Second Screen apps — what are they and why would you want to use one?

Companion apps for television and gaming can be a ton of fun

There are two kinds of people when it comes to the living room — those who would prefer smartphones, tablets, and laptops didn't exist when the big screen is on, and those who can't put their tech down when watching TV or playing a game.

While you're unlikely to bust your phone out in the middle of a theater, for a lot of folks having your phone handy in the living room is a must. Maybe it's to find out where you've seen that actor before, or to grab a map of the level you are currently in for a game, but having your phone or tablet nearby can actually create a more complete experience. Having our tech nearby all the time is what makes Google's Chromecast such a great setup anyway, so why wouldn't you want your Android phone or tablet to go one step further and complete your entertainment experience?

And there's a whole category of apps and services that apply to users who want a little more out of a TV show, movie, or video game. These apps are called Second Screen apps, and if you've got your phone nearby when the TV is on you probably want to check a few of them out.

SyFy Sync

Second Screen apps are, as the name suggests, what happens when you use your phone or tablet as a companion to what is happening on the television. Since most of your focus is on whatever is happening on the television, these apps are usually designed to be something you glance at quickly. They work best during commercial breaks, or in obvious lulls in the story. Most Second Screen apps are made by the people who created whatever you are doing on the television, so this kind of quick glance design is easy to manage. Second Screen apps exist for movies, TV shows, and video games alike, with wildly different experiences depending on the volume of information from the content creator and the level of interactivity associated with whatever it is you are doing.

We'll be taking a look at the best apps in each category this week to help navigate these waters, and ultimately help make your watching experience feel new and improved. From casual TV and Blu-Ray companions to interactive live apps that do crazy things like controlling the lighting in your living room. Second Screen gaming apps are on out list as well, giving you stats and in some cases even offering an advantage in-game over the competition. Your Android phone or tablet can play a huge part in your living room experience if you let it, and we'll be breaking down the best ways to do just that.

If you've already got a Second Screen app that you use in your house, share those experiences in the comments!

Russell is a Contributing Editor at Android Central. He's a former server admin who has been using Android since the HTC G1, and quite literally wrote the book on Android tablets. You can usually find him chasing the next tech trend, much to the pain of his wallet. Find him on Facebook and Twitter

  • 12 Monkeys. Another remake that should never had happened...
    They've taken the whole idea of the movie away and plastered the brand onto the typical never-ending series concept.
  • That app though...
  • The movie was mostly garbage. The show is actually pretty decent. Posted from my Droid Turbo, Kelly and Ozone
  • Exactly what I was thinking. I don't even remember the plot to the movie, it was forgettable to me but I'm enjoying the show.
  • The movie was about a guy who wasn't sure if he was insane or actually a time traveller, with a pretty neat twist in the end. The series is exactly what I wrote, just another run of the mill series designed to be able to go on forever if it's successful enough....
  • The show is actually pretty damned good
  • must buy hue...must buy hue...
  • The 12 Monkeys integration with the Hue lights is fun. Except, of course, for the delay.
  • You Don't Know Jack Party on ios with the Apple TV is awesome. Please bring it to chrome cast and please everyone buy it to support more levels being made.
  • I see I'm getting downvoted on this. Not sure why. I think bringing this kind of cool mulltiplayer gaming to Android makes a tonne of sense. But whatever.
  • This Posted via the Android Central App
  • I "play dead" during Talking Dead. No app needed. Just a website. Not much interaction, but still fun. One day I'll win the trivia challenge. Posted via Android Central App
  • As a producer of Transmedia stories, this area will explode you can be sure.. Also Dell has partnered with Intel and Sony studios for the launch of a Social Film project, "What lives inside" directed by Robert Stromberg (Maleficent) and starring Tom Hanks, J.K. Simmons and Catherine McCarthy, Interactive film/TV is the future so stay tuned.
  • 12 monkeys actually wasn't a bad movie. Imo. Posted via the Android Central App
  • " There are two kinds of people when it comes to the living room — those who would prefer smartphones, tablets, and laptops didn't exist when the big screen is on, and those who can't put their tech down when watching TV or playing a game." If you're a part of the latter group, just buy a Wii U. The second screen is built in to the primary input device itself. Where else can you play Mario Kart 8 while watching Breaking Bad, flip to a browser rated better than IE10 on the fly and return right where you left off mid game within seconds? Posted via the Android Central App
  • A browser rated better than Internet Explorer 10? Sounds hard to do... Posted via the Android Central App
  • Unfortunately these apps are made purely to farm information. And people actually give it to them for free for some reason.
  • I'd like to see more apps integrate with hue. Netflix would be a prime candidate.
  • Unfortunately, several networks have made their apps for iOS and not Android.