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Twitch has introduced a new way to kill time on your mobile device: watching live video streams of people playing video games. Sure, you could kill time by playing mobile games instead, or by browsing the bored web, or even by being productive, but Twitch is a whole new class of entertainment.
If you don’t believe me, I ask that you give me the chance to persuade you. Here’s everything you need to know about Twitch for Android and why you should even care.
Why Should You Care About Twitch?
Twitch rose to prominence in 2013, a mere two years after its debut as a spin-off of the now defunct Justin.tv. Whereas Justin.tv allowed any kind of live-streamed content, Twitch focused on gaming — more specifically, competitive gaming (also known as eSports).
Most competitive games at the time required fast reflexes and skilled hand-eye coordination, leading to the term “twitch gameplay”. Hence, Twitch.
Even though Twitch continues to cater to the competitive gaming crowd with various broadcasts of tournaments and matchcasters, it has since grown to encompass all facets of the gaming world. Anyone can stream anything as long as it’s tangentially related to games.
For example, there’s even an entire category dedicated to Creative developments, which includes pixel artists, 3D modelers, real-time digital drawings, and even clay sculpting.
To some, the entire concept of Twitch is silly. Watch people play video games? What the heck is the point of that? To Twitch viewers, however, it’s no different than watching sports or reality TV. Sometimes it’s about the thrill of a match, sometimes it’s about the personalities on screen. In all cases, it’s about being entertained.
Up until now, the best way to watch Twitch has been through third-party Twitch viewers or through Twitch browser extensions. But with the latest versions of Twitch for Android, watching a stream has never been easier.
Latest Feature: Videos on Demand
The latest update to Twitch for Android, which hit the Play Store at the end of May 2015, implemented a beloved feature that users have been requesting for quite a while: the ability to watch videos on demand.
The thing about Twitch is that it exists in two parts: a section for live-streaming channels that you can tune into at any time, and a section for archived videos of past broadcasts and highlights. While Twitch broadcasts can be exported straight to YouTube, these archived videos are still important.
In order to access these archived videos, navigate to a user’s channel and tap on the video playback to bring up the overlay. Tap on the Activity icon at the bottom left (it looks like two film clips). Then tap on Past Broadcasts or Highlights depending on which you want.
What Else Can Twitch Do?
The first thing you see when you launch the Twitch app is a listing of games. On Twitch, every stream is categorized according to the game being streamed (although you’ll see the occasional non-game category, such as Creative, Game Development, or Music). Tap a game to see all relevant streams.
The channel listing is minimal and straightforward. You see the channel name, how many viewers are tuned in, and a recent screenshot of what’s playing on the channel. Channels can be favorited, and your Favorites page lists all favorited channels that are currently live.
Which brings me to the sidebar: swipe in from the left to see the main menu. Here you can browse by game, browse by channel, or browse your favorites. There’s also a listing of promoted games and channels, which are games and channels that Twitch wants to bring to your attention.
The latest iteration of Twitch’s mobile interface is lightyears ahead of previous versions. It’s clean, intuitive, and simply works. Everything makes sense, and that means an enjoyable viewing experience every time.
The actual video stream plays at the top while the channel’s chat sits below it. Even on a tiny mobile device like mine — the Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini — I can comfortably follow the stream and chat with other viewers. Yet as nice as it is, it’s undoubtedly better on a full-blown Android tablet.
Swipe in from the right and you get the channel information: profile, biography, and whatever text and links the channel owner wants to display. It’s the same stuff you’d see under the video if you viewed Twitch on the web.
Other useful options include the ability to go fullscreen (obviously), the ability to hide chat, the ability to go audio-only, and the ability to increase or decrease the stream quality, but only if the channel owner is a Twitch Partner. All other channels only stream at Source quality.
Twitch for Android Is a Winner
Honestly, I love the idea of Twitch but always hated the Web interface — it’s slow, clunky, and sometimes buggy. In fact, it’s one of the reasons why Hitbox, the Twitch alternative, ever got as popular as it did.
The Twitch app for Android is everything that the Web interface for Twitch isn’t: fast, responsive, clean, smart, and useful. For the first time in a long time, I’m actually finding it enjoyable to watch Twitch streams again. Unfortunately, this does not bode well for my productivity.
Important: The latest version of Twitch for Android is an entirely new app on the store. If you already have the older version of the Twitch app, you’ll need to uninstall that one and install the new one. However, it’s only supported on Android 4.1 or beyond, so if your device is older than that, keep the old one. You just won’t have access to video on demand.
How does the Android interface compare to the Web interface for Twitch? Do you prefer watching Twitch on the Web or on a mobile device? Got any tips that might help either way? Share with us in the comments below!