Microsoft’s long-awaited SmartGlass app has hit finally the iOS App Store. It is essentially a super-powered remote application for the Xbox’s entertainment features. It’s pretty much a souped-up version of Apple’s Remote App that can be used to control similar features in iTunes. SmartGlass, however, is cross platform – it’ll work on any tablet PC without a hitch. There are also a few extra features packed into Microsoft’s offering.
First up, it’s not just for handy navigation of Microsoft’s entertainment offerings. Apple’s Remote App enables music browsing, or can control Apple TV’s 10-foot UI. SmartGlass, on the other hand, is a gaming-centric second screen: it’s more like the AirPlay features that you find embedded in certain games.
At time of writing, SmartGlass can augment play in Ascend: New Gods, Dance Central 3, Forza: Horizon, Halo 4, Home Run Stars, Kinect Sesame Street TV and Madden NFL 13. Of these, Dance Central 3, Home Run Stars and Kinect Sesame Street require the additional use of Xbox Kinect. The way these second-screen gaming features will work depends on the kind of game you’re playing: Forza: Horizon will offer a detailed map of the track, making for easier race management; Halo 4 provides additional information about the items you pick up, adding to detail to game lore.
SmartGlass can also be used to control applications on the Xbox: from the browser – currently Internet Explorer only –to Netflix and YouTube. The screen adapts beautifully to present you with a Windows 8-esque tiled interface, neatly organized and color-coordinated. It’s like using a trimmed-down version of Microsoft’s new OS – from a marketing perspective, perhaps that’s the point.
One of the main features of the SmartGlass is integration with movies. This is –short of nothing –spectacularly implemented. While the list of movies supporting SmartGlass’ film augmentation is still relatively small, there are some big names queued up. How does it work? Well, in addition to providing detailed explanations for what’s going on on-screen, SmartGlass recognizes exactly who’s in frame and provide you with information on the actor. It could revolutionize film studies – directors’ commentaries served straight to a second screen.
What’s even more impressive is that SmartGlass is fully cross-platform. Android has been touting SmartGlass for months –the lack of difference between two versions demonstrates perfectly how apps should be built to focus on responsive design. SmartGlass on iOS feels native, it feels purpose-built. It will definitely help you to enjoy movies and games more (although doing so will require switching to Microsoft’s entertainment portal). It’s also free – and because of that, it’s hard not to recommend you go out and download it immediately.