A little way into my time with Animal Crossing: New Horizons I was confronted with an ancient relic. No, I’m not talking about a T-Rex skull or a deep-sea dwelling coelacanth – I’m talking about the Nintendo Switch Online smartphone app. Like many Switch owners, I downloaded it when I first got my Switch, decided it didn’t do anything useful, then deleted it from my phone and forgot about it completely.
However, fast forward to March of this year when I wanted to make a custom flag featuring my doggo’s face for my Animal Crossing island, I found myself having to re-download the app. Via a QR code system, you can use the app to transferreal life pictures into your game. Utilising this site to generate QR codes for your favourite images, custom designs can be imported directly from your camera roll, or from older Animal Crossing games and it’s completely brilliant! Want a giant poster of your favourite video game character on the wall of your house? A T-shirt styled to look like your old Game Boy Color? No problem! You can do all of this and so much more with QR codes and the Switch Online smartphone app.
Additionally, a Voice Chat function in New Horizons allows you to talk audibly with the friends you’re playing with, which is a lot better than using the game’s text-based messaging system. This means that, if one of your best friends starts messing around with your perfect five-star island, youcan shout at them properly, rather than having to furiously type ‘STOP THAT!’ on the text chat. Thankfully, Voice Chat is clear and stable, and it’s undoubtedly a feature that we’ll never be able to go without in future Animal Crossing instalments.
On the downside, setting up Voice Chat isn’t as easy as it could be. It requires you to first engage in online multiplayer using a specific lobby, and only then can you begin to chat. A better system would involve setting up a lobby on the app itself, or having a means of messaging a group of friends via the app to subsequently kickstart a group multiplayer session. Alas, this is not an option, so you often have to use another means of communication to get everyone to open their Voice Chat in order to communicate through the game. Obviously, that’s a pretty convoluted system.
Surf The Splat Net
Of course, Animal Crossing isn’t the only game to utilise the Switch Online app. The app launched in Summer 2017 alongside Splatoon 2 and SplatNet 2, an in-app ‘Game-Specific Service’ for the inky third-person shooter. SplatNet 2 allows players to keep tabs on an impressive amount of stats and also access the Gear Shop, where it’s possible to purchase SplatNet exclusive gear with in-game currency. There’s also a menu for keeping an eye on the upcoming stage schedule in online multiplayer.
Splat Net 2 gained plaudits for its clear, colourful presentation but, similarly to Animal Crossing, the Voice Chat is something of a nightmare to set up. To get it working you have to go to the online lounge in Splatoon 2 and create a room, then you have to send a notification to your phone, then from your phone screen you have to invite people to play. Once again, that’s far too complicated and, frankly, I wouldn’t have known how to do it without using a guide.
On The Super Horn
Luckily, Voice Chat isn’t terrible for every Switch game. After I installed the app for Animal Crossing-related reasons, I started to see a little phone symbol pop up on my Switch screen during Mario Kart 8 Deluxe online sessions. I realised that, during online races, there is a function that allows you to chat with anyone in your Global or Regional room who enables Voice Chat.
Perhaps even more surprising, the communities I’ve found whilst playing Mario Kart online have (largely) been pretty wholesome. Most people I’ve talked to have been polite, interested in where other players are joining from and keen to learn what everyone’s experiences with Mario Kart through the years are.
Of course, if it’s trash talk you’re after, when I created a private room and invited real-life friends there was no shortage of it. Insults were flying across Voice Chat at the same rate as Blue Shells, Bananas and Bob-ombs on screen. I guess it just depends what you’re in the mood for.
It's a Small (Smash) World
Another game ideal for Voice Chat, at least in theory, is Super Smash Bros. Ultimate – of course I want to yell at people when they Home-Run Bat my beloved Kirby into the stratosphere! Sadly, when compared to other online Switch games, Smash exhibits a lot more lag during gameplay, which is seriously frustrating. I’ve found having Voice Chat running only makes this lag more jarring. Plus, similar to the games discussed above, Voice Chat on Smash is cumbersome to set up. Smash does boast more of those in-app Game-Specific Services though, this time in the form of ‘Smash World’.
