The last part of LG’s Smart TV proposition for 2013 we need to look at is its support for phones and tablets, or second screen as they're often referred to. And this is mostly another success story for the Korean brand.
For starters, the number of ways for connecting secondary devices to your TV is impressive. There’s the normal DLNA route, of course, which can work directly from within the TV’s internal interface or via LG’s Android and iOS LG TV Remote app.
The set also supports the DLNA-based Miracast system, so that you can network the TV with Smartphones and tablets without needing an external router connection.
Many smart LG models also support NFC tagging; you just put an NFC sticker provided with the TV somewhere convenient, and ‘touch’ your NFC-capable second device to that sticker whenever you want to mirror your device to your TV screen.
Finally you can connect your phone to the TV using an MHL (Mobile HD Link) cable so you can play back content on your phone on the TV screen in HD, and even control the phone via the TV’s Magic Remote. Using this cabled mode means your phone is charged while it’s connected, too.
Exploring LG’s latest TV Remote Android/iOS app, it’s nice to find that unlike Samsung’s Smart device support, LG has managed to get all of its key features into a single app. This app takes a little learning your way round in navigational terms, perhaps, but it’s attractively presented for all that, and actually proves pretty easy to use after a few minutes of experimentation.
Linking your smart device to the TV is exceptionally easy. You just fire the app up, press device scan, and provided your LG TV is on it will instantly appear in the app window. Then you just select the TV’s icon, enter into your smart device the six digit code that appears on the TV screen, and that’s it. You’re connected.
The highlight feature of the TV Remote app is ‘Mini TV’, whereby you can mirror what’s showing on the TV – so long as you’re watching the Freeview tuner and not one of the AV inputs – on your Smart device. This worked very well on our iPad, with decent picture quality and no stuttering (though it’s a shame LG doesn’t provide twin-tuner support for the feature like some rival brands do).
However, Mini TV wouldn’t work on a resident Sony Xperia Z Android phone. Though it does work on other Android devices – depending on which model of TV you’ve got… We’ve requested a full device update from LG, and will update this review here with the information if it’s forthcoming.
We have to say, though, that we hate this sort of confusion. Obviously it’s arguably mostly Android’s fault for not really being a platform at all in the same unified way iOS is, but we still think it should be a basic requirement of brands that make Android apps for their devices to ensure the app delivers the same level of functionality to every Android device. Otherwise you’re effectively penalising people for the type of phone or tablet they’ve elected to buy.
Anyway, rant over, let’s quickly explore the rest of the TV Remote app’s features. One really cool one is the facility to take a snapshot of what’s playing on the Mini TV screen and attach it to a tweet or Facebook post – all from within the app.
Also highly useful is the way that pressing the Smart icon on the app home screen calls up the Smart hub on the TV and a touch pad control system on your Smart device for handily shifting the onscreen cursor around.
Actually, pressing most of the other buttons on the App interface also calls up the same on-TV smartscreen menu/smart device swipe control screen combination, a repetitive approach which perhaps feels a little unsophisticated.
The homescreen also features ever-present buttons for changing volume and channel, while the swipe control screen also features a button that turns the pad into a game controller.
Swipe left from the app home screen and you get to a Mini Home menu. This rather brilliantly presents you with access icons for all the services found in the Premium and My Apps (the apps you’ve got set along the bottom of the Smart TV screen) sections of the Smart Hub; just press an icon here, and the relevant feature will fire up on the TV.
Actually, in a couple of cases – YouTube and Netflix – you can use the app on your Smart device first to find what you want to watch on the service’s servers before sending the ‘play this’ command to the TV. Such ‘off-TV’ browsing is always hugely appreciated.
Also present on the Mini Home screen is a link to a cutely presented SmartShare interface for sharing your own video, photo and music multimedia content with the TV. Again, being able to browse for stuff first on your second screen before calling the TV into play is a hugely useful, family-friendly touch.
Overall, it’s difficult to see how LG could have done much more with its smart app – aside from delivering uniform functionality across Android devices, of course!