Tuesday, December 31, 2013

IR blasters in modern smartphones

Way before bluetooth or any other wireless form of transferring files between two devices were invented, you may recall that many of the Palm, Symbian, and Windows Mobile devices that once comprised the market were equipped with infrared transmitters and receivers for the purpose of transferring files. But, bluetooth had to be invented because of two reasons: infrared transfer only worked for very small distances(not greater than 15 cms) and they were EXTREMELY slow(in the order of 10-30 k Bps). 

Despite of it's disadvantages, smartphone manufacturers found another implementation of IR blasters: TV remotes. In my opinion, this is an ingeniously clever idea. I mean, think about it. If there are 4 people in your house and each person has his/her own smartphone then what is the use of 3-4 remotes  lying in the living room(TV, Set top box, Home theatre etc.) If you lose your remotes(everybody does) there is no guaranteed way of finding them but you can just call on your phone if it gets lost inside your own house. Heck, there are even apps on the Play Store that let you use these IR ports for your Air Conditioner! 

2 of the best Android phones of 2013: Samsung Galaxy S4 and HTC One sport IR blaster for this purpose. You can see the IR blaster, which is a black circle, on top edge of the Galaxy S4, right to the headphone jack (when looking in front of the screen) but you might be thinking "Where is it on the HTC One?". It is cleverly hidden beneath the power button by HTC (kudos!) Samsung even included IR blasters in it's tablets including the Note 10.1 and Note 8.0 

Looking at the rise of the IR Blaster (sounds like a villain, doesn't it? :P) Google decided to include an API for building an app that makes use of these IR blaster if it is present on the device. "Android 4.4 introduces platform support for built-in IR blasters, along with a new API and system service that let you create apps to take advantage them.Using the new API, you can build apps that let users remotely control nearby TVs, tuners, switches, and other electronic devices. The API lets your app check whether the phone or tablet has an infrared emitter, query it's carrier frequencies, and then send infrared signals.Because the API is standard across Android devices running Android 4.4 or higher, your app can support the broadest possible range of vendors without writing custom integration code." Quoted from here. Of course, this means that it only supports sending signals and not receiving them. 

So that's it guys, let me know in the comments section what you think about IR blasters coming again inn smartphones. Also, any suggestions are welcome. If you liked this article, please also read my other articles below and share it with your friends who love Android too! Also, if you want to make sure you are one of the first persons to get notified when we write more awesome stuff like this, add me in your circles, +1 or follow the blog via e-mail!

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