Smash World allows you to upload the videos you’ve made whilst playing Smash, browse other players’ videos, and it also lets you view and download custom stages. There are a huge number of incredible custom levels that players must have spent hours and hours designing, and I’ve downloaded more than a few of them.
What is incredibly frustrating is that there is no advanced search option, you can only look at ‘Recommended’ stages and then refresh the page to see new ones once you get to the bottom. The video search function is only slightly better, allowing you to search for captures according to which characters are featured in them.
So, nearly three years on from its release, is the Nintendo Switch Online smartphone app worth a download? Well, it depends. It’s certainly worth it for the QR scanner functionality in Animal Crossing: New Horizons, and for Voice Chat in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (Mario Tennis Aces also has a decent Voice Chat system). But, beyond that, the app is severely limited.
There are so many baffling questions. Why can’t I make a lobby with friends in the app without booting up a game? Why can’t I invite people to play with me through the app?
Nintendo seems to be pretty far behind the industry standard in terms of online functionality. And that’s a real shame because, if you don’t play New Horizons or Mario Kart, the app is virtually redundant. The saving grace? A huge proportion of Switch owners do play either Mario Kart or Animal Crossing!
Do you make regular use of the Nintendo Switch Online app for your smartphone? Let us know by voting in the poll and leaving a comment below.
Short answer: No
Long answer: Noooooooooo
Their voice chat is not good, I just stick to discord.
Only used it once to scan 2 QR codes for ACNH.
It’s an amazing innovative app. Hopefully more games will use it in the future.
@mesome713 absolutely correct! Until someone comes along and does something innovative like in-game voice chat. But I am not sure even that will be better then the app.
Used it for splatoon for a while. Used it for smash for a while. Now splatoon is a rarity and we use discord when playing smash so it doesn’t kill the conversation every time a match ends.
Nope, it's still absolutely useless.
@PortablexombieV2 Phone has way more potential than a in game voice feature. I can take my phone on the go and always be online.
I think the App has been worthwhile for some time now, for everything except chat.
It's great for viewing Splatoon 2 news without opening the game, browsing and queueing user creations in Super Smash Bros. and Animal Crossing is the best use so far for the reasons listed above.
@mesome713 no thank you. I do not want to have to use two devices to enjoy features like chat.
The service itself is good, but the app is just okay.
DREAM UPDATE: You can now play NES, SNES and Nintendo 64 games on your mobile device!
"Nintendo seems to be pretty far behind the industry standard in terms of online functionality."
The epitome of understatement.
I used it constantly for Splatoon 2's store
I’m so surprised it still exists, it’s probably one of the most worthless things Nintendo has ever put out.
Speaking of apps, I just unlocked the Nook Shopping app in New Horizons today by accident. I had no idea it existed.
I have used it a couple of times for AC.
I use it to speed up text chatting in Animal Crossing. I'm quicker to compose a message with it rather than in-game, especially since you're told to always close it to allow someone to arrive or leave.
It was already worth downloading for anyone with Splatoon 2.
All my friends that played this and love past AC games did not like this. Their reviews basically made me not get it. It does not seem very good at all
@mesome713 tell me what's innovated about it? Oh yeah nothing. It has BASIC features the original xbox had. Big deal
@BenAV no it wasn't
@PickledKong64 Maybe you should start by reading the article your posting on mate.
I thought the Gear Shop for Splatoon 2 was pretty cool! I used that a lot back when I played they updated that game regularly.
I only use the Animal Crossing part of it for the keyboard, but it was weird for me. Felt too disjointed from the game - like I was just texting with AC on in the background. The 3DS definitely had an advantage there.
No it’s absolutely woeful. I suppose I might download it again for the Photo thing, but generally it’s not very good. Like their Online service generally.
It's rubbish. Does Nintendo even acknowledge it in their shiny propaganda video's?
I use it to message on Animal Crossing and it works very well for that at least. Other then that no I don't really use it at all.
@PickledKong64 Yes it was.
No. It’s useless. Pathetic. The one thing Nintendo have got massively wrong with Switch. It’s literally pointless.
I think the custom designs is neat, but overall the AC app is such wasted potential. Imagine how much greater it would be if it took some cues from the Splatoon 2 app and included:
1.) Your island's turnip prices of the day.
