Most "second-screen" TV apps for smartphones and tablets want to engage you with chats and check-ins. The latest version of Boxfish Live Guide encourages you to lean back and just discover what's on. Boxfish's free iOS app shows text and screen captures of what's on live TV, so you can find shows that interest you right now.
The company captures TV broadcasts on its servers and pushes the text in the closed-caption stream to the app, creating a live feed of what's happening. With the Live Guide people can see what's on simultaneously across several channels. If you're using DirecTV, TiVo or AT&T U-verse set-top boxes, you can also switch to that channel directly from the app.
If you're interested in what has already happened, you can search through the archived text for recent mentions of your favorite topics. For example, if you want to see what people are saying about the San Francisco Giants, a search returns mentions across channels, and you can read the full transcript of the show.
In testing, the app showed promise in changing how we find what to watch. You can set up favorite channels for a quick scan of what's on now, or get a listing of sports, news, business or entertainment shows. Each channel includes a screenshot of the current show; the screens update every 10 seconds. Even if you don't have a set-top box that integrates with the app, you'll find it useful to see what's on right now across several channels.
While easy to use, the app needs a few refinements. For example, you can see only a handful of programs at once — whatever fits on one screen (nine for iPad, eight for iPhone 5, six for iPhone 4). The company said it will allow you to scroll down the screen to see more programs. And if you live in a smaller TV market, you won't get listings for your local affiliates — just the closest metropolitan area.
Boxfish plans to add a program search to the app in the future so you can find out what will be on in addition to what is on now. The company is also working with television manufacturers like Sony and LG in the hope of getting the technology onto the bigger screen.
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