An Introduction to Remote Controls

Want to control your iPod from a distance? You have three main options.

Wired remote controls let you put your iPod in your pocket or bag, instead changing tracks, volume, and play/pause status through a smaller shirt-, jacket- or pants-mounted controller. These range in price from $10-20, though Apple’s official iPod Remote has traditionally been sold only in a bundle with a spare pair of earphones for $39.

Wireless Infrared remote controls let you mount your iPod someplace in a room, then control track playback status up to 30 feet away – so long as you’re within a line of sight from the iPod. This is typically useful for an iPod connected to a home stereo system.

These remotes generally range from $25-40 in price, depending on the sophistication of their buttons and features.

Wireless RF (radio frequency) remote controls let you mount your iPod someplace in a room, but offer much-extended range – 50 to 100 feet, depending on the product, and including the ability to work around corners, and through fabric, walls and floors. This can be useful for an iPod connected to a home stereo, or kept inside your clothes – anywhere you can’t guarantee a line-of-sight connection to your iPod. These remotes range from $35 to $40 in price.

For a long time, iPod remote controls were popular and easy to develop, but that changed when Apple removed the extended headphone port (also known as the remote port) found on top of all iPods released from 2003 to mid-2005.

Now wired and wireless remote controls must connect to the iPod’s bottom Dock Connector port, limiting their convenience and utility. Past iPods can still use the old and good remotes, but new iPods require new ones.

Today, several companies are working on next-generation wired and wireless “display” remotes for iPods, featuring LCD screens with limited iPod track and other data. Other companies are struggling to find ways to make the old remotes useful again.