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Dijit Media, Inc.'s NextGuide app for iPad (free) provides users with a "hyper-personalized" guide for streaming and live TV. Taking into account shows and movies previously watched as well as social features such as Facebook friends' interests, NextGuide makes recommendations on what TV to watch based on your personal preferences. We fancy ourselves pretty high-tech couch potatoes, so we went hands-on to see just how well NextGuide works.
After launching NextGuide (which only works in landscape view), we were given the opportunity to turn off any accounts with Netflix, Hulu Plus and iTunes. We left all of them on, then tapped OK. The app then updated our picks and took us to a generic screen of TV suggestions.
We chose to connect with our Facebook account to get even more personalized recommendations, and were taken to screens of pages we Liked and popular interests. We could toggle between On and Off to receive recommendations based on each suggestion, and after doing so for each page, we tapped OK.
After completing these modifications, the app gave us the option to view a tutorial of NextGuide's interface. We could view our profile and settings by tapping our image in the upper left hand corner, see our Favorite Channels by tapping on the corresponding button, tap the CH button to toggle TV channels, filter content sources and formats we wanted to see, find TV to watch by category and swipe left and right to browse categories.
We liked the fact that we could see how many of our Facebook friends liked a show with the thumbnail image in the bottom right corner of a show's spot, and if we tapped on that image we could see exactly which of our friends liked it. This was helpful, because just because we're Facebook friends with someone doesn't necessarily mean we will like the same TV shows. However, if we knew we had similar tastes as a particular friend and saw they liked a show, we would be more likely to view it.
When we tapped on a particular TV show, we could read synopses of episodes, see a media gallery of cast photos, read the cast and crew, see which of your friends favorited the show and view similar TV shows. If we liked what we saw, we could perform such actions as watch the show, set a reminder to watch the show later, mark the show as a favorite and hide the show.
We tapped Watch, and were given the chance to select Netflix, Hulu Plus or iTunes. Note: Make sure you have already downloaded the Netflix or Hulu Plus apps on your iPad before trying to watch. Some shows weren't available for watching on our iPad, but NextGuide did provide us with channels and times in which that TV show would be playing in our area, which we found extremely helpful.
We're huge fans of the tabs in the top of the NextGuide interface: They let us filter our TV by interest, what our friends liked, set alerts and our channels. That way, if we only wanted to see TV our friends were fans of, we could with the tap of a button. And if we were really in the mood to watch something such as action sports, we could touch that tab and instantly view only that material.
The massive number of categories was truly impressive. We could easily filter our options and get right to the TV without searching at length. And if we had a search term in mind that wasn't already a category, we could search for it in the Search bar in the top right of the interface.
Here's a cool added feature for DIRECTV customers with a DVR: If you see something you want to watch on TV but aren't going to home to catch it on the air, you can initiate recordings on your DVR directly from the app.
The only place where NextGuide falls flat is its inability to physically turn your iPad into a universal remote like the Peel Universal Remote Control. That accessory lets you make socially-guided TV decisions then watch on any device by tapping right on your iPhone or iPod touch. Basically, you can get recommendations and turn directly to your program all from the same device. NextGuide, however, doesn't enable remote capabilities. We're OK with this, though, as NextGuide is free and Peel requires users to purchase a $99 smart remote receiver (although its functionality is integrated into some Galaxy Tab tablets with IR blasters).
All in all, NextGuide is an easy way to get personalized TV recommendations. And we like how you can watch TV directly from the app instead of hopping out then opening a viewing app. For channel surfers who have a hard time figuring out where to land, this app is ideal, because you can choose what shows to watch based on what category you're in the mood for or what your friends recommend. For anyone who's sick of clicking through their program guide and wants a more personalized experience, NextGuide is a must download.