Watching television has always been a social event. In the old days, that meant the family gathering to watch the latest instalment of a favourite sitcom or soap, and then talking about it the next day with your office colleagues.
Now, laptops, smartphones, cultural shifts and changes to the nature of TV itself have transformed the way we watch. It’s become common for people to multitask, with television being only one of a number of screens we’re paying attention to during leisure hours.
Google has recently published research saying that 77 per cent of the time, people watching television are also watching another screen, 49 per cent on a laptop or desktop PC, and 39 per cent on a smartphone. Presumably, a reasonable proportion are flicking their eyes between three different screens. (Link: PDF)
Generally speaking, apps use alongside television falls into three different categories:
People have always wanted to chat about what they’re watching. With your smartphone, you can join in a conversation with complete strangers from across the world, a group of friends or one chosen co-viewer.
Internet forums devoted to TV programmes have existed since the dawn of the Internet. What’s changed is the amount of chatter during the shows themselves. Twitter is the most conspicuous place for this. Current affairs programmes like BBC Question Time (#bbcqt) and reality shows like The Apprentice (#apprentice) seem to attract the most attention: I guess people aren’t as likely to want to chat during a tense drama or an epic film.
Your Lumia is, of course, the ideal tool for such chat. With a whole host of great Twitter apps, live debates about what’s going on on-screen are instantly accessible (Twabbit is my current favourite, though I know Rowi has a lot of fans).
But the Lumia is a great TV companion in more ways than one. I currently use the app TvPyx to find out what’s on the other channels – the app also has a built in Twitter client if you want all your telly needs in one place.
The other ideal use for your phone is as a reference tool. Gone are the days of pondering (and arguing about) what the name of the actor who plays Rory in Dr Who is, and where you’ve seen him before. The excellent IMDB app and, of course, Bing Search will have the question answered in moments. (Arthur Darvill – he was in the TV adaptation of He Kills Coppers).
And, of course, sometimes television isn’t quite engrossing enough. Having some similarly low-stress entertainment on your second screen (Angry Birds, of course) can easily alleviate having to watch your loved one’s dreadful soaps or plainly insane choice of sports events. Pro tip: only plug in the earphone on the side opposite your partner, and nod in agreement from time to time, or you’re bound to get complaints.
It’s possible to do a certain amount of compensating for not being able to watch the show you want, too. For the footy fanatic, ESPN goals provides live scores, and clips of the goals taking place within minutes of them happening at the match. Meanwhile, Soapbox might fill your need for small-town tittle-tattle if the football fan has seized control of the remote.
Control and stream
Speaking of remotes, one feature of Windows Phone that a number of app developers have seized upon is the ability to control your computer from a client that sits on your phone. Apps such as RemoteDesktop bring a 4-inch replica of your desktop PC onto your Lumia. If you’re looking for access to your media library on your phone, then apps such as HD EPG, in conjunction with desktop software like Remote Potato, make it easy to set up a discreet second channel on your smartphone.
And finally, it would be a crime to ignore Nokia’s own PlayTo app for the Lumia, for when it’s time to put your content onto the TV. This allows you to stream photos, music and videos straight from your device onto any DLNA device – these include TVs, Blu-Ray players and games consoles.
How else are you using apps as a TV companion?