Now that smart TVs are bringing the Internet to the living room, it’s time to take a look at the backbone of the smart TV’s Internet offerings – the apps. Much like smartphone apps, smart TV apps in many ways define the user experience, constituting half of what the TV will be used for (the other half, of course, being used as a traditional television set). One purpose of the Samsung Smart TV, for example, is to take all of the additional machines that are usually hooked up to a television, and cram all of their functionality directly into the television. Like video games? There are gaming apps you can access directly from your television, without needing a console (it’s doubtful this will ever sate the ‘hardcore gaming’ crowd, but it’s worth a mention for the ‘casual gamer’). DVD players? Perhaps to be a relic of the past, with apps dedicated to streaming movie purchases and rentals. All the clutter, ideally, goes by the wayside, as everything is accessed through the television directly.
Of course, whenever we talk about apps for anything, you know the usual suspects are going to come up. There are Facebook, Twitter, Pandora and YouTube apps available for most smart TVs. YouTube and Pandora work on a television much like you’d think they would – you can search or browse, access your accounts, etc. Facebook and Twitter are much the same as anywhere else, but one upshot of the two on a smart TV is that now you can access both on a sidebar, while you are watching something on your television, so you can actively discuss shows or movies as you are watching them with friends or family.
Here’s a closer look at some of the apps hitting Samsung smart TV s that are really going to make smart TVs a unique and potentially must-have product.
The Netflix app, a common element of virtually every smart TV, gets at the core of what smart TVs are designed to do – create a simpler, faster, and more direct entertainment system. With Netflix on your smart TV, you can watch movies or TV shows that are on your instant queue, and search or browse through all movies. Watch for Netflix to bolster its streaming offerings – pretty soon, you’ll be able to ‘rent’ a movie and stream it immediately for a per-movie fee for just about every movie released to DVD or Blu-Ray.
What Netflix does for movies, Hulu Plus does for television shows. Hulu’s packing pretty much every network television show these days, along with a growing complement of cable shows. Hulu Plus does require a paid monthly subscription, at $7.99, but this gives you full access to complete seasons and the newest episodes of whatever television shows you happen to follow. Do take note, though – at the moment, GoogleTVs do not have access to Hulu Plus, but a Samsung Smart TV does, so take that into account when choosing a smart TV.
Amazon Instant Video
This is basically Amazon’s online DVD store. You can purchase movies to your account, and stream them right to your smart TV in a matter of minutes. There are also rental options, which allow you access to a movie for up to a month. The quality of video is promised to be at least DVD quality, but sometimes, this depends on which television you get, and how good of an Internet connection you have. Either way, it’s paid content sans downloading – the cloud at its finest.
Rovi provides localized television schedules for specific regions. Thanks to Internet connectivity, it does a bit more than that, too, giving the user access to detailed synopses and television descriptions, as well as cast and crew information. It’s kind of like the old TV Guide channel, but it’s on a smart TV, so -Internet!
ESPN Next Level
ESPN has an app for most smart TVs, providing scores, stats, highlights, and the like. Samsung Smart TVs, though, get a little extra with Next Level. Next Level can be used as a sidebar while you are watching a game. While the game plays in the background, you can use that sidebar to view news and scores, or get in-depth analysis of the game you are currently watching, complete with statistics and other fans’ opinions on the game. It’s a must for any sports fans looking into smart TVs (and something tells me there are a lot of you).
If you haven’t take a look at the TED website, and you have or are going to have a smart TV, here’s a great chance to get acquainted with it. TED hosts conferences all over the world, featuring speakers lecturing on a wide range of topics, from the intricacies of music to the wisdom of children to international politics. There are quick hits and full-on, hour to two hour lectures, and a little bit of browsing is guaranteed to give you something that catches your eye. It’s one of the early ways that the best of the Internet is being brought straight to the television through the smart TV.
Yeah, that Napster. Surprisingly enough, it’s still alive, though a far cry from the pirate pioneer it used to be. It’s gone through a couple ownership changes, and is now in the hands of Best Buy. Now, it exists as a sort of combination of Internet radio and online music shop. Monthly subscribers have unlimited access to streaming music, and DRM-free songs are available for purchase, individually. Naturally, you can stream all of these tunes right to your television, making it a serviceable media player in the background when you’re at home, but not watching anything.
Another way smart TVs are bringing the Internet to the living room is through up-to-the-second news apps, like Associated Press. Rather than wait for the evening news, or surf to a cable news channel, you can get recent news reports straight from Associated Press writers across the globe. You can also customize your own personal news ticker, providing news that is relevant only to your interests.
All of these apps have one common theme – transforming the television from a television to an all-in-one media and entertainment hub. You don’t need extra peripherals or set-top boxes (that’s the idea, at least), just your Internet-connected television. As content becomes more and more commonly found in digital form, smart TVs could create a huge shift in how we consume media, in much the same way smartphones transformed our mobile lives. The first wave of smart TVs have just started to hit stores in the last few months, so if you think you’re ready to join in, check it out, and give these apps a spin. Let us know how they work for you!
For more information about Samsung Smart TVs, check out their Facebook page