There are nearly one and a half million apps floating around the App Store, covering everything from conversational Dothraki to birds both angry and flappy. As a result, actually finding something useful is a Sisyphean task akin to stripping wallpaper with a paperclip. To help preserve what’s left of your sanity, then, here is a list of essential film (and TV)-related apps that each and every one of you should have nestled on your home screen. For the non-Apple inclined, don’t fret – we've included links to those available on the Play Store as well.
The grandaddy, the big kahuna, the majordomo – if you only have one movie app on your phone then IMDb's is it. Whether you want to look up the complere works of Uwe Boll or (why?) find out who Alan Ladd's hand double was in Shane (it was Rodd Redwing, just so you know), the IMDb has you covered. The app checks off most of the site's more useful functionality (ie it lets you search the database) while also preserving the ever-useful Watchlist. The app is somewhat marred by ads (which you can't even pay to remove, inexcusably) and there's currently no way to access IMDb Pro content but those quibbles aside this is a must install.
With so many great shows populating the small screen of late, it can become a near full-time job just keeping up with which ones to watch and when. There are dozens of apps out there dedicated to easing this particular first-world problem but TeeVee 3 is by far the slickest. Providing an at-a-glance list of your favourite shows alongside a countdown to their next air date; it even appends a helpful 'DEAD" to shows that have bean prematurely cancelled. What sets TeeVee 3 apart from the competition, though, is presentation. The artwork banners and slick transitions make the whole experience feel far more enjoyable than trawling television listings really should be and the series info and episode lists are a handy resource to have at your thumbtips. The scheduling is US-orientated, but for many of you that shouldn't be much of a drawback. - - - - - -
Film Distributor's Association
You've never heard of them and you've certainly not visited their website but the FDA represents all theatrical film distributors in the UK and, as a result, carries the definitive list of cinema release dates for British screens. Want to know the exact release date for every film for the next couple of years? This is the place to go. Annoyingly they've yet to compile an actual app for your device but have put together a web app, which is the next best thing. Just bookmark it, add it to your home screen and never wonder when that selected theatre rerelease of Jules et Jim is happening ever again. - - - - - -
Wishlist trackers and to-do organisers seem to make up at least half of all apps on the store, in fact it's a wonder iPhone users aren't the most organised bunch of gadget-srokers on the planet. Still, if you absolutely must have one on your phone then TodoMovies 3 is a decent shout. The premise is simple: tell it what movies you want to see and it will maintain a helpful list, decking it out with lovely poster art, plot details and cast information. It will also remind you when said film is released in case it happens to slip your mind. You can do at least half of that in the IMDb app but there's something about having a dedicated app for drooling over upcoming releases that makes this feel pleasantly decadent. - - - - - -
Trailers. In QuickTime. Straight from Apple. There's nothing magical or mystical about this one but if you want to be kept abreast of all the latest trailers then this is an iPhone (or iPad) user's best bet – assuming you're in the US, that is. For reasons unfathomable by mortal man this app is apparently restricted to the American App store, though it is free and enterprising readers should have little trouble setting up a dummy account. Once that hurdle is navigated, you can filter the trailers displayed eight different ways from Sunday but the 'Featured' tab is where it's at, letting you browse the latest, greatest previews in all their HD glory. There's a surprising number of random, never-heard-of-them, US-only releases among the indies, world cinema and tentpole releases but variety is, as they say, the spice of life. - - - - - -
Movies By Flixster
It has trailers, DVD releases and a top-of-the box office list but the main reason to have FLixster on your phone is for the cinema listings. If you want to see where the nearest theatre is and what's showing then this will tell you. If you live in a cinema-rich environment you can bookmark a number of favourites for easy access, allowing you peruse performances at your leisure. The Rotten Tomatoes metareviews are a handy reference for films worth watching/avoiding and you can even add films to your Netflix queue if the inclination should suddenly seize you.
Netflix iPhone, Android
Speaking of which, we'd be remiss if we didn't doff our cap to Netflix's mobile app, which lets you manage your queue, browse the catalogue and, more helpfully, watch anything on the service from your phone. While still not a patch on Netflix US's movie selection, there's still a glut of titles and TV shows available for your unlimited viewing pleasure and for less than £6 a month it's probably worth it for just for House of Cards. - - - - - -
Amazon Instant Video
iPhone, (Android version soon)
If you're not a Netflix subscriber but happen to subscribe to Amazon Prime (or their video-only streaming package) then substitute the previous entry for this one (and swap House of Cards for Alpha House or Extant). Unfortunately the playback is decidedly buggy and the app seems to have a mind of its own half the time, plus you can only stream over wi-fi. Still, if you subscribe to Amazon this remains a worthy download – they're bound to iron out the bugs at some point. - - - - - -
If you've no need of a streaming provider thanks to your full-service Sky package then you're still missing a trick if you don't make the most of it on the go (no pun intended). As well as letting you watch live TV while sating your wanderlust, Go can download films, TV episodes and even sport (if you're into that sort of thing) to the device for later offline viewing. Anyone who doesn't stockpile a tonne of the stuff before any extended trip really needs to take a long, hard look at their life. - - - - - -
If to-do lists are the most populous of App store items then video players can't be far behind. As ever there are a great many out there, all of which promise to unshackle us form Apple's draconian format restrictions but precious few are worth coughing up for. CineXPlayer was a fontrunner back when all the other players had their AC3 audio licenses revoked (now resolved) but the UI is unnecessarily cumbersome next to the likes of AV Player and GoodPlayer, both of which are worthy of consideration. For our money, though, nPlayer is the preferred utility in this class, combining an intuitive UI, foolproof controls, wide format and codec support and the ability to lock the controls against juvenile interference. Throw in DLNA network play and the most forgiving finger swipe fast-forward of the bunch and this should be the go-to app for whatever video files you have kicking around. Android's more forgiving format support makes this less of a live or die issue but MX Player should really be on every person's 'Droid. - - - - - -
Formerly (and inexplicably) known as GetGlue, TVTag is the app that makes TV watching social. Yes, we all tweeted and texted furiously throughout the Great British Bake-Off's 2013 custard controversy but TVTag will bring a little more order to your social viewing habits. You can comment, vote, poll, 'check in' and all sorts of other oversharing activities that will be wholly familiar to the digital socialites among you. Essentially this provides a gogglebox microcosm in which you can rant, rave and discuss the minutiae of shows while you watch them – all without bothering the rest of the internet and/or cluttering up your friends' timelines. Again, this is US centric but UK channels are slowly but surely popping up to broaden its appeal on these verdant shores. - - - - - -
Finally, there's Plex. If you find most of your media taking up space on a server somewhere then Plex is the key to unlocking it all. A number of set-top boxes (Roku, OUYA, Xbox, even the Apple TV with a little black hat tinkering) can pipe Plex to your telly and this app is the key to accessing your library on the go. The scope of Plex's functionality (synopses, artwork, transcoding and so on) is beyond the scope of this humble paragraph but if you have a sizeable media archive and the wish to have it bust out onto your myriad devices in all its HD glory then Plex is a good place to start. It does require the running of a separate Plex Media Server on the machine housing your media, though, so take a good look at the documentation before you commit.