%).
Remote control capabilities were first introduced on Android smartphones over two years ago and seem to be growing popular among users very fast. Today, many of the latest Android smartphones come equipped with an IR port which enables users to dump their plastic remotes in favor of using their phone to control their TV, set-top box, DVD player and other home electronics. Smart remote apps also allow users to find content to watch more easily, set reminders and even program DVRs.
In contrast, European smartphone owners surveyed by Peel appeared less aware of or interested in smart remote options with mobile payments ranking ahead of remote control features, followed by fingerprint sensors and heart rate monitors as influencing purchase decisions.
Where, IR remote capabilities are available in the U.S. and other developed nations only on high-end phones such as the Galaxy S and Note series from Samsung or the HTC One M8 and M9, several manufacturers in China, including Xiaomi, ZTE and TCL, and in India (Celkon, Panasonic, Alcatel OneTouch, Xolo) have begun to offer Android phones with advanced IR capabilities for as little as Rs.3199, including the recently announced A35K Remote from Celkon.
The Peel Smart Remote has become the most popular app globally taking advantage of IR capabilities, with more than 115 million registered users who have generated over 100 billion remote commands to date.
While Apple so far has chosen not to include an IR port on any of its competing phones or tablets, two in five iPhone users surveyed said they would be interested in the same remote capabilities enjoyed by Android users.
Peel's smartphone remote app works with all popular brands of TVs and air conditioners sold in India, and 600 set-top boxes, including those from Airtel, Tata Sky, Dish TV, Hathway, DEN and Siti Cable. For Indian consumers, Peel features TV listings from WhatsOnIndia. India is one of the fastest growing markets for Peel with users doubling every six months.
The use of smartphones to control the home is expected to continue to increase in popularity as more consumers add Internet connected household devices such as thermostats, plugs and lighting. Many believe that remote control will emerge as one of the valuable use cases driving the adoption of smart watches as well.