My iPhone talks to my Xbox 360

Netflix 360

Well sort of. Between searching for new wallpapers on a daily basis, the alarm clock, Cydia, App Store, remotely controlling my computer, music, movies, and not to mention writing this article, you’d think I’d eventually run out of new uses for my iPhone, right? Wrong! With Flash and Sling mobile on the horizon for the #1 best selling phone of 2008, the iPhone platform is very hot right now and the list of cool and useful apps is hard to keep up with. Well, maybe I can help. At least I know I can help all of you Netflix users out there, even more so, you Xbox 360 users of that crowd.

Netflix is the largest online movie rental site, and you can rent either DVDs that are mailed out to you or stream them live on your PC, Xbox 360, or other Netflix compatible box. The library of titles you can stream instantly is smaller than that of DVDs you can have mailed to you but still very much worth the $8.95 monthly fee. You can only watch 1 at a time, but you can have up to 6 titles queued up and ready to go on your machine. Watch each one as long as you want, with no late fees, you just can not move on to the next movie until you have returned the previous.

Now, I told you that story, to tell you this one. I recently decided to give Netflix a try and knew I had seen iPhone applications in the App Store for the online rental service. There are actually a few of them that fit the description.

I knew I needed an app that would search movies available for my ‘instant queue’ or instant streaming, because for the most part I want to watch the movie right away. As I mentioned before, there are only a certain amount of movies available for instant streaming. Not all Netflix apps did that or made it easy to do. Instant Queue Add for Netflix [iTunes Link] did only that, but still didn’t do it that well. This app only deals with movies available for instant streaming, but the interface is horrible. I could either choose from a list of popular choices, or do a search by name for a movie I wanted to watch. For the longest time I was thinking Netflix’s library for instant streaming movies was ridiculously small, until I stumbled across a “see more like this” button, that unearthed a lot of movies that couldn’t be viewed from the original ‘popular’ list.

Other options are Queuetastic [iTunes Link] by Timothy Schmitz and iPhlix [iTunes Link] by Brent Jensen. Both provide smoother interfaces with instant streaming video search options. iPhlix is a little more expensive at $2.99, rather than $0.99 like the others I tried out, but still worth it to me as I search for movies to rent on my iPhone at a red light on my way home from work. I choose 6 movies of 6 different genres and they are on my Xbox 360 when I get home. Out of those 6, my girlfriend looks at front and back case covers, reads synopsis and reviews, and decides on a movie, that is immediately available to watch on our big screen with complete playback controls. Playback is seamless a majority of the time. I did though, experience internet lag at one point, and a screen popped up that said “Your internet has slowed down, adjusting playback quality so you will not experience any more interruptions.” Took 10 seconds, and I didn’t encounter it again.

I have yet to try out Apple’s rental service, or any other for that matter, but after watching 8 movies in 3 days, the Netflix service has already paid for itself. It does play in full screen across my 65″ DLP, and the quality is quite good (for non HD). If you are a movie buff with an iPhone and the ability to stream video to a TV or computer in your house, the free trial from Netflix and one of the above mentioned iPhone apps will not disappoint. We plan on cancelling our 20$ cable movie package (were planning on anyways to save money), and hopefully this can take the place of those annoying trips to the video store at 11 o’clock at night.

I’m not an employee of nor was I paid by Netflix in any way. Always skeptical of the 1-3 wait periods for DVD delivery, I never thought twice about the service, but when my girlfriend told me about their instant streaming video, my ears perked up. Being able to browse and choose movies from virtually anywhere on my iPhone is also largely convenient, as it surely beats walking aimlessly around a BlockBuster. Even sitting on my couch in our movie room, it proved itself worthy. Additions and changes show up almost instantly, from my iPhone to my Queue screen on my Xbox 360.

It’s funny because tonight when asked by little Brianna, who is just 8 years old and in search of answers, “How does the movie you pick on your phone, end up on our TV?” I had no idea how to respond. It was such a simple question, yet I did not know what to say. How do I play music off my iPhone through the car speakers? How do I play creepy sounds in the basement from upstairs to scare your brother? How do I pay bills, order Chinese food, and race high performance sports cars, all from my phone?

The truth is, I just can, because I own an iPhone. Because Apple re-invented the mobile phone. I know that because I saw the flurry of touch screen phones hit the market, shortly after the iPhone was announced. I know that because the iPhone made the Stylus an unattractive and unnecessary accessory of the past. I know that because Verizon, Blackberry, Google, and Amazon have all announced plans for mobile platform application stores, very similar to the App Store. I know that because, even at a base price of $199.99, the iPhone took over the #1 best selling cell phone of 2008, beating out the Motorola Razor that carriers were practically giving away. I know all of this, and my best answer for her was, “My iPhone talks to my 360.” That’s the best way I could explain it.

With tons of apps being released daily, it really is hard to keep up with the good stuff. If you are like me, and are fairly picky about what ends up on your spring board, check in a few times a week, and I will let you in on those rare apps that might make life a little bit easier, and are worth more than the “Check out what my phone can do” titles, that loose their appeal after a few well timed demonstrations.

P.S: Sebastien was right, the “Oh shit!” “What?!” “I forgot to shave!” gag while whipping out the iPhone with virtual electric razor on it is classic.