If you haven’t stayed in a hotel recently — you know, because of a global pandemic — you might not be aware of a big change that is happening to hotel TVs: Physical remotes are going away. In their place, guests are expected to use their smartphones, which can display a set of virtual remote buttons, similar to the companion apps offered by Roku, Apple, and Google for their streaming media devices and smart TVs.

Digital Trends’ A/V editor Phil Nickinson discovered this for himself recently upon arriving at a hotel in Florida, where his room TV informed him that he needed to scan a QR code in order to take control of the TV using his phone.

Ugh. pic.twitter.com/b4HdHJsCBK

— Phil (@philnickinson) December 10, 2021

Why the change? Our nearly two-year-long battle with COVID-19 has prompted many hotel chains to rethink the wisdom of having a device in their rooms that nearly every guest will touch, and which can prove difficult to adequately disinfect. This isn’t a new reality. Even before the outbreak of the pandemic, many studies showed that certain areas of a hotel room can be hotbeds for bacteria and viruses, like desks, bathroom counters, and TV remotes.

In 2012, a team from the University of Houston, Purdue University, and the University of South Carolina sampled contamination levels in nine hotel rooms, three each in Texas, Indiana, and South Carolina. The samples showed that of all items we typically come in contact with during our stays, the TV remote was one of the dirtiest. Another study cited by A/V Magazine found that hotel remotes contain “up to 2,000% more bacteria and yeast than a toilet seat.”

The new virtual remotes are showing up on a variety of hotel-based TV systems. BeyondTV MyRemote is one of these systems, and you may also encounter similar versions from Otrum or Philips. Most use a web-based platform that doesn’t need an app to be downloaded and installed — only a web browser and a data connection. There’s also usually no need to connect to a hotel’s own Wi-Fi network.

If all of this has you questioning whether you even want to use your hotel’s built-in TV offerings, here are some great alternatives:

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