IntoNow: A Television Companion

Everyday, roughly 42 percent of tablet owners in the U.S. use their device while watching TV. Why? TV viewers are multitasking (i.e. web browsing) or using their device as a second screen in order to find more information about the program they’re watching or engage in social networking banter.

With this rise of second screen usage, it should come as no surprise that app makers want to provide tools that act as a companion to a user’s TV. Instead of jumping on Twitter to comment about a show, IMDb to access a show’s cast or Shazam to tag a song that’s being performed, IntoNow from Yahoo! hopes to provide all those functions and more. But, does it do so effectively?

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Tagging

At its core, IntoNow is a tool that allows you to tag shows in a manner similar to Shazam’s ability to tag music. To tag a show, simply tap the yellow TV icon at the top of the side navigation bar. In my experience, tagging went smoothly most of the time, but I did have issues in which the volume wasn’t quite loud enough (but that may be due to my couch being a bit far from my set). Once a show is tagged, IntoNow provides a slew of options that allow you to use it either as a source of information or engage with other users during a program’s broadcast.

I love the color TV bars, but I have a feeling a fair amount of users won't get the reference (sadly enough).

I love the color TV bars, but I have a feeling a fair amount of users won’t get the reference (sadly enough).

Show Information

For the information aspect, you can view a scaled down list of the cast and access external links to view more information about the show (e.g. IMDb, Wikipedia, the show’s official website) or shop for show related merchandise. If you view a show’s listing via the Popular page, you can also access an episode list, which seems odd to leave off the tag page.

You'll most certainly want to use the IMDb links for a more detailed list of the cast and crew.

You’ll most certainly want to use the IMDb links for a more detailed list of the cast and crew.

The most useful set of information tools come in the form of TV Sync and Music Sync. If you frequently watch news programs, TV Sync displays stories that correspond with the topic that’s being discussed in the show. Music Sync, on the other hand, displays a list of songs played in the show, which is useful when viewing programs like American Idol or The X Factor. I got a chance to use the TV Sync feature while watching a bit of CNN, and found it to be useful when I wanted to learn more about a news story.

TV Sync is a great feature for those that enjoy reading articles that complement broadcast news stories.

TV Sync is a great feature for those that enjoy reading articles that complement broadcast news stories.

If you’re a sports fan, IntoNow provides statistics and information about the game you’re watching, as well as scores from around the league. Football viewers can see a breakdown of scores by quarter, a scoring summary and team/player stats (the team stats didn’t display during my viewing of a college football game, however). Baseball viewers, on the other hand, can see a game’s total runs, hits and errors; a breakdown of runs by inning; and stats for individual players. While these features are helpful, they don’t automatically refresh (which is a big annoyance) and are missing some crucial information, particularly for baseball games (such as the current inning, who’s at bat, etc.).

If game information refreshed automatically, the game statistics feature would be top notch.

If game information refreshed automatically, the game statistics feature would be top notch.

The Social Aspect

By comparison, IntoNow provides a better experience on the social side of feature offerings. For starters, once a show has been tagged, users can either favorite, share, like or dislike (take notice, Facebook) the show. Favoriting a show doesn’t do much besides putting it in the favorites list in your profile, whereas liking/disliking a show adds to a running total on the show’s profile page. If you connect your Facebook and/or Twitter account, you can create a post or tweet about the show using the share function (a useful feature if it weren’t for the fact that doing either will include an image/link that can’t be removed).

Like or dislike a show? Let the world know.

Like or dislike a show? Let the world know.

If you’re the type that enjoys searching Twitter for comments about a show during its broadcast, the Twitter feature can be quite handy. A big to do this fall season is having a cast member tweet during a broadcast, which IntoNow makes very easy to follow by providing a separate Twitter stream that only displays tweets from cast and crew members, as well as the show’s official Twitter account. The #Related feed, on the other hand, displays tweets that include a show’s hashtag (e.g. to display tweets for Doctor Who, a user must include #doctorwho in their tweet).

You can easily follow a show's cast and crew member tweets.

You can easily follow a show’s cast and crew member tweets.

All in all, the Twitter stream is a nice feature, but I found Zeebox’s use of Twitter streaming more useful (tweets are not required to have hashtags, therefore more tweets are displayed). A major issue I found with the #Related stream had to do with a long list of the same tweet (generated by IntoNow when users shared their activity via Twitter) being posted, providing little substance to users.

In case you were curious, IntoNow confirms that you're not the only person watching baseball.

In case you were curious, IntoNow confirms that you’re not the only person watching baseball.

The most publicized IntoNow social feature is Capit, which is basically a meme generator. As you’re watching a show, tap the Capit button and a long list of stills from the show are displayed. Once you pick a still image you like, you can generate a line of text on the top and bottom. Once submitted, the Capit will be displayed for all users to see.

Once you’ve created a Capit, you can share it via Facebook or Twitter.

If you’re participating in a private chat with friends, you can create Capits that are only shared with each other. Until IntoNow, I’ve never generated a meme, but because IntoNow makes it incredibly easy, I had a bit of fun using this feature (especially when having to watch shows like Bridezillas and Teen Mom with my girlfriend).

What’s Missing?

IntoNow provides some useful and enjoyable features, but there are a few things that are missing from the experience. First, the app lacks a search functionality. One of the first things I did with IntoNow was add shows I enjoy to my favorites list, and in order to find shows I had to go to the Popular page, filter the results, and scroll through a long list of shows in hopes to find my preferred programs. Second, the app can only be used in landscape mode, which probably won’t be a big deal to most, but some users will be a tad miffed by the lack of choice.

The feature that I would most like to see be added to IntoNow is a guide that displays show listings. Zeebox implementation of this feature is simply outstanding, as the channels displayed in the guide are customized by your cable/satellite provider and can be altered further by removing/sorting channels. If IntoNow really wants to be the de facto TV companion app, it needs to provide this feature.

Final Thoughts

Of the three most popular TV companion apps (IntoNow, Zeebox and GetGlue), I found that IntoNow offers the best overall experience. While Zeebox does a few things better, IntoNow simply has more to offer to users. In terms of design, IntoNow has a very striking interface and a very clean navigation design, making it easy to navigate the app and understand the content that’s being displayed (unlike Zeebox, which is a bit of a mess in this category).

So, should you give IntoNow a shot? If you’re that type of person that normally watches TV live (especially when watching news, sports and reality shows that involve singing), you may find IntoNow quite useful. However, if you frequently DVR your favorite shows, you may find Zeebox to be better suited for your needs.


Summary

IntoNow from Yahoo! provides TV show information and various additional features to help you engage with other viewers and friends.

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