More out of 4
Sonys newest generation of hardware is a huge step up from the PS3, and I dont just mean graphically. The PS4 interface is leagues ahead of the old XMB, with more straightforward menus and system updates - how did we live with those old system updates? And PS4s app landscape is getting more lively by the day.
If you want your PS4 to be more than your primary gaming machine (after comparing PS4 vs. Xbox One), youre going to need to download some applications to make it into the entertainment hub you dream of. Video streaming, music libraries, live sports, and even some previously unplayable PS3 games are all reachable via PS4 apps, but only if you have the right ones. Check out which are the best currently part of the systems continually expanding app store...
What is it? Backward compatibility was a substantial feature for both the PS2 and PS3. Sadly, playing old games seems to be a last-gen concept, because the PS4 cant directly play games from any previous Sony console. However, even if your old discs and downloads are unreadable, PlayStation Now offers many classic PS3 games, all streamable for a semi-reasonable price.
Why install it? That cost varies from title to length of rental, and not everyone was happy with the prices at launch - seriously, $30 for a 90 day rental of Final Fantasy 13-2? However, as the charges keep fluctuating, the recently added subscription model is much more palatable. $20 a month or $45 for three months gets you all-you-can-play access to more than 100 PS3 games, including BioShock Infinite and Batman: Arkham City. If you skipped the PS3, thats a reasonable price to catch up on exclusives like The Last of Us and God of War: Ascension.
What is it? Sony wants to make the PS4 the essential entertainment machine in your living room, but what if youre still attached to cable TV? Even with plenty of streaming options, you want live updates on local news, sports, and weather. In that case, the just-launched PlayStation Vue might will be a very helpful app, because it transforms your system into a pretty complete cable machine and DVR.
Why install it? When Vue tests began in big areas like New York and Philadelphia, the early reviews were positive, with praise for the interface and ease of exploring channels. And you can DVR your favorite shows from the last 28 days, with access to many marquee cable channels and local networks - though HBO, ESPN, and ABC are noticeably absent. Also, the standard package is $50, which isnt that much different from a regular cable subscription. Still, Vue remains in the testing phase, and as it grows and adds more features and channels, it could become the best excuse to cut the cord with your cable provider.
What is it? Began as mail order DVD rental service that revolutionized media, Netflix has grown into so much more than a Blockbuster-killer. As it distances itself from physical media, Netflix has become the leader in streaming films and TV, with millions of phones, PC, and game consoles using the service worldwide. PS4 has had Netflix from day one, and for many, it has been an indispensible app.
Why install it? More than 60 million people subscribe to Netflix, so the odds are good that anyone reading this is already a member, so theres no reason not to put it on your PS4. And if youve been holding out, then youre being left out of conversations about Netflix exclusives like House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, along with the thousands of other films and TV shows on the app. What else are you going to do with your free time? Go outside?
Amazon Instant Video
What is it? I signed on for Amazon Prime years ago, mainly because I buy enough stuff that the free two-day shipping was worth it. But Prime has grown by leaps and bounds over the years, with digital freebies like books, music, and, yes, streaming video. Today, Amazon Instant Video is one of Netflixs strongest competitors, with a number of films and shows you wont find elsewhere.
Why install it? Amazon Instant Videos lineup once looked like a junior version of Netflix, meaning it had a very similar streaming library, only smaller. Thats no longer the case, thanks to exclusive deals for shows from channels like Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, and even most of HBOs original pre-2011 content. An annual Prime subscription is about the same as a year of Netflix, and you get all those extra bonuses on the worlds largest online retailer. Add to that Amazon originals like the Golden Globe winner Transparent, and its quickly becoming a viable alternative to Netflix on PS4.
What is it? Video sites like YouTube should take the blame for a worldwide downturn in productivity. How can someone focus on their job or school work when the newest cat video or wedding stunt is calling to you? All your friends are watching a hamster eat tiny burritos, so you cant be left out right. This PS4 app lets you jump right into the joys of YouTube, right on your TV.
Why install it? Yes, you could just pull up your phone or PC to head to YouTube and watch the most recent footage of epic fails, but theres a certain prestige to seeing it on your TV. Plus, the console app is much more useful in social settings. You could pass around your phone to show off the funniest video EVAR, but its much more inclusive to just start up the PS4 app and watch it together. Plus, using the app frees up everyones phones so they can tweet their reactions live.
