Microsoft turns iPhones into Xbox remotes, adds Android client

Microsoft(s msft) released an upgrade and a new version of its My Xbox Live mobile app on Wednesday, but neither was for Microsoft’s own Windows Phone platform. The iOS version of My Xbox Live gains the ability to use an iPhone(s AAPL) as a remote control for an Xbox 360, while Android owners get their first version of Microsoft’s app. That’s great news, but the best is yet to come: Microsoft hinted at its new Xbox content sharing feature, Smart Glass, to be on non-Microsoft platforms too.

Microsoft’s Larry Hryb, also known as Major Nelson to gaming fans, dropped the news on his personal blog Wednesday, saying:

“The free My Xbox LIVE iPhone app update will let you find, learn more about, and control your favorite content from popular entertainment services on Xbox 360. You can control the content on your console with play, pause, fast forward and rewind controls directly from your iPhone. The new Discover section will let you find fresh entertainment through your phone to play on your console. You can also access on your phone a quick list of your most recent console activity.”

All of the updates are nice, but I especially like the remote control feature. As Microsoft adds more content partners, I’m using my Xbox more and more to watch Netflix(s nflx), ESPN(s dis), live TV from Verizon FiOS(s vz) and now Amazon Instant Video(s amzn). Using a game controller for this activity isn’t optimal, although it certainly works. Of course, finding where the kids left the controllers — and hoping they have a battery charge — only adds to the challenge. But my iPhone is generally nearby and charged up.

Android(s GOOG) users can now get in on the Xbox action as well, but the feature set is limited. Hryb explains that this first Android version of My Xbox Live can be used to:

  • View, manage and message friends
  • View and compare your achievement progress with friends
  • Read and Edit your full LIVE profile (name, bio, motto)
  • See your 3-D Avatar and customize it while on-the-go
  • Access your recent activity and manage your Beacons
  • Stay connected to the Xbox LIVE community via Spotlight

Hopefully, the remote control function soon arrives on Android as well. Hryb made mention of Microsoft’s new Smart Glass project, announced earlier this month at the E3 gaming conference. Smart Glass isn’t a piece of hardware, but instead a software service to watch or hear Xbox Live content — think videos, music and even games —  on a smartphone or tablet.

I assumed these devices would be Microsoft-powered, but Hryb clearly stated other platforms will be supported: “Yes, we do intend to bring Xbox SmartGlass to several platforms over time, but have no details to share right now.”