As apps expand their reach into our everyday lives, so too have smart TVs become all the rage, themselves connecting to the Internet to provide app functionality. According to PCMag, you can find smart TVs in 25 million American households, and by 2015, it’s predicted that 50 percent of all TVs sold worldwide will be smart TVs.
With numbers like that, as the smart TVs come, more useful smart TV apps will follow.
Many smart TV owners still have cable, but others have decided to cut the cord with cable for good, turning instead to these apps as their main source of entertainment. By now, smart TVs offer tons of content, certainly rivaling – if not surpassing – even the best cable subscriptions.
In addition to many traditional TV channels, smart TVs offer entertainment options that expand into streaming media, gaming platforms, and browsing the Internet straight from your big-screen TV—features that not many cable providers can offer at this time.
One interesting statistic though is that according to an NPD Group report, only 12 million of the country’s smart TVs are even connected to the Internet, which means the technology is only being utilized in about half the households that own them.
One way to use your Internet-connected TV properly is to use apps to navigate content and expand your home entertainment beyond what traditional cable or local channels have to offer. Here are some of the best smart TV apps that make the best use of Internet-connected TVs.
Instead of having to wait anxiously for your local newscaster to get on with the day’s weather segment, you can enjoy immediate access to weather forecasts for more than two million locations. According to PCMag, “The app gives five-day forecasts in 12 languages, severe weather alerts, and more for your home city and travel locations.”
This app comes in handy while you’re planning your day or upcoming vacation. No more waiting for local and cable channels to get back to the precise weather segment and information you need.
You may not have originally considered your smart TV to be part of your home music experience, but now with the Pandora app, it can be. Whether you’re entertaining, dancing around the living room, or simply lying in bed or on the couch, you can play all of your favorite tunes and stations for the whole room (or house) to hear.
What’s more, whatever sound system your TV is hooked up to will play the music from Pandora, which is likely much better quality than the sound you were getting from your computer or mobile device.
Similar to NBA Game Time, if you’re a huge baseball fan, MLB.tv is an essential smart TV app for your home entertainment setup. Not only can you stream every game in HD, regardless of whether or not it’s usually available in your area, but you’ll get tons of news updates and real-time scores from around the league—perfect for a fully immersed game day experience.
However, unlike some of the other streaming content smart TV apps, MLB.tv starts at a higher $99.95 for a full season’s worth of all things baseball. Off-season viewing costs $24.95 for any game played during the previous season.
7: NBA Game Time
NBA Game Time is an essential app for all NBA lovers. With this smart TV app, you get live updates of scores of all NBA games currently being played. You can also view highlights and recaps from previous games in HD, and you get access to news from around the league.
The app is currently free. The NBA League Pass is a $199 per season Premium subscription addition that allows you to watch most regular season games and even archived playoff games from the season before. The 5-Team Choice Package is $139.99.
You love watching YouTube videos on your computer and mobile devices throughout the day, so why not enjoy them true movie and TV-style on your big screen TV? This smart TV app is now built into many Internet-connected TVs already, allowing users to enjoy all of their favorite viral videos.
As with YouTube online, you don’t need a subscription to watch YouTube videos on your smart TV.
5: HBO Go
Though it has recently signed a deal with Amazon Instant, HBO previously exclusively aired its programming on the HBO Go app. It was originally limited to only Comcast, Verizon FiOS and AT&T U-Verse TV subscribers, but with this new Amazon deal, you may see that changing in the future.
HBO Go’s smart TV app streams all your favorite HBO shows and movies currently showing on HBO right to your television.
Love having video chats with friends, family and colleagues located around the world? Imagine being able to see and talk to those same people on a much bigger screen than your computer.
Being so much closer to life-sized, they might even seem like they’re right there in the room with you. This can do wonders for your face-to-face time and truly change your Skype experience.
3: Amazon Instant
Similar to Netflix, Amazon Instant has a wide range of streaming movies and TV shows, though it has different deals with different studios, including a recent exclusive deal with HBO for its TV shows, so some of the content will be different. Amazon Instant does not show advertisements along with its content.
What differs about Amazon Instant is its subscription. Instead of paying monthly, you pay $99 for the entire year (recently raised from $79), which means it costs slightly more per month than Netflix and Hulu, but it also comes with access to Amazon Prime, Amazon’s two-day shipping service, which is valid for many items listed on its website.
2: Hulu Plus
Hulu Plus is another streaming platform well-suited for TV, especially since it specializes in recently aired TV shows. Different from its competitors, Hulu Plus not only has access to older episodes and seasons of many of your favorite TV shows, but also provides access to shows that aired the very day or night before, which is exclusive to Hulu at this point in time. However, Hulu does have ads that play before and within each video, while Netflix and Amazon Instant do not.
Hulu Plus also requires a subscription at $7.99 per month. This price will likely not change anytime soon, thanks to Hulu’s ad-based revenue model.
This is probably one of the most obvious smart TV apps to use, one that works perfectly not only on computers and mobile devices, but also (especially) on your Internet-connected TV. It has an enormous movie and TV catalog that features exclusive distribution deals with several different major and minor studios, so there will be content on this app that you can’t even get from cable or other streaming TV and movie apps.
To get Netflix, you could buy a second set-top device like Roku or a USB-connected device like Chromecast, but the majority of smart TV app stores usually have the app built in so you can use it right on the TV without having to add another device to your TV setup.
Netflix requires a subscription to function, and its unlimited streaming platform is available for $7.99 per month, though that amount is predicted to rise $1 or $2 in the future. Netflix shows no ads along with its content.