Tech Talk

7 Must-Have Apps to Improve Your TV and Movie Viewing Experience

In our new column, tech guru Tshaka Armstrong offers advice on the latest trends and innovations that will impact your movie experience.

by | June 28, 2016 | Comments

This month, we’re taking a look at seven great must-have apps for all of you film and TV fans. These aren’t apps to watch movies and TV, but to help improve your experience — whether you want to know when you can duck out of the theater for a bathroom break, organize your collection, keep track of what you’ve already watched (and set up lists of what you want to watch), or any of the other 21st century entertainment problems. There are literally tens of thousands of apps between the Google Play and Apple app stores, and though I’ve taken the time to pick some of the top apps in their category and tell you about them, I’d love to hear about your favorites. If you know of an app that does a better job than one I’ve chosen, I’d love to hear about that as well. If we get enough feedback, we’ll do a future follow up to this column with your most popular recommendations. Without further ado, let’s get to those apps!


RunPee – Android, iOS, Windows

This is one of my favorites. It’s well laid out, well thought out, and, best of all, it’s family owned and run. The basic premise is this: the family that develops and runs the app goes and watches movies, then tells you which parts of each movie are ideal for potty breaks — it even gives you a synopsis of the moments you’ll be skipping out on so you know what you’ll be missing. If you’re a parent or someone who can’t sit through a whole movie without taking a bathroom break, as my daughter would say, “This app is everything!”

The Good:

  • Has a timer so you can get vibration alerts for each “PeeTime.”
  • Tells you exactly how far into the movie the PeeTime is and how long it lasts.
    • For example, the first time you can Run Pee in Finding Dory is a four-minute break at 54 minutes, after Marlin and Nemo land in the tidal pool and Marlin says to the oyster, “Man, am I glad to see you.”
  • Tells you if there is anything during or after the credits.
  • Has crowdsourced opinion polls. For example, for Finding Dory there’s an opinion poll on the movie’s 3D quality and whether it’s worth the extra money.
  • App has 4.1 out of 5 stars out of 2,000 reviews with over 100,000 downloads on the Google Play store.

The Bad:

  • The ads. There’s a splash screen countdown ad when you first open the app which you can’t bypass and have to wait to close. There are also banner ads at the bottom of the screen while the app is running. I’d prefer they make a “pro” version of the app so that we can get rid of the ads. I rarely have to pee during a movie, but if my children were younger, I’d happily pay for an annual subscription.
  • Look at those pee breaks before the movie because the full page ad that opens when the app opens is bright and could be a distraction to other moviegoers. Pro tip: I always dim the display of my phone before a movie begins in case I need to check it during the movie.

JustWatch – Android, iOS

Are you staying in tonight and want to check out a movie or TV show? Do you have a smart TV or streaming box which supports multiple streaming services? Are you tired of having to go through all of them to find that thing you’re looking for? JustWatch lets you search multiple services at once and see if the TV show or movie you’re looking for is available online, if it’s free, how much it costs if it isn’t free, and on which services you can stream, rent, or buy it. BOOM! Family movie night at home, simplified! You’re welcome.

The Good:

  • No ads.
  • Easy-to-use, intuitive interface.
  • Fairly robust filtering options allow you to check (or uncheck) all of the providers you want to search when looking for content.
  • Has a Watchlist so you can keep up with TV shows and movies you’re interested in.
  • When you choose a movie or TV show, it shows you all of your options at a glance: where you can stream, rent, or buy the movie, according to your filtering preferences.
  • Shows you the prices for rental and purchase of SD and HD versions.
  • For TV and cable series, shows you which streaming service has the series and how many episodes that service has.
  • For users who have metered data services, the app has an option to use low-quality thumbnail images when you’re not connected to WiFi. Low-quality thumbnail images will use less of your data plan when using the app.

The Bad:

  • On Demand services from major cable providers not included in the list of options. HBO Now and Showtime are included, but you won’t see Time Warner or Verizon Fios on demand viewing options.

