Taking The Xbox One’s Snap Feature To Its Full Potential

by Kyle Hilliard on Nov 24, 2013 at 12:53 PM

Since snap was first shown, I always thought it was cool, but I wasn’t sure if it was practical. I thought it might be one of those features you would show off to friends and family, and maybe even see it used as argument ammunition in online forums against the PlayStation 4, but I wasn’t sure I would actually use it regularly.

As a means of testing the feature, I started up a game of Killer Instinct and snapped in The Daily Show, which happened to be airing at the time. I continued fighting, able to appreciate the humor of the show with my divided attention, and then Jon Stewart introduced Neil deGrasse Tyson for a segment. I paused Killer Instinct, full-screened The Daily Show, watched the segment, and then returned to my original setup after the segment was over continuing my fight as The Colbert Report began.

It didn’t even take the whole episode for me to realize that snap could be something I would use often. My personal entertainment time is limited, and nine times out of 10, I will choose video games over a television show or movie I’d like to watch, but I get a strange sense of guilt ignoring one over the other. I’d love to watch The Daily Show every night, for example, but if I have 30 minutes to devote towards entertainment I will choose to find a few more of Riddler’s trophies instead of seeing who is tonight’s guest.

Separate from the television features, I snapped in Twitter while playing Dead Rising 3, and had the same small epiphany where I thought, “Yes, I will actually use this.” Snapping in Twitter via Internet Explorer also made me realize that the feature could use some work.

First off, the dimensions of the snapped application are set in stone, as are the volumes. It would be nice to enlarge or shrink the two on-screen items to your personal preference, or raise or lower the volume as you switched your focus around.

In all likelihood, a dedicated, snappable Twitter app is already in development for Xbox One. Right now, snapping Twitter using Internet Explorer does not automatically refresh the feed, which means if you want to see the latest tweets, you have to stop your game, go over to Internet Explorer, and refresh the page. An automatically refreshing Twitter feed dedicated to the right side of the screen is the update I want more than anything else on the Xbox One right now.

The number of snappable applications is also currently limited. Some make sense. I understand how taxing it would be on the system and how silly it would be to snap two games at once, but other limitations are confusing. For example, you can’t play a downloaded game and snap in a Blu-ray disc. The presumption is that technical limitations prevent this from being possible, but I am a little surprised that this isn't an option.

Netflix, which is a snappable app, requires you to full screen the application to select your media, switch over to your game, and then re-snap Netflix. If you’re not already running a video on Netflix, there is no way to select anything without full-screening it. It would be nice if you could snap in Netflix, and a list of suggested movies appeared for you to select from, or even the selections you’ve sent to your watch later list. Presumably, if you’re snapping in Netflix, you don’t want to watch something that requires your full attention, so picking out a movie shouldn’t require that either.

I am excited for the future of the Xbox One’s snap function. Right now it’s functional, but I hope that the developers creating applications for Xbox One are making special considerations for how their applications will work when snapped. I also hope Microsoft recognizes its value and gives it a few more options in future updates to make it that much better.