Philips keeps it simple Ryan 13 Feb 2006

45 comments Latest by Natalie

The remote for my new Philips LCD TV has typical “universal” features to control a DVD player or VCR. I was amazed to find that I didn’t have to enter brand and model codes while holding four buttons and standing on my head to set it up. Instead there are two idiot-proof steps, and the device either works or it doesn’t. I love it.

Philips remote control instructions

45 comments so far (Jump to latest)

John 13 Feb 06

That is cool! I need one of those…4 remotes that the kids keep loosing which ever one I want is not working…

We opened a Valintines box of chocolates and I was suprised to see the lid has all of the chocolates by shape in relation to their position in the box labeled so I never get one I don’t want…looks like the chocolate industry is finally getting it too.

Steve 13 Feb 06

Yeah, the other day, I saw this thing on a door. I pushed it down, and the door opened. The crazy things these people come up with! Whatever next? It even has a crazy name. Higgle? Hodle? Handle! that was it, handle!

David 13 Feb 06

John: Must have been Whitman’s Samplers.

Steve: I appreciate your sarcasm, but this blog has posted a number of examples of products and everyday items that are much more complicated then they need to be. I think this is valid. You’d think, though, that there would be an easier way for me to search through the blog in order to make that case :)

David 13 Feb 06

John: Must have been Whitman’s Samplers.

Steve: I appreciate your sarcasm, but this blog has posted a number of examples of products and everyday items that are much more complicated then they need to be. I think this is valid. You’d think, though, that there would be an easier way for me to search through the blog in order to make that case :)

AdamD 13 Feb 06

I don’t want to be a nay-sayer or rag on your point, but for the sake of discussion…

How is this different than a bank website requiring Internet Explorer or similar “my way or the highway” stances. It’s important to know where to stop trying to please everyone, but I’d be pretty disappointed if it didn’t work and my only options are using something else.

Dudu Figueiredo 13 Feb 06

Sense & Simplicity !! - Love Philips design concept.

Carl Jonard 13 Feb 06

Am I missing something? The reason you need all those complicated codes is because there are hundreds of different models with different IR instructions. If this just tries one option and gives up, it’s hardly a universal remote, and it should fail 90% of the time. Is there something tricky going on behind the scenes?

indi 13 Feb 06

I agree with Carl. I’ve had universal remotes that let you keep hitting the power button until the aux device turns on, that way it scans through its internal db of codes. But form the desciption of this device it’s not really a universal remote unless there are some steps missing fro the description or as Carl suggests something tricky is goin on behind the scenes.

Personally I had to break down and spring for a pricier solution since none of the “universal” remotes that came with my TV, receiver, cable box or DVD player were really universal. I bought a Harmony remote. Even though it has its quirks, it was simple to set up and actually works well.

John V 13 Feb 06

I’m all for marvelling at the beauty of Keeping Things Simple, but I think on this one you’ve lost the ability to tell when Less is More, and when Less is just Less.

What happened to the 37Signals credo of “Defensive Design”? Philips makes no attempt at providing the end-user a way to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. They just give up!

I think it’s hard to see this example as anything other than a plain product limitation. I sure don’t think it’s “simpler” for the end user’s benefit. Maybe it’s plain cheaper for Philips to preload a bunch of codes on the remote and forego the buttons and logic to let users add additional codes.

indi 13 Feb 06

Ryan, just curious which model TV is this for? I looked on Phillips site and the owners manula for their Flat TV series includes the following the remote control programmig section:

If the function buttons do not work with the selected accessory device, according to the device(s) you
own, you may make your remote control ready for them by a direct entry code.

And then it describes how to enter the codes. I am really interested in how this works so simply (yeah, I know … get a life :-)

Benjy 13 Feb 06

Whitman’s has been printing the diagram inside the lid of their chocolate boxes for almost 100 years, according to the show on Food Network I saw the other day…

RS 13 Feb 06

I think it�s hard to see this example as anything other than a plain product limitation.

Exactly. It takes guts to say no to non-essential features, and that’s what Philips did. They offered a simple solution that will work for some people, and it doesn’t waste anybody’s time. That’s what I like about it.

Steve 13 Feb 06

My point is, good design should be a given. Simple things that just work are everywhere. Doors, handles, cups, etc. I can appreciate someone pointing out good design on something that is difficult to operate, but pointing this out seems a little strange to me. I have used one of these things before and had little problems with it. However, I understand that I haven’t used every single TV there is.

Pointing out every day things that could be made less complicated is easy. You could do that with everything. An example being, my keyboard. Why have all those keys? Why not just have the keys that I need and get rid of the rest? Why not have a flatter keyboard that doesn’t move around? What is up with those damn Shift keys? Why should I keep pressing Shift to get a capital letter? It�s simple enough as it is. However, it could be made even simpler if required.

I’m not being out and out sarcastic, I’m just giving another perspective on things.

