Watching television with Second Screen apps

There's an increasing number of people with a smartphone, tablet, or laptop in their hands during TV time. Whether it's for social commentary on your network of choice, completing a task during the commercial breaks, or you just want your internet connection handy in case an argument breaks out about some tiny detail (try watching "Marvel's Agents of SHIELD" in a room full of nerds), having your tech nearby is a must for some. This behavior, coupled with a desire to keep users focused on the core show as much as possible, has given rise to an increasing number of Second Screen apps for TV shows.

There are two primary types of Second Screen apps for TV shows, and choosing which one you're most interested in couldn't be easier.

The quick glance apps are all about giving you information about the actors or music in the scene you are currently in, and are usually made by third parties. You see this with Amazon's X-Ray service, as well as Google Play Movies & TV. These apps show you who is on the screen, what they have been in previously, and usually contain some kind of up-sell to soundtracks or additional content based on what you are watching. This feature is especially useful through Google Play Movies & TV if you're watching through a Chromecast, especially since Amazon's X-Ray for TV shows is limited to the Kindle Fire tablet line and the Nintendo Wii U.

Better Call Saul StorySync

Live sync apps are a little different. The goal with these apps are to keep you constantly checking your phone. You get access to a lot more information in return, especially if you're into the "watch with commentary" option on DVDs, but your time and attention requirements are significantly increased. the most popular example of this app is the Story Sync feature in the AMC app for "The Walking Dead" and "Better Call Saul." This app starts an interactive set of pages about the show you are about to watch as soon as the episode starts, and encourages the user to jump in and do things like participate in polls and voice your opinions about the episode so far. Another great example of this setup is the Team Coco app, which offers up a live sync of behind the scenes info for every episode of "Conan." The only downside to these apps, outside of the obvious battery drain associated with having your phone on an active for so long, is the need to be there when the episode is happening in order to get the live sync experience. If you're watching the episode on a DVR or catching a rerun, the second screen app won't move content along with the show. Instead, you'll have to flip through the content manually.

There is one other app in the Second Screen for TV world that is worthy of a shout out, as it is the only app that behaves this way. The SyFy Sync app is a live sync app, but unlike the others you can get the live experience even when watching the episode weeks later. On top of offering live sync no matter when you are watching an episode, SyFy Sync also connects to Phillips Hue bulbs and syncs your lights along with the events of the episode (check out our timelapse of just such an event in the above video). The app pulls off this monumental feat through the use of your microphone, grabbing sound from the episode and using that to sync content. SyFy Sync has also nailed the social component to Second Screen content, giving you access to three different social feeds during the show so you can see what everyone else is saying. Currently SyFy Sync only works with their new show 12 Monkeys, but it's entirely likely that SyFy will support more of their shows in this format moving forward.

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