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 Holly

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