Tony 13 Feb 06

I think some of you are making the assumption that this remote works with less models of devices than other remotes with more complicated programming proceedures. Even the most complicated remote model will eventually be presented with a device it cannot control — why make programming them to complicated?

Steve 13 Feb 06

Making things appear simpler adds to John V’s idea of product limitation. Taking things away from a product does make it easier to use, but where do you stop? You have to find a balance of simple design over basic design. Basic design adds limitations that can render a product unfit for its purpose if taken to an extreme.

Don Wilson 13 Feb 06

What annoys me most is that when you have to go online and find the codes for your remote from a third-party website, and when you finally find your brand of television, there’s at least 10 different codes for it. ARG.

John V 13 Feb 06

Even the most complicated remote model will eventually be presented with a device it cannot control � why make programming them to complicated?

As I understand it, in this case it’s not about making programming the remote less complicated - it’s about not allowing it to be programmed at all. Which yes, does make this remote “simpler” but no better on account of its simplicity compared to a remote which gracefully handles the process of manually programming codes.

indi 14 Feb 06

As I understand it, in this case it�s not about making programming the remote less complicated - it�s about not allowing it to be programmed at all.

That’s why I’m asking about what specific model of TV this remote goes with. On the face of it it would seem this remote can only work with a very limited subset of other devices. My guess is that they would all be Phillips or related brands. Sure it simplifies the process, if you’re are fortunate enough to have a supported device. At least you would know right away that your device is not supported and you could stop screwing around with it and go buy another more complex to set up universal remote. This almost smacks of “this site is designed to work with Internet Explorer”.

Kyle Posey 14 Feb 06

Has anyone stopped to think that maybe the remote has a large internal db of codes, and instead of making you select the correct one, it does it for you? Maybe the simplicity of the setup was achieved by just eliminating the step where most people have to hunt through the manual to find their specific code. It definately sounds like an improvement to me!

Anonymous Coward 14 Feb 06

I think Ryan should go to his nearest DVD emporium and point the remote at all devices so we can settle this - are Philips just being lazy or is it really a genius DB of hundreds of devices…

If it does have a large internal DB of device codes you would think they would tell the user though…

David 14 Feb 06

I have worked for a cable company for 4 years, and offically supported four different models of universal remotes. Every time I assisted a customer in programming a remote, I would highlight the code in my manual for their brand of TV, VCR, DVD player, etc.

After four years, no brand has more than one highlight, except for Phillips/Magnavox. So why have four to twelve codes for each brand?

chu 14 Feb 06

I have a Philips essence toaster where you just set your preferred toastiness once and it will then toast anything you put in there to the same degree, regardless of whether it is frozen brown bread or a fresh croissant. I think it uses an infra-red sensor to see how hot the toast is getting. Works really well and totally simple.

Ryan Schroeder 14 Feb 06

a long discussion about TV remotes and no one has mention their harmony yet?! Yes, they’re a bit difficult to set up but once you do it’s “Watch TV” “Watch Movie” “Listen to Music” not turning three devices on, switching the reciever to DVD and the TV to Input A, etc. It great, and possible saved my marriage! It does not make dessert however.

Andrew White 14 Feb 06

I don’t find Harmony remotes all that difficult to set up. You enter your device models, then describe your activites. I did that for my bizarre hodge-podge of devices, and nearly everything worked out of the box. I had to manually set up Direct Tuning for my receiver’s tuner and the Select button for my PS2 remote. Even without these, everything worked.

I can’t recommend the Harmony remotes enough. It even bites the “a few big button” web 2.0 interface style.

On a related note, I added a TV tuner card to my PC last night, the ATI 550 pro-based Sapphire. Despite the fact that PowerCinema is garbage, the whole thing was very simple. The reason I mention it is that the supplied remote is a HID-compliant device, and didn’t require a SINGLE driver. Now that’s simple!

Tony 14 Feb 06

Ryan Schroeder,
indi mentioned Harmony something like 15 posts ago. However, I though using a Harmony remote is simple (especially the one-touch buttons) set-up is not simple. I had to spend some 20 minutes just downloading updates to the firmware before even programming the controller! And, say, if you have a DVD and a VCR and want those both to be main options, you are still stuck with Listen to Music as a hard key and relegating DVD or VCR to a soft key under “More Actions.” Why would that matter? Because I bought this remote for my Grandfather, who has had trouble remembering what settings to use. Basically, it hasn’t really simplified things, just changed to a different set of complications. Overall I like the remote though.

indi 14 Feb 06

The Harmony remote saved my marriage too … a very apt product name :-)

Charlie Jones 14 Feb 06

Ditto on the Harmony Remote. One of the few consumer electronics devices that has exceeded my expectations. I have a semi-complicated home theater and my Harmony is 3 year old, wife, senior citizen and baby sitter proof. It just works.

Dante 14 Feb 06

Hmmm . . still too complicated. (seriously).

There should NEVER be a button called “TV/DVD/AUX MODE”.


