Want to pause a Netflix stream from the comfort of your sofa? Email a forgotten file from your home to your office? Gain full remote access to your PC from halfway across the world?
No matter what OS your smartphone is on, there's a mobile app that can make it happen. Here's a look at some of the best tools for every major platform.
TeamViewer is everything a remote access app should be—simple to set up, easy to use, and free for non-commercial use. Install the client software and you can use a short numerical code and password to gain access to your PC/Mac from your Android phone. You can transfer files between computer and mobile too, and the app works over 3G and 4G as well as Wi-Fi.
GoToMyPC offers many of the same features, but you'll need a monthly subscription to be able to use it (a 30-day trial is available if you want to test it out). Connection is handled through the GoToMyPC website on your PC or Mac, and again the remote access features function over a high speed cellular line as well as good old Wi-Fi.
If you have less ambitious needs and simply want to control a particular program over your home Wi-Fi, there are a number of dedicated apps for the likes of iTunes, VLC and GrooveShark. Google's own YouTube Remote lets you play and pause videos on your computer, as well as queue up clips, search for more content and get information about what you're watching. Finally, Unified Remote covers a host of applications on the Windows platform, including Spotify and Windows Media Center.
Apple offers its own Remote app for controlling just about everything in iTunes—movies, music, search—from your iPhone. It's free to install and easy to set up to work with a PC or Mac.
If you need full remote access for your computer, then LogMeIn is a free app which can tunnel in to any PC or Mac with the client software installed. Keyboard and mouse shortcut keys are included, so you can perform just about any task you could if you were right in front of the computer. If you upgrade to a paid-for LogMeIn subscription, you can access additional features, such as file transfers, but the free plan will be enough for many users. It works over both 3G/4G and Wi-Fi connections.
Other apps offering similar functionality include Splashtop Remote Desktop, currently on sale for $2.99, and PocketCloud Remote Desktop, which is free to use. The aforementioned TeamViewer and GoToMyPC have iOS clients too, so there's plenty of choice.
The lack of apps available for Windows Phone is part of the reason the platform is struggling to break the dominance of iOS/Android, so it's no surprise that there are fewer choices here. There is PC Remote, one of the best tools for taking control of your computer—as long as it's also running Windows. A $2.99 Pro version is also available with a few extra features and no advertisements. At $9.99, ConnectMe is another option—it uses Windows' built-in remote desktop capabilities, so doesn't need any client software installed on your PC. But it won't work with the cheaper Home editions of the operating system.
Over on BlackBerry, your choices are even more limited. (But it can be done.) One of the few apps with remote desktop capabilities is RDM+, which will set you back a not-insignificant $39.99. However, it does give you a pile of features for connecting to your PC or Mac computer. Check the listing to make sure it's compatible with your device.
Have you got a favorite app we haven't covered here?
David Nield is a UK-based journalist. Follow him at @davidnield on Twitter.
Image by Michael Hession.