Oct 30, 2012
With the new Xbox Dashboard rolling out around the world, it’s time for the world to finally experience SmartGlass, originally announced at E3. While reports were that the Android version was far off, it turns out they were wrong as the Android version of SmartGlass is available now, and I’ve taken it for a test run.
First off, device availability is somewhat limited, apparently to only certain smartphones. Microsoft claims that it’s “available for most Android 4.0+ smartphones, with WVGA screen resolution or higher.” Nexus 7 owners weep bitterly as it’s currently officially unsupported. There’s a limited selection of games and movies that take advantage of SmartGlass as a second screen, but what’s available now is the remote control of an Xbox. No more looking for that remote or turning on a controller when trying to watch Netflix!
Setup is easy: just log in with the same Live ID as is set up on the Xbox’s currently-logged-in profile, and access is granted. Recent games are available, new games and media can be searched for, and played back on the Xbox. Users can customize their profiles, including their bio and motto, and most importantly: avatar customization! Buying new items has to be done on the Xbox itself, as while customization can be done while the Xbox is off, there’s no way to actually buy things from the app. Messages can be sent to friends. The phone can work as a software keyboard for the Xbox, making text typing just that much easier. Also, menus can be easily navigated using the app.
The peanut butter to Xbox’s chocolate is clearly Internet Explorer. Seriously, through some light testing of this browser, it’s actually rather capable! It’s built for the 10-foot experience, it supports mobile websites as a backup to clunkier desktop ones, and it just overall has the feel of Microsoft legitimately putting some work in to it. Don’t let the bad memories of the PS3 browser sour the experience of Internet Explorer on the 360. Don’t let the name signal bad things, either!
But where SmartGlass on Android comes in is that it serves as a remote mouse and keyboard. The Android device can serve as a mouse by swiping around with the finger, tapping to click links. A scroll bar is available down the right edge of the screen. A software keyboard pops up when typing in URLs or forms. Most interestingly, it’s possible to open up links on the phone’s browser by tapping the ‘download’ button.