Xbox 360 Smartglass First Impressions

Hands on with the new look Xbox Smartglass App

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Xbox Smartglass

I have to say, my first impression of the Microsoft Smartglass concept were not good. I downloaded the My Xbox Live iPhone app as soon as I heard about companion devices. I fired up my Xbox with big expectations, but after playing around with it for a bit launching games and using the on-screen Xbox controller I was completely under whelmed. For something that generated so much media interest, there didn't seem to be much to it.

Granted I had no games that supported Smartglass and this app didn't even go by the Smartglass name, but I was really surprised they launched this app across multiple platforms with so little functionality.

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With a direct link to the Xbox there were so many things I could think of that this app could do, but none of this was there. For example messaging on the Xbox 360 has always been a bit of a challenge for users without the keyboard. The iPhone keyboard would have made messaging much easier, but it just wasn't there.

Jump to: Smartglass screens | How does Smartglass work? | Smartglass screens | Smartglass and Xbox video | Smartglass as a music player | Autoplay | Browsing the web using Smartglass | Smartglass support in games | Smartglass iPhone 5 support | Xbox Smartglass Walkthrough video | Smartglass login problems

Enter the new Xbox Smartglass App

Smartglass social screenI did intend to write a review of the old app, but I was struggling to find anything to write about really. After my initial play I hadn't used the app at all, as I just didn't see any point to it. Today I noticed an update for the My Xbox Live app showing on my iPhone's App Store icon. The list of changes looked promising so I tapped the update button.

The Smartglass app does looks similar to the My Xbox Live app, but they've added a bit more polish, especially with the animated graphics. The same Xbox style sound scheme is on be default and there were now 4 screens to play with.

Smartglass screens

There are currently 4 screens for you to view.

  1. Home screen - Here you can connect to your Xbox and view your recent activities. It also shows the current running activity.
  2. Social - This is an extension of the Xbox friends service. View your friends profiles, read mail and create beacons. You can also make changes to your Avatar here
  3. Recent - An extended, searchable list of recent activities
  4. Discover - Featured games and media, advertising!

How does Smartglass work?

In a nutshell this app works by reacting to the screen your Xbox is displaying and using your phone/iPad/PC or laptop as a second screen. For example when you select remote control on the iPhone whilst the Xbox is at the dashboard, the Smartglass iPhone app displays a screen with red, blue and yellow buttons (Green is accessed by tapping the screen). You can use these buttons as you would on the Xbox controller and by swiping the screen left to right or right to left you can navigate between tiles, moving between pages eg. Games, tv & movies etc.

If you start a game, movie or TV show Smartglass will recognise this and display extended content on your iPhone. Streaming movies or music can also generate extended information, sometimes up to 3 screens worth of information. For a movie this could show things such as a cast list or even tell you which actor's on the screen right now. I feel sorry for the person that has the job of recording this information! You can also use Smartglass to quickly and easily select video chapters and new music tracks.

To connect the two devices they both need to be connected to a network. The same local area network or two networks that are connected in some way ie. by the Internet.

Smartglass and Xbox video - Seamless video playback

Now playing on home screenOne of the coolest features of Smartglass is the ability to seamlessly watch purchased video content whilst switching between devices. This means you could be traveling home on the train, watching a film on your iPad, then when you got home you could pick up where you left off on your Xbox. Just tap the 'Play on Xbox 360' button to switch to the console.

It also works the other way, your kids could be watching a film and have to stop watching to go somewhere in the car. If they have an iPad they can carry on watching that downloaded film whilst traveling.

I had a brief look at the demo videos and although the extra content was limited I can see this being quite good one day.

Smartglass as a Music player

This works quite well. Select the remote control option and swipe across to the music section. Search for a track or playlist using the Smartglass keyboard. When played the album art and information is displayed on the Smartglass screen.

If you exit this screen, the music continues to play and the track controls - previous/pause/next will appear in the footer on the Smartglass home screen, along with a Now Playing graphic at the top of the page. You can now pause and skip tracks directly from the Smartglass home screen.

Autoplay

Hidden away in the settings menu is an option called Autoplay. This feature enables your mobile companion device to stream the currently playing console media to your mobile device whenever both devices are nearby. I've not tried this yet, so I'm not quite sure how the Xbox knows that my iPhone is nearby. This is definitely something I'm going to have a play with.

Browsing the web using Smartglass

The new Smartglass app has the ability to control Internet Explorer. This is another area where this app could shine, as controlling a web browser from a games consoles has always been an exercise in frustration. You can control the Internet Explorer web browser using the touch screen to navigate, scroll and pinch zoom. You can also use the keyboard to type in text and URL's.

This is probably the most taxing thing you can do with Smartglass and it does show up some issues. Firstly scrolling is a bit laggy and it is quite easy to overshoot when you're trying to click on a link. Logon screens are also a bit tricky to navigate. I had to resort to using the Xbox controller to login to Flickr. I also managed to lose the cursor several times when Smartglass seemed to totally forget where it was.

Note: You will require a paid Xbox Live Gold membership to access Internet Explorer.

Xbox Smartglass support in games

Smartglass support in gamesSmartglass can be used in games to display additional information that would normally require a button press and obscure your view of the game. Things such as maps, inventory and health status. Developers have had their hands on this technology for some time, so you can expect to see this in many future games.

Currently Halo 4, Dance Central 3 and Forza Horizon all support Xbox Smartglass, displaying additional in-game information.

Smartglass iPhone 5 support

iPhone 5 users have noticed that the new Smartglass app does not make use of the larger display, instead showing the app in letterbox style. Something a future update will fix no doubt.

What's New in Version 2.0

  • Navigate your Xbox 360 with swipe and tap
  • Use your phone’s keyboard to type to your Xbox 360
  • Browse the Internet on your Xbox 360 with full keyboard and zooming
  • Play, pause, fast forward, rewind, and stop videos and music on your Xbox 360
  • Search the full Xbox catalog of music, video, and games
  • Enjoy rich, interactive experiences from select game and entertainment content creators
  • Track and compare your achievements with your Xbox friends
  • Change up your 3D avatar
  • Message your Xbox friends
  • Edit your Xbox profile

Supported platforms

  • iOS - iPhone and iPad
  • Google Android
  • Windows Phone
  • Windows 8

Smartglass Media

Xbox Smartglass Walkthrough Video

Smartglass screenshots

Smartglass control pad Smartglass home screen

Smartglass login problems

It looks like some of you are having problems logging into the Smartglass app. It displays the message about accepting the terms of use changing and when you accept the new terms of use it just dumps you back at the login screen.

Our advice would to uninstall the application and start again. This is probably something to do with the old app 'My Xbox Live' being upgraded to the new Smartglass app. People that didn't have the old app would not see this problem. In hindsight it would be best to remove the old app before installing Smartglass. You have to remember this app is from Microsoft, not Apple!

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