Relentless in its continuing quest to perplex customers with confusing branding and frequent name changes, Microsoft announced on Monday morning that it was replacing the existing Xbox App with a new app, which naturally has been named the “Xbox app (Beta)”, which can now be found in the Google Play Store for Android phones and tablets. Of course, this app is not to be confused with the recently re-introduced “Xbox Game Pass” app, a companion app for Microsoft’s monthly game-subscription service which also serves as a gateway to Microsoft’s Cloud Gaming platform for Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscribers.
As searching for the new Xbox app may bring up older, officially defunct Xbox-related apps depending on the keywords used, it’s advised that one search for the app using the exact word string “Xbox App (Beta)” which will bring up the correct app with the image below:
Beyond the naming confusion however, the new Xbox App is packing a host of new-and-improved features. According to Principal Program Manager of Xbox Experiences Kristen Mann, the app has been “rewritten from the ground up” to allow gamers to easily stay connected with their friends regardless of the device they choose to game on. Voice and text chat now works across Android, console and PC. The once-distinct inboxes for messaging, notifications, game invites, etc. have now been combined into one unified inbox, making it easier for users to receive, respond to and manage said communications right on their mobile device.
The limitation to how many Xbox consoles or Xbox apps a single Xbox account can be signed into at once has been removed, allowing for easier, seamless synching of game saves, game progress, achievements, chats, etc. across those devices. Screenshots and clips that have been uploaded to Xbox Live can now be viewed in the app and shared from one’s device and preferred social media platform faster than ever before, and even more advanced share integration has been promised this fall to coincide with the release of the new Xbox S/X controller and its dedicated “Share” button. Finally, the ability to stream games directly from your Xbox console to your Android device, formerly known simply as “Console Streaming” and accessible only to Xbox Insiders via a preview program , is now available to everyone on the Xbox app (Beta) as a new feature called “Remote Play” (not to be confused with Sony’s very similar PS4 streaming feature of the same name for PC, Android, iOS and PS Vita).
This last addition is a very significant and meaningful one, as not only does it immediately bring added value and flexibility to anyone that owns an Xbox console in terms of where they can enjoy their locally-stored game library, it also appears to indicate Microsoft’s intent to clearly delineate its paid streaming services versus those that are free-to-all, with the new Xbox Cloud Gaming service (which can only be accessed by Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscribers) residing in the “walled garden” portion of the new Xbox Game Pass app, while Remote Play can be enjoyed by anyone as part of the Xbox App (Beta). As covered in our previous preview article on Xbox Cloud Gaming, perks of console streaming include leveraging the local console’s power to deliver better visual performance (e.g. better framerates and visual enhancements when console streaming from an Xbox One X versus a One S) as well as providing a potentially more reliable alternative streaming solution in households or situations where Cloud Gaming may not perform as well.