I’ve never been much of a “TV person,” to be honest. Being that I’m not a big fan of scheduling my life around sitting in front of the big screen at a given time, it’s just never been practical for me. However, I’ve gradually integrated television into my digital life using a combination of tools that have been around for a while (TiVo), Internet-based streaming services (Netflix), and a method to discover what shows I want to watch. That method is Dijit’s new NextGuide app for Apple's iPad.
What is NextGuide?
In a nutshell, NextGuide is a free iPad app that is designed to pull together broadcast television service, digital delivery services, and online streaming services all into one place--giving users a simple platform from which to discover and share content that they like to watch.
How to Set Up NextGuide
Setting up NextGuide is easy. Of course, one has to download the app first--don't fret, it's free! Once installed, users are prompted to enter their cable/satellite provider, which is what will provide the broadcast shows' listings and times in the guide. In order to personalize NextGuide and allow it to uncover suggestions based on what has been watched and favorited, users can also create a free account for the service.
How to Use NextGuide
It's important to remember that NextGuide is not a media player or streamer in itself; rather, it's a guide (hence the name) to help users discover content that they'd like to watch. Built in, NextGuide finds content from Hulu Plus, Netflix, iTunes, and broadcast television. (For Netflix and Hulu Plus, an active account will be needed, and iTunes shows/movies will have to be purchased or rented.)
The app itself is gorgeous and easy to navigate--the design thankfully ditches the skeuomorphisms of Apple's in-house apps, but otherwise looks like it could have been crafted by the big fruit company themselves. It behaves equally as well, and is largely self-explanatory, although a short tutorial and welcome screen is available to show off each of the functions.
The main screen shows a nicely laid out visual representation of shows available in the selected category, which are chosen from a mix of the available sources. A filter can be applied with the icon that looks like a funnel, allowing users to have NextGuide show only content from certain sources. i found this incredibly useful, as I don't buy content off of iTunes and only subscribe to Netflix and not Hulu Plus.
In addition, categories can be selected using the sliding bar at the top, e.g., "Horror," "Drama," and so on. These categories can also be customized--NextGuide will even let you create your own category from any keyword you search using the search tool.
Tightly integrated with NextGuide are various ways to discover and explore available shows and movies. When users click on a show, a details pane is brought up in which many details can be accessed. I loved having easy access to ratings, cast & crew details, photos, and a description of the show, as well as related content--all from one place.
Included in the details pane are several buttons allowing users to mark the show as a favorite, indicate that the show has been watched, and share the show with others. Over time, marking shows as watched and favorites will give NextGuide the ability to suggest shows based on a user's individual preferences.
Sharing with NextGuide
NextGuide users can share content with each other and also "follow" each other. If you're thinking this isn't very useful--even if you're not an overly "online-social" kind of person, think again! I've found that people who watch many of the shows and movies I like (particularly because I like a lot of things that are off the beaten path) tend to have very similar tastes. The very first person I followed had half a dozen of my favorite movies within his first few pages of favorites!
Furthermore, users can share directly via the app to Facebook or Twitter.
I have to say that I have really enjoyed my time with NextGuide, and for a free app, it's wonderful. The presentation is slick and polished and it performs exactly as it should--and does what it says it does, which a lot of other apps can't say for themselves.
There are two things I'd really like to see from NextGuide, but they're pretty minor. The first is a way to add to my Netflix queue rather than skip right to watching the movie. The app integrates with the Netflix app, so if you're signed in on Netflix, clicking "Watch" on the content in NextGuide does exactly that. However, what if I want to watch it later? I then have to manually search in Netflix for it anyway. An "Add to Queue" button would be fantastic, although I'm not sure if Netflix's API limits that. Second, I would love to see the ability to directly add a show to my TiVo recording queue using the TiVo iOS app. Again, I'm not certain what the limitations are or if the API is even available for that, but it would tie together the experience that much more for me.
Overall, if you have an iPad, you have to give NextGuide a try. Whether it's being used simply as a more beautiful Netflix discovery client or as a fully-integrated guide to a variety of digital content, NextGuide is a worthy addition to any user's app collection.