As Apple tests TV-set designs, video discovery apps thrive

by Brad Spirrison

While Apple’s eventual entry into the television set market seems inevitable, there is no telling when a fully-operational and iOS-enabled boob-tube will enter our living rooms.

Apple suppliers are telling the Wall Street Journal that the company is playing around with designs for a large screen HDTV set, but for the foreseeable future (between now and the June 2013 WWDC - likely longer) we will just have to be content with the existing $99 set-top contraption.

Ironically, viewers can still enjoy an iOS-oriented Apple TV experience on a large screen Samsung device (or one from Sony, Panasonic or any number of other HDTV manufacturers.). This is thanks to an Apple feature called AirPlay Mirroring, which allows viewers to showcase what they see on their recent generation iDevices onto an Apple TV-connected big screen.

Separate from the adequate but far from sensational pre-installed Apple TV operating system, AirPlay Mirroring enables viewers to tap into just about any of the hundreds of thousands of apps available to download from the App Store. Apps that showcase and curate video in particular excel in this environment, as clips from YouTube, Vimeo and other major sources are presented dynamically in full screen.

Earlier this year we told you about our favorite iOS apps to watch on Apple TV. In recent weeks, a handful of them have unveiled significant updates that are worth exploring.  All of them share common attributes - users can view videos shared by members of their social graph, trending videos, and also search and browse through curated categories. They each have distinctly different designs and user experiences, however.

While none should be seen as a replacement for YouTube - which no longer comes pre-installed on iOS 6 devices - anyone with Apple TV should have at least have one of these free video discovery apps downloaded to their AirPlay-enabled iDevice. I enjoy them all.

Showyou

Even before today’s significant iPad application update - which includes a cleaner design and the ability to watch multiple videos from the same channel sequentially on auto-play - Showyou was the best of the bunch. It still is. While a growing number of apps enable viewers to see clips shared by their Facebook and Twitter contacts, Showyou has the best presentation and most active community. Communication between members within the app is enabled by simple and clear sharing functions. As well, clever gestures like the “thank” tab that let members acknowledge one somebody posts a cool clip (without the heavy lifting of an email or status updates) are thoughtful and useful over time. The company offers distinct applications for the iPad and iPhone/iPod touch that are both worth exploring. Showyou’s directory of curated categories - featuring publishers ranging from the Huffington Post, to SB Nation to The DailyWh.at - is comprehensive without seeming unwieldy.

Vodio

Although Vodio lacks the community of Showyou and the others on this list, it is probably the easiest on the eyes. The app features a handful of default columns - Facebook, Twitter, Highlights and vertical categories like Sports and Entertainment. Videos can be scrolled vertically in reverse chronological order. The app also features a federated search capability that divides results by platform (Vodio, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter) and dynamically creates new columns for every result selected.

Squrl

Technically titled “YouTube Video Search - Squirl: Find and watch YouTube, Netflix and Hulu Videos, Squrl also excels in its delivery of video search results. In particular, not only does it display results by platform, but also from individual users who source videos that contain any given search query. The app also invites users to scroll horizontally to see videos posted over time from Facebook and Twitter contacts.

Frequency ~ Tune in Watch Videos

Frequency packs a lot in. What the app sacrifices in design, it makes up for in the volume and density of choices it displays at the onset. The app does not reallyl emphasize search. But from a browsing experience it is more than worth a look.

Download the Appolicious Android app