What is it? One of the earliest cable channels, Home Box Office got its start hosting uncut, commercial-free movies for a premium price. In the last 20 years, the channel began producing some of the best (and most popular) TV in the world, with shows like Game of Thrones and Sopranos becoming synonymous with quality. HBO Go is the app that makes watching the channels content, both new and old, more convenient than ever, and its finally on the PS4.
Why install it? Having HBO Go means you get to stay up to date on GoT watercooler talk, or you can finally watch The Wire to shut up all your friends who simply cant believe youve never seen it. Unfortunately, there are a couple of roadblocks to it. First off, you need to subscribe to HBO via your TV provider, and currently Comcast customers cant access the app. Hopefully that hiccup will be dealt with soon, and for everyone else, its still an essential app for any HBO viewer.
What is it? Sonys consoles have a complex history when it comes to streaming music. First there was Qriocity, a proprietary system that then changed to the subscription-based Music Unlimited. As of March 2015, PlayStation Music replaced Music Unlimited with a much cheaper proposition, with streaming soundtracks brought over from the popular Spotify library.
Why install it? PlayStation Music is a free app that connects your PSN account with your Spotify account, whether its free or premium. Once youre set up, you can play hundreds of thousands of songs, whether alone, or in the background while playing games. After so many other systems and price models, its a welcome change to see Sony keep things simple by partnering with one of the biggest music services around.
NFL, MLB, NBA, and NHL apps
What is it? Movies, TV shows, and music are all fine, but if you want to watch sports, the path isnt as easy. It gets even tougher if you want to watch games live, instead of risking the results getting spoiled by friends on social media. If you want to avoid that on your PS4 - and are ready to pay a big premium - you can stay up to date with the apps to all the big leagues in American sports.
Why install it? The official homes of football, baseball, basketball, and hockey are all available via PS4 apps, offering live games, up-to-the-minute stats, and much more. Some of them cost more than $100, and they even limit your ability to watch out-of-market games and championship matches. But if you need to keep up with your favorite team and/or fantasy league bad enough, no price can be too high.
Live Events Viewer
What is it? If youre cutting the cord with cable or satellite, then your access to pay-per-view events has become a lot more limited. If you cant convince a friend to host a viewing party for the next UFC event or Katy Perry concert - or both simultaneously - Live Event Viewer offers a good alternative. This PS4 app gives you a platform to buy on-demand special events, all for the same price as PPV.
Why install it? The Live Event Viewer has certainly looked more robust in the past, but if your favorite sports involve one person hitting another person, its still a useful app. At the moment, every upcoming UFC event is coming to Live Event Viewer, and in the recent past major boxing matches and other MMA fight cards were there too. Sony also streamed much of its recent CES show via the app, so expect more trade show footage in the future. The app used to host pro wrestling as well, but thats now on...
What is it? Professional wrestling has been an entertainment institution for more than a century. It began as gentlemanly grappling sessions with predetermined results, and has grown into the massive spectacle of events like WrestleMania. WWE is the undisputed leader in sports entertainment, and if youve ever been a fan at any point in your life, youll want to download the Network app immediately.
Why install it? This is explained in more detail in this feature, but the short version is that WWE Network has thousands of hours of content, both old and new. You get every PPV event, including WrestleMania, you get exclusive shows like NXT, some engrossing documentaries, and some obscure matches that even the most hardcore fans have likely never seen. No matter what era of wrestling you love, youll find something to love for the $9.99 a month it costs.
What is it? The Share button on the PS4 controller is a major feature in the console, allowing players to send out their favorite gaming moments at a moments notice. But you can get fancier than just posting five minutes of Bloodborne footage to your Facebook page. SHAREfactory offers a number of editing tools that makes creating a custom video relatively easy, separating your gameplay from the pack.
Why install it? SHAREfactory lets you slice and dice your gameplay footage on the fly - cutting out all those time you died on the same boss - but thats just the start. You can use the camera to record custom video, use custom transitions and backgrounds, add some visual effects, even import MP3s to use as backing tracks. Its almost too much to take in, but if you read up on it here, youll see its a lot more digestible than it seems.
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Now you can get down to all the non-gaming fun with PS4, but if you know any other apps that deserve to be in here, let us know in the comments!