Upflix – Android, iOS

Want to know what’s new on Netflix? Upflix is the app you’ve been looking for. Upflix shows you when a new movie, series, or episode in a series has been added to the popular streaming service. In case you still don’t know what you want to watch, Upflix also has a handy “Roulette” feature which will choose content at random for you based on customizable parameters.

The Good:

  • Sorted by date, you can see what’s new on Netflix.
  • Robust filtering options right on the main screen.
  • Search function allows you to search Netflix content by title, actor, and director.
  • Filter results by Netflix, IMDB, Flixster, and/or Rotten Tomatoes ratings.
  • When you tap on a show, you can share that it’s on Netflix via the familiar sharing icon, or add it to your watchlist on Netflix. You can tap the Play button and the app will launch Netflix.
  • Looking through the reviews and comments on Google Play, the developer seems responsive to both positive and negative feedback. Generally a good sign.
  • “Upflix Roulette” random content picker for the indecisive.

The Bad:

  • Ads. On the upside, you can pay for the app and remove the ads. Always a good decision for a well-made app.

Anything After – Android, iOS

At a time when credit sequence and post-credits teasers are somewhat the norm, developer Damien Dalli saw a business opportunity and brought to market the Anything After – Movie Credits app. As you’ve probably already guessed, it lets you know if there’s anything after (or during) a movie’s credits. The information is crowdsourced and allows users to vote on the quality of the “after” content. Anything After offers both free and paid versions.

The Good:

  • Free version shows you whether there’s content during or after the credits, and gives you an overall rating from users as to whether it was worth the wait.
  • Pay in-app for the Prime version and you’ll get an ad-free app with the ability to see user comments about the during and after credits content. Those comments may include spoilers (but the app will warn you first).
  • Gives you Anything After data for many blu-ray/DVD releases.

The Bad:

  • Free version has ads. You can purchase the Prime version and remove the ads.
  • Many lesser known or limited release movies have no Anything After data. You’ll see them in the list of movies, but quite often they’re followed by the words, “No word yet… Seen it? Tap here!”

Series Guide – Android

Get your serial life in order with this great app from Uwe Trottmann, with multiple options for paying for the ad-free version that include an annual $2.49 subscription or a one-time lifetime fee. As you may have guessed, Series Guide is your one-stop app for keeping track of all the series you watch, which episode you’re up to, and when new episodes will be online. At a million downloads and over 43,000 reviews, not only is it pretty popular, but It’s also a fairly robust app with great tutorials for the more complex components. And by complex, I don’t mean hard to use,  but you can do things like sync the app with a service called trakt which will automatically update your series list by checking off episodes you’ve watched as you watch them. There’s so much to this one that I could write a whole column on all of the features. If you’re a heavy binge watcher of the many series available on the various streaming services, this is definitely an app you should consider.

The Good:

  • Well thought out, well laid out design on Android.
  • The subscription features are a great addition to the organizational use of the app. You can set up notifications for upcoming episodes, expanded list widget options, more themes, and the ability to create shortcuts to shows right on your phone’s homescreen.
  • Works with or without an internet connection.
  • Auto backup function so you can easily keep track of what all you’ve watched when you switch phones, lose a phone, or move between devices.
  • Looking through the comments on Google Play, the developer seems responsive to both positive and negative feedback. Generally a good sign.

The Bad:

  • Series list doesn’t update automatically. You must go into the settings and set it up to update via Auto Update and Auto-sync. There are clear instructions on how to do this in the Help menu, but many people don’t take the time to read these things.
  • Android only.

ToDoMovies 4 – iOS

Very simply, a to do (or “to watch”) list for movie buffs. Keep track of movies you want to watch, and movies you’ve already watched via lists you create. It also offers engaging content to help you discover and build lists of movies you want to watch, like 45 Greatest Monster Movies of All Time, Top 10 Movies With The Greatest Gun Fights of All Time, The Very Best Of Denzel Washington, or Best 20 Survival Movies in Remote Areas, to name a few.

