movies

Rokus new app can replace its remote, help you find something to watch

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Fresh on the heels of introducing new TV models at CES, and touting its 13 percent share of the smart TV market, Roku today is rolling out a revamped mobile application aimed at making it easier to access its most popular features, including search and the remote control, while also introducinga new way to find things to watch.

The company has long offered a handy companion appthat works with its streaming media player devices andsmart TVs devices that are used by 13 million people on a monthly basis. The earlier version of the app offered a simple interface with vertically aligned buttons for remote, search, My Feed (a personalized section of things you want to watch), the Channel Store, and Play on Roku (a casting option).

Today, Roku says its moving the navigation to the bottom of the app. Thats a more traditional design than the big buttons it used before. However, the buttons themselves havechanged. Now, from left to right, you can access Channels, a new section called Whats On, the Remote, a Photos+ section, and the apps settings.

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When you first launch the app, youll be presented with a list of the channels you have installed. You can then tap the channel you want, after which the remote will immediately appear, so you can continue to navigate to the show or movie you want to watch. The Channel Store is still available too, in a separate tab.

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Whats On is a new section, and it essentially replacesthe priorMy Feed button.

My Feed was Rokus first attempt at personalizing its experiencefor end users, by offering a way to track your favorite shows and movies. When there were new episodes available, youd be alertedthrough a notification in the feed. You could also track upcoming movies, so youd know when they were available to stream.

The goal was to make it easier to keep up with content across services in the fragmented streaming landscape by centralizing these updates.

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With Whats On, Roku instead turns its attention to more generalized suggestions with a curated list of the best entertainment available to rent, buy or stream for free. Here youll find other content grouping by theme, too like Superhero movies or top kids shows, deals, and free episodes, for example. My Feed is still available in this section, but much further down nearly at the bottom.

While My Feed was useful if you took the work to customize it and keep it updated with the shows you were currently watching, in todays binge-watch era where we power through entire shows, seasons and movies, the feeds content would quickly become dated. Youd have to constantly tweak the feed to keep it tuned into what shows youre watching now.

Whats On, then, makes sense, as it focuses on more generally interesting things to watch, and could serve as a starting point to see whats new in streaming.

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Meanwhile, Roku has also updated the mobile remote to better resemble its real-world counterpart in terms of the button layout. Its now easier to use with one hand, with buttons and the directional pad being moved closer together. Theres a new channels icon at the top, too, which lets you quickly jump from one channel to another without switching screens.

Finally, Photos+ lets you quickly share music, photos, or videos from your library to Roku, or create your own customized Roku screensaver with your own content.

The updated app (Roku ver. 4.0) is arriving today on both the iOS App Store and Google Play.

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