How to control media playing on your Apple Mac using an iPhone

If you play music and videos on your Mac, turn your iPhone into a remote control and sit back and relax while listening and watching. A free app is all you need to control iTunes and more.

What is your favourite media player on the Apple Mac? iTunes? Spotify? VLC? Deezer? Perhaps you prefer to stream videos and music through a web browser, such as YouTube, SoundCloud or Netflix.

All of these can be controlled using an app on the iPhone called TodayRemote that turns it into a remote control. The free version of the app, which is the one I tried, only controls iTunes and a payment is required to upgrade to the Pro version that can control everything. It costs (UK) £2.99 so it is fairly cheap.

You can set your Mac playing music or videos and use an iPhone to stop, start, or jump to the next or previous item in the playlist. The audio volume can also be adjusted from the iPhone.

This means you don’t need to sit in front of your MacBook when listening to music or your big screen iMac when watching videos. You can sit on a comfy chair or sofa some distance away and control everything from your iPhone.

Let’s take a look at how it works.

Install the apps

TodayRemote is installed from the iOS App Store on your iPhone as usual and when it is run, it searches the local Wi-Fi network for a Mac. No internet connection is needed.

A helper app is required on the Mac and this is free from the TodayRemote website. Download it, copy it to the Applications folder and run in. On the iPhone you then can request to make a connection with your Mac.

TodayRemote app on the iPhone

The Mac app runs as a menu bar item and a message pops up when the iPhone requests a connection.

TodayRemote helper app on the Apple Mac

When the connection is accepted, the two devices are paired and you are ready to remotely control the Mac from the iPhone.

Control music and video

The iPhone app runs as a Today screen widget, so you must pull down from the top, swipe to the Today screen and tap Edit at the bottom. Add the TodayRemote app.

On the Mac, run iTunes (or any of the other apps if you have the Pro version), select a playlist and start it playing.

On the iPhone, go to the Today screen and the currently playing item is listed, along with controls to step forward, back, pause or play. Plus and minus speaker icons enable you to control the volume.

The TodayRemote app on the iPhone controlling iTunes on the Mac

Video playlists are just as easy and you simply start one playing in iTunes (or a web browser with the Pro version). It appears in the Today screen widget with the usual controls.

The TodayRemote app on the iPhone controlling iTunes on the Mac

Below I have iTunes playing a video and also YouTube open in Safari. You need to show the Develop menu through Safari Preferences and then allow a JavaScript events option on the menu, but then it appears as a tab in the Today screen widget on the iPhone. (You can see it, but not selected it unless you pay for the Pro version.)

The TodayRemote app on the iPhone controlling iTunes on the Mac

Final thoughts

This is a useful app if you watch a lot of videos or listen to music playing on your Mac. There are other ways of listening to iTunes music of course and you could simply play it on your iPhone. However, you might want to play it through speakers from your Mac rather than earphones, such as when there is a group of people or a party for example. You can control your party playlist with your iPhone.

Not everyone listens to iTunes music and being able to remotely control Spotify, Deezer and web players like YouTube in Safari is beyond Apple’s capabilities, so TodayRemote is especially useful there.

The app works great as far as it goes, but it does leave you wanting more – more control and more features. I would like to see the tracks in a playlist and jump to any track, or skip forward or back a few minutes. Perhaps these features will be included in a future update.