iPads are great for enjoying your favorite television shows on the goWhen I recently set up my new iPhone, I indulged myself in the App Store - checking out what suggestions Apple was sending my way. As a TV and movie lover, the television apps jumped out at me. I spent a while going through Apple's recommendations, seeing what other iTunes users liked, and browsing the web. I was already familiar with most of the apps but picked up a few new fun and helpful ones along the way. While the iPhone is less than ideal for TV watching, the iPad offers a very pleasant experience. Below are some of my favorite mobile TV apps.
- Netflix Instant ($8/month, iOS, Android, Windows), HuluPlus (iOS, Android, Kindle Fire, Nook Tablet), and Amazon Instant Video (free for Prime members - $79/year, Kindle Fire HD) All of these apps allow you to stream content onto your mobile device and each has its own strengths. Netflix has a tremendous database of content and pushes original content as well. (It will be hosting the exclusive return of a new season of Arrested Development.) With HuluPlus, you get a nice layout for watching current content as you're given access to titles fairly quickly after they air live. While not the most intuitive, Amazon is the least expensive upfront and offers additional perks like free 2-day product shipping. However, the entire library isn't included for free - you may have to shell out a few extra dollars for some content. Many of these apps are also available on streaming devices like Apple TV or Roku, gaming consoles like PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360, or Internet connected TVs - so constantly check updates on any devices you own to also watch the content on your big screen TV!
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- Sony Picture's Crackle (free, iOS, Android) and SnagFilms (free, iOS, Android) Unlike the paid options above, Crackle and SnagFilms are free. Crackle has the backing of a major movie production house and offers some great titles. SnagFilms, featuring documentaries and lesser known gems, is the go-to app for independent movie lovers.
- Aereo ($8+/month, iOS) Currently limited to NYers, this app lets you watch or schedule recordings for local over-the-air channels and some network shows. You can opt for the $1 day pass if you aren't ready to commit and as on an at-home DVR, you can record two shows at once or watch one while recording another on your iOS device.
- SlingPlayer ($30, iOS, Android, Kindle Fire, Windows) If you have a Slingbox ($180+) you can use this app to access any content that is stored on your TV. You can also use it as your remote, pausing, fast-forwarding, and scheduling your home DVR remotely.
- Zeebox (free, iOS, Android) and IntoNow (free, iOS) Both of these apps are meant to supplement content that you're viewing on your television. They're social platforms designed to help you discover and enhance the TV experience by allowing you to interact with friends and delve deeper into shows.
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- Shazam and Shazam Encore ($7, iOS, Android, Windows) Known for its ability to help you ID songs, you can now get Shazam info while TV surfing. It's great for music shows like American Idol and is expanding in other areas. While its content partners are somewhat limited right now, it's also meant to augment TV viewing with trivia, celebrity buzz, and social sharing. Shazam just partnered with the MLB to provide video highlights, current stats and scores, and social sharing capabilities.
- Fanhattan (free, iOS) and TV Guide Mobile (free, iOS, limited on Android) These apps help you navigate the jungle of streaming and live TV options for a particular show. Choose the show you want to watch and it'll tell you whether it's available on Netflix, Hulu, iTunes, or another service so you can determine if you have the means to do so.
Of course I'd opt for my big screen TV any day, but sometimes the tablet experience comes in handy when I'm traveling or want an extra screen of information while watching TV.
Did I miss any good TV apps out there? I'd love to hear which TV apps you find best!
-by Rachel Rothman
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