My Xbox Live for iOS Hands-On: Game on Your iPad

At this year’s E3, Microsoft announced Xbox SmartGlass, a free feature that would enable users to interact with their Xbox consoles via a smartphone or tablet. My Xbox Live brings that functionality to the iPhone and iPad via an iOS app with plenty of features that will appeal to gamers and multimedia fans alike. Read on to find out our first impressions.

Interface

Similar to the Xbox Live and the Windows Phone Live interface, the app is done in Metro’s slick, clean tile-based interface.

After the prompt to enter our Xbox Live username and password which doubles as our Windows Marketplace login, we were quickly signed in to our Live account and saw a small What’s New box that served as a small tutorial. From there, we were greeted by our avatar.

We were happy to see that all of our avatar’s whimsical animations were front and center on the iPad’s glorious Retina Display. Navigation is as simple as swiping left or right and touching the large panels to select our choices. Connecting to our Xbox console took between 3-4 seconds. Be advised that both the iPad and the Xbox should be on the same network for the best results.

One of the great things about the app is that the majority of the features can work independently of being connected to the Xbox console, but that wouldn’t be much fun now would it?

Social

The app mirrors many of the Live headers, including Social, QuickPlay, Games and Discover. From the Social header, we were able to interact with our Xbox Live friends and search for more.

We were also able to view our profile including our gamertag points, and our most recently played games. We also checked and received a few messages and created beacons for games so our friends could see what we’re playing and join in on the fun.

Our favorite part of Social was editing our avatar. Just like on the console, we could change our avatar’s appearance from her clothes to her facial features.

Windows Phone’s Xbox Live app has many of these features and a few unique characteristics such as granting players one free gamertag name change. However the iPad app takes things a step further allowing us to interact with our avatar in ways that were once confined to the console.

Games/Quickplay

It just wouldn’t be an Xbox without games. In the Games section, we browsed and searched through our recently played games. Selecting a tile would cue up our achievements or a brief bio from the game.

While browsing through our past conquests can be a pleasant walk down memory lane, there are still battles to be fought and won. That’s where Quickplay comes in. Quickplay is pretty straightforward, allowing players to jump into the last game they played as long as the app is connected to the console. Once the game is launched, the iPad displays a clunky virtual d-pad and Xbox’s four rainbow-colored buttons.

We were initially excited about the possibility of playing Horde mode in “Gears of War 3” via the iPad’s large 9.7-inch display. However it doesn’t seem that that functionality is ready for prime time as we were unable to fire off a round. And with the level of accuracy needed for FPS titles, switching over to the traditional controller isn’t a bad thing, but it will be interesting to see how Microsoft deals with this problem.

It’s almost a foregone conclusion that certain titles will have some sort of interactivity, but what titles and the level of interactivity has yet to be determined. In addition to acting as a substitute game controller, the app also transforms the iPad into a remote control allowing users to cue music, movies and videos from most of the multimedia apps including Zune marketplace, Netflix, Crackle and ESPN. Similar to the game selection experience, picking an artist or a movie would display a short summary and a play on Xbox prompt.

Discover

Bored, but not sure if you want to play a game, watch a movie or listen to some jams? The Discover header has you covered. A mish-mash of the latest and greatest on Xbox Live, users can browse through Live’s ever-growing stable of content.

Verdict

My Xbox Live is a well-designed app that allows players and multimedia lovers to control their Xbox consoles using their iPads or iPhones. While it’s a cool idea in theory, we’re still not convinced this is any better than using the traditional controller or the gesture/voice controlled Xbox Kinect. We think that the My Xbox Live app and the Xbox Companion app on Windows Phones will only begin to show their true worth when developers start building layers of interactivity into upcoming titles, similar to what Nintendo is attempting with the soon-to-be launched Wii U tablet controller.


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