The Good:

  • It’s a very simple app. It’s like In-N-Out: it does one thing and does it well.
  • It looks great on iPad, even though there’s no iPad specific version. Movie artwork is front and center, adding to its visual appeal.
  • Pick a title and play the trailer right from the app.
  • Shows you related content that’s available in iTunes, like soundtracks, books, and more.
  • You can be notified of an upcoming movie’s release date via push notification.
  • Remove ads with a one-time, in-app purchase of $4.99. Purchasing the app also allows for unlimited custom lists.

The Bad:

  • iOS only
  • Ads

My Movies 2 – Android, iOS, Windows Phone, OSX, Windows

For those with massive movie collections across multiple formats, this may be what you’ve been looking for — or didn’t even know you needed. My Movies is a simple, straight-forward, cataloging app for content hoarders, and although it’s simple, it has enough features to fill its own column. The good news on that front is that their website is chock full of information, including a wiki with “how-to’s,” forums with a knowledge base, and video tutorials. When I added titles to my iPad, then opened up the app on my Galaxy Note5, the first message I was greeted with was “Changes have been made to your collection. Would you like to sync now?” Being a platform-agnostic tech geek, that kind of sync makes my heart happy.

The Good:

  • When adding a movie or TV show by barcode, you’re given quite a few options among pre-made lists, including: Owned, For Keeps, For Trade, Ordered, Wished, Rented, and Digital.
  • You can add a movie title by searching the database, then clicking “Add Title.”
  • Tapping on a movie in your collection shows you various info about the movie, including whether or not you’ve watched it, and even gives you a spot to check if you’ve loaned your physical disc out to someone. You can add that individual’s name right from your addressbook and include a reminder for when you want it back.
  • The app also has desktop versions which sync your database back to a server so your list will be synchronized between multiple devices.
  • The desktop’s free versions are limited to 50 titles in your library but offer paid versions which will expand the feature set and lift the title limitations. The developer actually has two ways to unlock the desktop limitations: pay a flat fee, or contribute to the app by adding titles and other data which earns you points toward unlocking features.
  • If you’ve been keeping your library on a spreadsheet, you can import your list directly into MyMovies. Their database has 900,000 disc titles but doesn’t say exactly how many movie and TV series digital copies are in their database, so those obscure downloads you have may not populate any data. You can submit a missing title to the My Movies team and they’ll add it for you.
  • 4.5 stars after 2,707 reviews, with over 10,000 downloads in the Google Play store.
  • Looking through the comments on Google Play, the developer seems responsive to both positive and negative feedback. Generally a good sign.

The Bad:

  • Free version only allows up to 50 titles to be added. Paid version removes the limitation.

And there you have it: seven apps for modern film and TV fanatics. One note I’d like to add: under “the bad,” I always say ads are bad, but they aren’t actually bad, per se. So many smartphone and tablet users don’t want to pay for apps, and developers have to be paid for their time, so they add ads. I think that’s quite fair — but the problem is that ads have to be served to your phone, which means that they often eat up your data without you realizing it. And in the worst case, they can cause problems on your mobile device. The more apps with ads you have on your phone, in theory, the more data your phone may use, which is why I’m all for paying for quality apps. I think every one of us wants a great paying job that allows us to comfortably feed our families, so expecting other people to take time and create something which helps us, or solves a problem, and then expecting it free all the time is rather contradictory. If the app becomes a “go to” for you, consider investing in the developer by paying for it — it will help him or her keep it updated in a timely fashion, remove those pesky ads, and maybe drop some karma your way toward that well-paying job you’ve always wanted.


Tshaka Armstrong is a huge nerd and activist who also writes for foxla.com and his own site, tshakaexplainsitall.com, where he talks about food, bearding properly, tech, family, and equality.

Follow Tshaka on Twitter: @tshakaarmstrong

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