Don Wilson 14 Feb 06

Dante, there are three seperate buttons. One for “TV”, one for “DVD”, and one for “AUX”. Press the corresponding button, then follow with the instructions.

Dan Boland 14 Feb 06

Uh, Don, what are you talking about? I’m pretty sure that those instructions imply one button, not three.

Andrew 14 Feb 06

If Philips have invented a remote that does the absolute best possible effort to remote control as many devices as possible, and it happens it doesn’t need to be programmmed to do so, whats wrong with that?

Just because it tells you to give up doesn’t mean its any worse than a high-tech programmable remote. Most “all-in-one” remotes these days spew all the “turn on!” signals they know all at once when you press the power button.

- Andrew

Eddie 14 Feb 06

The harmony remote is alright as long as you never want to actually touch the components yourself. Which you tend to do when you… say insert a DVD. You turn that on just to open the tray, and the harmony remote is not smart enough to know that, so you have to do the trouble shooting.

Of course, you can configure it to not turn the power one when you press “watch DVD” but now you’ve lost a little bit of flexibility. My (ex) wife wasn’t comfortable with me imposing new rules like “Always press the ‘watch movie’ button *before* you put the DVD in…”

I’m pretty sure that’s not what led to the divorce though :)

Eddie 14 Feb 06

And the harmony setup is simple.. if you get everything right the first time.. I couldn’t get my TV model right the first time (the “initial setup” wizard/walkthrough) and it couldn’t change at all until I walked through the whole setup of everything… then I had to delete the TV, break the whole configuration, add the correct TV- and do everything all over again.

I tried to do tons of things to “reset” the installation, but couldn’t do it.

Don’t get me wrong- I LOVE the idea of the harmony. In theory, it’s the holy grail of usability for me. I guess I just have exceedingly high standards because of it… and I was let down by these and other slight quirks… perhaps I was too harsh- I got one of the older ones too but I couldn’t justify paying too much more for the newest model.

More thoughts here:

RS 14 Feb 06

Dan said…

I�m pretty sure that those instructions imply one button, not three.

No, they are three separate buttons.

Steve 14 Feb 06

The idea of ‘less is more’ is only applicable in about 40% of cases. Everyone likes luxuries. Simply subscribing to the notion of ‘less is more’ automatically is ludicrous.

Over time, almost all products have things added to them. User, operators, etc, expect more from the product and if it is not delivered, they will move on to the next product with more features.

If this were not true, everyone would be driving around in bog standard cars with only the features required to make in move. However, this is not the case.

People should be wary of automatically opting for less is more because it could end up limiting your product in a negative way. Imagine a few years down the road when 37Signals begin to have serious competition. Another company produces a similar product to Basecamp and users flock to it because it has a few more features that they want. How does 37Signals respond? Exactly, they add the features of its competitors because that is what users seem to want. What happens to less is more then? It is left behind for necessity. Products become driven by what users want, not what is believed to be the cool ideology at the time.

The idea of these universal remotes is also driven by what users want. If it doesn�t work with the majority of TVs, people will just look to the one that does.

Tony 14 Feb 06

The idea of �less is more� is only applicable in about 40% of cases.

90% of blog commenters make their statistics up as they go along.

Steve 14 Feb 06

Of course that number was made up. How would I know the exact figure? That is based on my assessment and judgement.

Or, did you not like something else I said? Please, comment on what you did not like.

Tony 14 Feb 06

Please, comment on what you did not like.

I think you weaken your argument when you use made-up statistics rather than real information. Not saying I disagree with you, just saying your argument wasn’t convincing to me. And, I tried to make the point with a little humor.

Steve 14 Feb 06

When posting comments. It is assumed that the opinions and facts are mine. I evaluated the facts I have observed over time and drew my own conclusion. I don’t really want to keep adding I think or in my opinion to every line or comment. Yes, comments should often be backed up with facts, but in this case, I produced the number I thought was correct and used it to my advantage.

My comment probably should have read:

I think the idea of �less is more� is only applicable in about 40% of cases.

I got your joke. I was actually laughing at it, but knew that you had other comments on my opinions and asked you to air them. Thanks for doing so.

ilya Dev�rs 15 Feb 06

it could also be a ruse, it only works with appliances that adopted the philips remote control standard.

So they make you think the remote control is interoperable with many appliances, but in fact, it is not.

I am curious to know if you tried it with a few other devices?

Dan Boland 15 Feb 06

No, they are three separate buttons.

Dang, really? Wow… well, once I get my foot out of my mouth, I’ll apologize to Don for thinking he was a dope. (Though I still think those instructions come across as though there’s only one button. Oh well.)

Tony 15 Feb 06

(Though I still think those instructions come across as though there�s only one button. Oh well.)


James 15 Feb 06

Yeah, if those instructions are for the use of 3 separate buttons, what’s with the “press repeatedly” language? Poor technical writing, it seems.