You rely on your smartphone for many things. One area that is lacking is integration with your TV watching. At best, the smartphone was used as a simple remote control to change channels. New apps make use of your phone as a search tool and scheduler. Finally, the phone and TV might really work together.

DirecTV Taps Into Your Phone

This summer, DirecTV will release into beta its latest app, DirecTV Voice. They have been working with Nuance, creators of Dragon Naturally Speaking, to create a voice controlled app to search DirecTV channels for your favorite shows. Their goal is to finally get rid of scrolling through the program grid displayed on the TV screen to find programs.

By using voice recognition, they are trying to also get away from pushing buttons or sliding through nested menus. Nuance is the county’s premier voice recognition specialists so they plan this release to have a high rate of success with this voice-driven application. Think of it as Siri with infinite knowledge of TV shows and movies.

The app will connect your iPhone or Android phone to your DirecTV box while at home or away. The app displays a microphone icon that you tap, then speak your command. For example, you might say "Show me movies with Brad Pitt" and a list of movies will be displayed. Each item comes with a lot more information such as plot synopses, reviews and rating, and show times. To use the app you will need a DirecTV account.  You can either sign up directly with DirecTV or find a deal through sites such as http://SaveOnTVDirect.com.

You’ll scroll through the results to find the show you want. If it’s showing now, a tap on the phone will start the movie on the DirecTV box. If you’re away from home, then the show can be recorded or added to your bookmarks.

The app responds to general or detailed commands. "Find me action movies" will bring up a huge list of items that you’ll still have to scroll through. "Find me an action movie with Wesley Snipes produced before 2000 showing tonight" might bring up one or two listings. Just like searching on the Internet, the better your search criteria, the more precise the results will be.

You can also do a general search and narrow down the results until you have what you want. If no results are available for your search, you will be shown other shows that DirecTV thinks you would like to watch. Their hope is that the app will learn from your searches to be able to make better recommendations.

And if you really just want to watch a particular channel right now, you can use the app as a high tech remote by saying "Go to ESPN" or "Watch the Food Network now". This beats almost any multi-function, universal remote control that you could buy right now.

What’s On Tells You What’s On

What’s On is an iPhone app available now from iTunes. Developed by NapkinStudio, it’s like a TV Guide app that also displays what’s showing in theaters.

The app can be customized to only show what’s on your preferred channels. You can display new episodes, reruns or just HD shows. It will display movies playing in theaters nearby, handy if you’re out and suddenly decide to take in a show.

You can send yourself notices when your favorite programs are about to start. Information about movies, TV shows, and actors is displayed for each show. There are filters for categories like Sports, News and Movies.

The current app is available on iTunes only for the iPhone. The free app comes with ads and the Pro version upgrade is sans ads.

Streaming Hulu on Your Phone

This app has few bells and whistles, but lets you stream Hulu Plus shows to your phone. The app was developed by Hulu and is only available for the iPhone right now. If you actually want to watch the Hulu Plus shows on your phone, you’ll have to have a subscription to Hulu. The app is free.

One useful feature is that you can start a show on Hulu on your computer at home, and watch where you left off on your phone. You won’t have to miss that last ten minutes of a show because you’re late for an appointment.

You can watch your shows on your phone wherever you can get connected to a network. There are no additional advertisements on this app but you’ll still see the ads that show up on your Hulu Plus subscription. While only useful to Hulu subscribers, it may be a good app to have if you watch a lot of streaming content from that service.

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