The Top 10 Home Theater Applications For Your HDTV, Blu-ray and Other Components

Published On: November 8, 2010
Last Updated on: October 31, 2020
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The Top 10 Home Theater Applications For Your HDTV, Blu-ray and Other Components

Adrienne Maxwell takes a look at 10 interesting content apps, in both the video and audio realms. Whether you're looking to stream movies and music, watch live TV, remotely access DVR recordings, or just find out the name of that song on the radio, this list has something for everyone.

The Top 10 Home Theater Applications For Your HDTV, Blu-ray and Other Components

  • Adrienne Maxwell is the former Managing Editor of, Home Theater Magazine, and Adrienne has also written for Wirecutter, Home Entertainment Magazine,,, and other top specialty audio/video publications. She is an ISF Level II-certified video calibrator who specializes in reviews of flat-panel HDTVs, front video projectors, video screens, video servers, and video source devices, both disc- and streaming-based.


There's no denying that the "app" has revolutionized the portable electronics industry, from the media player to the smartphone to the netbook. The A/V enthusiast is certainly one of the beneficiaries of that revolution, as apps provide us with creative ways to discover and enjoy film, television, and music sources without being tethered to our couches. Whatever your personal preference may be regarding content type and delivery method, you can undoubtedly find an app for that.

From a crowded and compelling field, we have boldly narrowed the list to 10 excellent A/V content apps. For our purposes, we used the iTunes App Store as a starting point, so all of the apps listed below are available for the iPhone, iPod Touch, and/or iPad. However, many of them are also available on other platforms, such as Blackberry, Android, Palm OS, and Windows Mobile.

Video Apps

Netflix's Watch Instantly video-on-demand service is rapidly becoming ubiquitous on TVs, Blu-ray players, and other CE devices, so a mobile app was inevitable. As with several items on this list, the app itself is free to download, but you must subscribe to one of Netflix's unlimited monthly packages (with prices starting at $8.99/month). You simply download the app, sign in to your Netflix account, and select a title to watch. You can watch content that's already in your queue or browse/search titles. Should you select a title that's not available through the Watch Instantly service, you can add it to your queue for physical disc delivery. The service works over WiFi or 3G, the interface is easy to navigate, and the company continues to beef up its streaming content in both the TV and film genres--making this a tough app to beat in the video-on-demand realm.

For more information, read our other articles, Netflix Goes Live On Viera Cast and the LG BD300 Blu-ray player with Netflix review.

Hulu Plus is an online streaming service through which you can view free TV and film content, including a number of popular prime-time TV shows like Glee, Modern Family, Grey's Anatomy, Family Guy, and The Office. The company recently launched the premium Hulu Plus service, which provides access to more content, available in high-def for a longer viewing period, for a monthly fee of $9.99. Sadly, there's no app for the free Hulu service, but Hulu Plus subscribers can download a free app and get instant access to all of that premium content, on the go. The service works over WiFi or 3G. At this stage, Hulu's selection of films is less than spectacular, but this service is a compelling choice for the TV lover who wants instant access to current hits and classic faves.

Please also read the article Hulu Announces Pay Membership with Hulu Plus.

On-demand content is great, but sometimes you want to watch live programming on your mobile device. That's where MobiTV comes in. MobiTV is actually responsible for many of the video services offered by the various cellular providers, but the company has also released its own entertainment platform and app. Once again, the app is free, and a limited amount of content is available for viewing without a subscription; however, the good stuff is reserved for those for sign up for the Unlimited MobiTV service. With access to over 35 channels, you can enjoy both live and on-demand content, including: live news from ABC, NBC, or Fox; live sports from ESPN Mobile TV; and full-length shows from the major networks, as well as channels like Comedy Central, Syfy, and Disney. The cost is $9.99/month, or you can get a discount for a multi-month subscription (three months for $24.99, six months for $44.99).

ABC Player for iPad
All four of the major TV networks offer video portals on their websites in which you can watch full-length episodes of their shows, but ABC is the first to transfer that concept to the iPad (and, thus far, only the iPad). Simply download the free app and start enjoying the free programming, with no subscription required and therefore some advertising to endure. The service works over WiFi or 3G. Obviously, the content is limited to ABC programming, but we had to put this app on the list and give props to ABC for taking the logical step of transferring a free online service to a free app service. They may be the first, but we hope they won't be the last.

