HTC has brought back a feature of mobiles past to give it a new lease of life, building infrared technology into the HTC One. However, this functionality can now do far more than send a low-res image to another handset and is capable of communicating with your TV and home entertainment system, replacing what is no doubt several remote controls that reside down the side of your sofa.
The feature that makes use of IR is called HTC TV and utilises the HTC One’s impressive screen with aplomb, presenting the sort of interface that is now seen from online services such as the BBC iPlayer. Shows are represented as icons that can be tapped and a variety of menus are available with a simple swipe.
From the start, HTC TV allows you to set your location, presumably to deliver localised content which could be especially useful for news broadcasts. You can also choose from a variety of service providers such as Freeview and Virgin, with content then being tailored according to what is available from these sources.
Having done that, favourite channels can be selected from all that are available. While on paper this sounds like a good idea, if you have a broad package from a major TV provider you could end up sifting through a list of potentially hundreds of channels. Perhaps some kind of filter would have been more useful here?
Connecting to an actual TV is quite a simple process however and involves selecting your set’s manufacturer from a list before pointing the handset at the box and pressing a button. Having done that, a beautiful, minimalist control layout is presented on the handset’s display that is very reminiscent of early iPod designs.
Volume, channel skip, mute controls and so on are all present, with a more extensive keypad housed in a separate screen accessed by tapping a key at the bottom of the interface.
Having set up your HTC TV, the app’s homepage presents you with a grid-like interface that is populated with your favourite shows currently showing on any channel, along with a few recommendations. This is a brilliant way of quickly finding out if there is anything you want to watch on right now and saves you from having to trawl through TV listings. Tapping on any icon will change your TV to that particular channel.
Just a swipe away are further grid menus which display upcoming shows based on your favourites, and a tap on any icon prompts the handset to list episode information.
All of this content can be filtered from a drop-down bar in the top left of the display, so if you just want to see which movies or sport programmes are on now it’s easier to bring them to the fore. Using this menu also allows you to bring up full listings for your favourite channels and there is an option to see video content that your friends have shared on social networks, a great feature that takes HTC TV’s capabilities beyond standard broadcasts.
HTC TV is a brilliant way of expanding the handset’s capabilities to work alongside existing devices. There are certainly other handsets that can communicate with external devices but some of these methods use technology such as NFC, and this is far from ubiquitous yet and means that many TVs and stereos will not be compatible.
Incorporating infrared into the HTC One is a masterstroke form the Taiwanese firm as it is the standard for remote controls and allows the device to integrate into a system that is already in place in many living rooms.
HTC has created a well designed and useable feature that goes beyond just that infrared function though, with a grid interface that is perfectly suited to a touchscreen device. There is room for expansion, with there being no direct support for on-demand services other than HTC Watch. However, we can see the inclusion of this sort of functionality having great appeal to people considering a HTC One and something which may catch on in the industry as a whole.