The second screen experience

We show how to get the most out of the your little screen in front of the big screen, the best apps to use and the devices that best compliment it.

Why we do it

It’s an argument for the ages, or perhaps just this age in particular, but who’s to say whether we should place our undivided attention on one particular TV show or film for a mandatory period of time? It’s all entertainment right? Have you ever seen a TV show or sporting match that was THAT good. Unfortunately, ultimate entertainment experiences are rare – a grand final, a Game of Thrones or aHomeland finale – so plenty of us are going to invite a distraction that compliments our viewing experience rather than comprising it. 

Critics say it’s developing a new culture of unfocussed youth, supporters imply that anyone who does more than simply “watch” TV should be applauded. Either way, the second screen experience is here to stay whether you’re a tech-enthusiast or just the annoyed third-wheel on the couch. Research suggests more than 50 per cent of us now use a second screen device when watching TV.

How we do it

Lugging the laptop into the loungeroom is less likely to be the norm these days. If you’re doing a bit of quick Googling to work out what else that actor was in, it’s very likely there’s a tablet or smartphone within reach. 

So what makes for the best second screen experience? Ease of use. For that reason we recommend something that has an easy interface and a decent sized-screen. Pretty much all your current tablets are in, but when it comes to smartphones we recommend something that’s probably on the larger size such as the Samsung Galaxy S4 that packs at least a 5” Full HD screen to avoid doing your eyes in when shifting your gaze from small phone text to that 50” television.

On the tablet front, the iPad Mini is a tasty piece of kit, and that ultra-fast wireless will come in handy when you’re trying to get your red hot political tweet to the front of the line when watching ABC’s Q&A on a Monday evening. Plus, the Retina display keeps the images crystal clear, hopefully in line with the other full HD screen your interacting with.

The Apps: Twitter, Fango, Zeebox and beyond

For a second screen experience, it’s hard to go past Twitter for pure audience size and interactivity. It’s all happening in real time, most live television programs make it part of the production and the subjects themselves are often online answering questions.

Twitter provides a constant flowing conversation on whatever you’re watching, breaks news relevant to the topic and never fails to entertain as the public engage celebrities in 140-character word wars. 

From there on your second screen experience simply gets more specific, as social media platforms tighten their focus to TV watchers only. Apps like Fango and Zeebox provide users with a direct line to others with a common interest in a particular program. When using these apps, users not only have the chance to chat but also challenge each other in a range of competitions based on their knowledge of the show. It’s like pub trivia 2.0 and the prizes are often a lot more appealing than a meat tray you’ve got to lug home afterwards. This is where you prove yourself to be THE biggest fan. 

Two of the biggest resources utilized by those enjoying a second screen in the loungeroom to investigate further trivia are Wikipedia and IMDB (the Internet Movie Database). Your second screen can also act as a remote for many Smart TV and media players currently on the market, so check in with your manufacturer’s website.

Second Screen cinemas?

Some folks just don’t want to live without their technology, no matter where they are. This includes the long sacred “power off” zone of the local multiplex. Debate has begun stirring in the US around the idea of having cinemas that are dedicated to those who want to crack open their laptop, bask in the glow of their smartphone and tweet their favourite movie moments direct from their tablets.

Some filmmakers have even decided to join in rather than fight it, making applications that actually offer extra info, clues and insights into the storyline. Check out this Dutch thriller from 2013 that relies on the concept here.

Even Disney is ready to bend to consumer demand and tailor their existing properties for a second run, tablet in hand.

In the meantime, before a second screen cinema option becomes the norm, or rather a possibility, plenty of directors such as Twitter fiend Kevin Smith offer audio commentary in a podcast format that you can download and listen to from your pocket when reassessing a great flick for the second time.

School's in, Tech is in

Next time around we’ll be outlining what schools are now expecting their students to be using tech wise and the best ways to keep your gear up-to-date without running out of spare change for the bus.