Check out our iPad 3G review for more information.

SlingPlayer Mobile
If you've got a Slingbox connected to your cable or satellite system, the SlingPlayer Mobile app ($29.99) allows you to watch live and recorded content from your home's set-top box/DVR on your mobile device. Through the mobile app, you can use a virtual remote to change channels, browse your program guide, schedule DVR recordings, and pause/rewind/fast-forward content. This service, which works over WiFi or 3G, is a great way to get access to live programming without paying yet another subscription fee. (FYI: Dish Network subscribers might be interested to learn that the company plans to release its own app that offers similar functionality; you will still need a Slingbox or Dish Network's Slingbox-equipped set-top box, but the app itself will supposedly be free.)

Be sure to read our Slingbox review for more information.

DirecTV Sunday Ticket
This one is specifically for DirecTV's superfans, and you know who you are. You've paid more than a pretty penny for the NFL Sunday Ticket package that allows you to watch every game, all season long. That's great, but what if you have to travel or, you know, actually go out with the family on a Sunday afternoon? Not only are you missing the games, but your precious dollars are being wasted. Now, much to the chagrin of loved ones, you can take all of the games with you through the Sunday Ticket app. Although the app is free, you have to pay $50 for the NFL Sunday Ticket To Go service (which also allows you to watch HD-quality streaming on a computer).

You can find more information by reading our DirecTV HR23 receiver and HD DVR review.

Music Apps

Pandora is the offspring of the Music Genome Project, in which musicians and music lovers do in-depth analysis of songs to help classify them beyond simple genres like pop, rock, hip-hop, etc. Like its online counterpart, the free Pandora app is designed to help you find artists that are similar to those you already like. Create a U2 channel, for instance, and Pandora will stream U2 songs, as well as tracks from other artists that meet similar criteria. You can help shape the upcoming selections by pressing "thumbs up" or "thumbs down" for each track, plus you have the option of bookmarking songs/artists, purchasing songs directly through iTunes, and emailing your channels to others who might enjoy them. Pandora also has preset "genre" stations that perform more like typical Internet-radio stations.

An affordable television that runs its own Pandora app is the Vizio M550NV RazorLED LCD HDTV.
The free app is similar to Pandora in its general functionality--allowing you to create stations based on artists, flag songs you like to help refine the selection process, and buy tracks directly from iTunes. It goes further than Pandora by adding the ability to make playlists, share songs with other users or via email, get artist tour schedules, and add tags to songs to aid in the classification process. You can also listen to stations created by other users.'s "social tagging" system can result in a very different playlist than the one Pandora would create for the same artist; in my experience, it goes a little further outside the box in its song selections, which can expose you to a wider range of artists. The jazz lover in my house prefers because of its greater diversity. Of course, you might also find yourself skipping more tracks that you feel miss the mark, but isn't that worth it to discover a few new gems along the way?

We've all had that moment when we hear a song on the radio or TV that grabs us, and we immediately want to know the song and artist information. Or how about those times when you find yourself humming a song but can't remember its name or who sang it? Enter Shazam, the instantly addictive app that helps you identity a song just by holding up the mobile's device microphone to the audio source. In a few seconds, voila: Artist and song title are at your fingertip, along with the option to hear a portion of the song, purchase it from iTunes, see the lyrics, get artist tour info, view YouTube videos, and more. The free Shazam app is limited to five "tags" (or song identifications) per month; for unlimited monthly tags, you can purchase the $5 Shazam Encore app instead.

NPR Music
The NPR Music app is the perfect choice for people who not only love to hear music but also love to hear about music. The free app provides easy access to the same type of programming that's available at the NPR Music website, such as streaming music channels, live performances, and full-length previews of new albums. You can also listen to popular music-related NPR programs like All Songs Considered, Song of the Day, and World Café. The app allows you to make playlists and search the archives for content from your favorite artists; through "Tiny Desk Concerts," you can even watch video of in-studio performances. To say that NPR's musical tastes are eclectic is a serious understatement, so be prepared to have your horizons broadened when you download this app.

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