Microsoft Releases Xbox One SmartGlass App Ahead of Launch

Anticipation builds as Microsoft publishes mobile apps that deliver Xbox One's second-screen experience days before the next-gen console hits store shelves.

Microsoft's SmartGlass app for the Xbox One is now available, giving users an early, if limited, look at what the companion app has to offer. And it's not much, at least for now.

The Xbox One SmartGlass app is hardware-specific, dashing hopes of a unified app for owners of both the Xbox 360 and One. Given that most consumers still can't yet get their hands on the Xbox One, there isn't much that SmartGlass can do currently. Early adopters can start laying the groundwork for their personalized Xbox One experience, however.

Microsoft is encouraging soon-to-be owners to "check out some of the new features in advance that will make unboxing and setting up your Xbox One even easier." A device running the SmartGlass app needs only to use the same wireless network as the Xbox One to connect automatically. Once linked, SmartGlass is a time-saver, argues Microsoft, allowing users to breeze through the setup process with gestures and an on-screen keyboard.

Users can also get a head start on customizing their home screens. "Pin your favorite games and apps to the Home screen so you jump into your favorite activities right when you finish setting up your console and log into Xbox Live," said the company in an Xbox Wire post.

Early tinkering aside, the app currently allows users to keep tabs on their friends, look up game information and view a smattering of Game DVR clips. The real action starts when the Xbox One is nestled into the entertainment center and powered up.

Overall, the app should perform faster than its predecessor, and those making the jump from the Xbox 360 app should notice the added responsiveness. Xbox Live General Manager Ron Pessner explained in a Sept. 6 blog post detailing the changes that the Xbox 360 version of the app "had to talk to a datacenter that could be halfway around the world." The Xbox One version "talks directly to your Xbox One over your Wi-Fi or LAN network," he added.

The Xbox One can support more SmartGlass devices, too. The new limit is 16 devices, up from four on the 360.

In keeping with the theme of an all-in-one entertainment system, the Xbox One SmartGlass app can double as a remote to switch TV channels, change a TV's volume and control the system's OneGuide, which provides access to movies, music and games. Some developers are using the app to extend their games.

Xbox One SmartGlass also provides more immersive experiences, and even some perks, in select games. In the launch title, "Dead Rising 3," Pessner said that "SmartGlass becomes the phone in the game and opens up lines for you to interact with characters during gameplay." It also helps gamers find hidden items and rewards.

Xbox One SmartGlass is available now for Windows 8, Windows Phone 8, iOS and Android.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...