Back in 2011, I was in a bar having a debate over whether Windows Phone 7 or Android was the better mobile operating system. It’s never a good idea to have those conversations, but the motto of alcohol is, “you wouldn’t do this sober.” During the debate, it was brought up that WP7 has support for Xbox Live. This brought me up short. Did Android have an app for Xbox Live? The answer was no.
Over a year later, Microsoft released Xbox SmartGlass along with Windows 8, giving Android users not only Xbox Live, but a plethora of other features. It was announced at E3 back in June and, unbelievably, was released right on time. We’re going to outline some of the features.
The interface is immediately unexpected. Most JB and ICS apps have been done in Holo style. Xbox SmartGlass, on the other hand, is Metro UI. When you sign in, it’s reminiscent of your Xbox 360 Dashboard—same color scheme, same graphics, and same overall experience. It does look very nice and well thought out. Very much like the real Xbox 360 interface.
There are five tabs you can swipe through. On the far left is Bing Search, second (and default) is Home where you can see recent and current activity. The third tab is social where your avatar happily dances and you can view online friends and check your Xbox Live messages. You can also respond to them via text if you want to. Tab four is your recent games and activities (yes, redundant). The last tab is called Discover and it’s a bunch of recommendations for music and video.
Menu and Settings
On all tabs, you have access to the menu. The selections include getting back to the Home tab, an option to turn on the remote—which we’ll discuss later—refreshing the interface, and Settings. The Settings menu is pretty bare bones, and include some auto settings, privacy settings, and the option to sign out.
Yes, this gets its own section because it is really that awesome. The remote feature allows you use your Android device as a remote for your Xbox 360. You get a selection of the blue, yellow, and red buttons while tapping the empty space works as the green button. To move, touch a spot and slide left, right, up, and down. Hold it down after moving to move multiple spaces quickly. This is the only part of the experience I didn’t personally like. If an emulator can have a virtual joystick or d-pad, Microsoft could have put one or two in as well. This works great for moving around the interface and using your Xbox Dashboard features like playing music and video, selecting games, and pretty much anything else you can do on with your controller.
Sadly, game support is minimal right now. It’s very likely that game designers and Microsoft will support more games in the future. For now, don’t depend on this to play your favorite video games.
Problems and Issues
Of course, it’s a new release and it was released on time. That means there are issues. As mentioned, the remote feature isn’t supported by most games. Additionally, there is a bug where some tablet users can’t see the whole interface, which makes it difficult for them to sign in. Users are reporting that there are some connection issues. Some users report they must connect to 3G/4G to connect to the Xbox 360, and then switch to WiFi. Some report exactly the opposite, that they have to start on WiFi and switch to 3G/4G. Perhaps the biggest complaint users have with the app is that it disconnects from the Xbox every time you turn the screen off or navigate away from the app, even if it’s still active in your recent apps. Every time you navigate to the app from somewhere else or just turn your phone on, you have to sign back in. Aside from these bugs, though, users have reported the app works relatively well.
Android users have been pining for a Xbox 360 application for a while. Who’d have thought that Microsoft would actually deliver one themselves? One that mostly works, no less. If you haven’t given it a shot yet, you can check out Xbox Smartglass in the Google Play Store. XDA Senior Member robbdakidd22 has set up a discussion thread if you want to talk about it. Despite its shortcomings, it already has between 100,000 and 500,000 downloads and a 4.4 out of 5 rating. That’s pretty impressive. Hats off to Microsoft for following through.