If you can’t find your Android TV or Google TV remote, you don’t like using its voice command feature, you’re tired of using the directional pad to type, or you just can’t do it work at all, use your smartphone instead. Using your iPhone or Android phone as a virtual remote can be more convenient, easier to use, and more useful than the original remote, so it’s definitely worth a try.

Google launched Google TV in 2010 as its first shot at a smart TV platform. When it failed to take off for various reasons, Google turned to Android TV in 2014, which saw more success on smart TVs and set-top boxes.

Now the Google TV brand has new life as a revamped interface for Android TV. It also serves as the new name for Google Play Movies & TV, the app that served as a player for movies and TV shows purchased through Google Play, but now mirrors the functionality of the Smart TV interface. This is the app that will turn your iPhone or Android phone into a virtual remote.

Step 1: Install the Google TV app

The renaming of Google Play Movies & TV to Google TV resulted in the remote control functionality being consolidated into the media app. Install or update it on the links below. Note that the previous standalone app, Android TV Remote Service, is still listed on Google Play but is no longer compatible with any device.

Step 2: Set up the basics

If you’re opening the app for the first time, you’ll need to go through a few setup steps. If you’re using an iPhone or using Android 13, you’ll need to decide if you want to receive notifications from the app. Next, you will need to link your Google account. Once you’ve done that, tap “Continue” to continue.

Next, you’ll have the option to select the streaming services you want the app to bundle. You can skip that for later, but the app acts as a hub for browsing content and launching it in the appropriate app, so you might as well select your subscriptions now.

Finally, you will be asked to allow the app to search for nearby TV by tapping “Allow” in the dialog box. This will be crucial for using the app as a remote.

Step 3: Pair your Android TV or Google TV

You will find a dialog explaining the new remote. Tap “Understood” to skip this, then tap the “TV Remote” button in any of the tabs. If you don’t see it, tap your profile picture, choose “Google TV settings” and make sure “Use phone as remote” is enabled.

Now you will need to link it to your Android TV or Google TV device. Once the app discovers your TV, tap its name to select it. Finally, enter the code displayed on your TV and press “Pair”.

Now you are ready to use your smartphone as a remote control. Additionally, Android devices get a little more convenience, as a remote control shortcut can be accessed through the Quick Settings pane.

Keep your connection secure with no monthly bill. Get a lifetime subscription to VPN Unlimited for all your devices with a one-time purchase from the new Gadget Hacks store, and watch Hulu or Netflix without regional restrictions, increase security when browsing public networks, and more.

Shop now (80% off) >

Other great deals to check out:

Cover photo and screenshots by Tommy Palladino/Gadget Hacks