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Xbox One Update Streams TV to Phones, Tablets

Gamescom 2014 in Cologne, Germany doesn't start for another two days, but Microsoft apparently couldn't wait to release details about updates to its Xbox One user experience.

The most significant new feature lets the Xbox One stream live TV to a phone or tablet via Microsoft's Smartglass app, which is available for Android, iOS and Windows phones.

Users will have the option to watch, pause, rewind and change channels over Wi-Fi without disturbing gameplay on the Xbox One. The bad news is that this feature will initially work only with Microsoft's new digital-TV-tuner accessory, available in Europe but not in North America.

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That isn't the only feature Microsoft plans for its early-access program, which comes later this month. Upgrades to the media player will let users play files from an attached USB device or devices that use the DLNA media-sharing protocol, and also boot straight to TV from standby mode.

There will also be a new "Friends" section that lets users see what their friends are playing in real time, and a Gamerscore leaderboard so players can compare who has racked up the most achievements in the last 30 days.

The revamped Friends section will complement improvements to the messaging system, which will feature threaded messages, making it easier to read conversation histories and view embedded game clips. All of this will available from the new Snap Center, or multi-windowed user interface, which hopes to enhance the multitasking ability of side-by-side windows without exiting your game.

Gamescom is one of the last major gaming conventions to come before this year's holiday buying season. With some reports saying the PS4 has outsold the Xbox One 3-to-1, Microsoft may have some catching up to do. The TV features in the Xbox One are not found on the PS4, and enhancing those features may be the key to Microsoft making a comeback in the console war.

Sam Rutherford is a Staff Writer at Tom’s Guide. Follow him @SamRutherford on Twitter and Google+. Follow us @Tom’s Guide on Facebook and Google+

Sam is a senior reporter at Gizmodo, formerly Tom's Guide and Laptop Mag. Was an archery instructor and a penguin trainer before that.