Hands on: Pocket BLU app serves up Blu-ray extras

It's a cool idea, but unfortunately the app works with only a handful of movies. What's more, you need a PS3 or other Wi-Fi-connected Blu-ray player to use it.

Pop Tarantino's latest into select Blu-ray players, and Pocket BLU instantly delivers bonus content to your iPhone. Rick Broida

Here's a neat idea: an app that links your iPhone or iPod Touch to whatever Blu-ray movie you're watching and serves up extra content, a remote control, a soundtrack listing, and even Facebook integration so you can tell friends about the movie.

Pocket BLU is that app. It's free, it works, and it's pretty cool--but it suffers from two major limitations.

The first is that it works only with Blu-ray players that have Wi-Fi. I can understand the need for a network connection, but what's wrong with Ethernet? Save for PlayStation 3s, few modern players incorporate Wi-Fi.

Update: According to the developer (and at least one iPhone Atlas commenter), Pocket BLU will work with any Blu-ray player that's connected to your network, whether via Ethernet or Wi-Fi.

Second, Pocket BLU doesn't work with all Blu-ray movies. Rather, it's limited to certain Universal Studios titles, of which there are only about seven right now. These include "Funny People," "Inglourious Basterds," and "Public Enemies."

I tested a few PB-compatible titles on a Windows Media Center PC. To my surprise, the app quickly detected the selected movie and immediately unlocked its corresponding bonus content (deleted scenes, making-of features, etc.).

In the case of Tarantino's "'Basterds," that content consisted of four of the same video featurettes that appear on the Blu-ray disc--all of which you can stream to your iPhone or save for offline viewing.

If you're not seeing much point in viewing these extras on a small screen instead of a TV, well, I have to agree. Obviously Pocket BLU would be a lot more compelling if it delivered extras not included elsewhere.

I can't complain about its remote-control features, however, which are generally excellent. You get not only a touch-friendly assortment of menu and playback controls, but also an interactive timeline (which appears when you rotate your device). The latter's great for "scrubbing" to a particular spot in the movie.

The app's Now Playing button didn't do anything in the movies I watched, instead just returning a "this feature not available" message. Where's the movie synopsis, the IMDB links, the cast bios, and all that good stuff? That's what an interactive movie app should offer. Pocket BLU doesn't.

Not yet, anyway. Developer Deluxe Digital Studios says more features are coming soon. Let's hope so, because right now, Pocket BLU is little more than a novelty that only a smattering of movie fans will be able to enjoy. Everyone else will be left feeling, well, a little blue.

 

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