2.) Your island's daily Nook Shopping/Nook's Cranny items.
2.) Your island's visiting merchants of the day.
For anyone who's trying to collect Redd's artwork, you know how incredibly tedious it is just searching for him, with his appearing only every two weeks on average. I get AC's supposed to be a slow burn, "little bit every day" game, but Redd's visits are ludicrously infrequent, not to mention that whole fake art mechanic. I calculated it- to collect all pieces of the museum art, you would literally have to play, every single day, for 1.5-2 YEARS (!), and that's assuming you pick the authentic art work each time. If visiting merchants were indicated in the real-world phone app, it would make the whole process exponentially less tedious.
For overall function, the NSO app still stinks though. Just give me a console-native voice chat/party system and controllers with headphone jacks like PS4 does. I love the Switch, but it's online is so frustratingly backwards and subpar.
I use it for typing in chat. Most people I play with don’t use voice chat and it’s much better than the in-game keyboard...
QR codes are definitely the easy way to import images as patterns into New Leaf/Horizons, but the browser based design maker tool only utilizes New Leaf's more restricted color palette. Personally, I use GIMP to shrink an image down to multiples of 32 pixels, depending on how big I want to make it, then format the image to 15 colors (it is unfortunate that you can't choose to use 16 colors rather than 15 and an alpha channel...), then recreate the image in ACNH. It's slow, it's tedious, but it feels good to see something you put effort into and say "Yeah, I did that!" Plus it ends up looking better than what the browser based design maker tool farts out most of the time.
First time I have used it is for Animal crossing and the voice chat is fine on my phone, I also use the online app to send messages on the game as well, far easier than using the controller in docked mode.
Honestly, I forgot the app was a thing that existed. I might consider downloading it for mk8d... for the people that do use it for Mario kart, are the people in chat mostly racist/sexist or mostly nice?
@mesome713 The app is OK but offers very little, it's compatible with like 3 games? It needs to be compatible with way more games and offer more features for those games, a friends list and messenger and maybe even add the eshop on there so you can buy games whilst on mobile, the voice chat is awful aswell, Nintendo are way behind Sony and Microsoft in terms of voice chat and friend management
I am surprised the app doesn't have mario maker 2 support
@playstation_king Agree it’s got a long way to go. I just wish Sony and Microsoft would do a phone app also. I dream of interacting with my games on the go using my phone.
Also wish Nintendo would copy Discord and add features it uses to the app. Discord is amazing and innovative.
Never have-provably never will
It's not great, but if you don't use it, you are definitely missing out on some experiences that sometimes influence the games entire design; like animal crossing, Splatoon, Mario maker etc. I guess if you have ridged principles you could balk at the measly $1.50 a month it costs, but you knew this wasn't always going to be free right? I'm personally pretty satisfied with the classic game selection as well
Edit: just realized this was about the actual app itself. No it still sucks lol. So much wasted potential with Mario maker and animal crossing there imo
Even if I don't use voice chat, typing on my phone and having the text appear ingame is easier than typing on the Switch or reading on a different screen, and I can correct typos without having to delete half the message. Had the app installed for Splatnet anyway, so it's not a huge loss of storage space.
That is still a thing? Easily the biggest waste of time Nintendo has ever done...
NSO App's usage in Animal Crossing is pretty good, but other than that, Splatoon 2, and Smash Bros, it's pretty useless
Being able to manage your friends list and create lobbies would be awesome & super basic. Wish they fixed this and the SSBU lag
The only reason to even bother downloading it is to scan QR Codes in Animal Crossing. It's a very missed opportunity from Nintendo.
@StevenH legitimately who needs themes though. it is the definition of "want vs need"
i've only used it for Animal Crossing. wasn't interest for using other games.
A yes or no poll is too black and white. I use the app sometimes with AC, and it's definitely been useful to scan AR codes. Do I use it a lot? No..but I do sometimes.
@mesome713 Microsoft and Sony both have apps for their respective consoles. Can't speak for the Playstation one, but the Xbox one allows you to message and call friends, invite them to games, and control your console, among other features. And it's free and available to everyone with a Microsoft account, where as Nintendo's lackluster app is only available to subscribers to its online service. I like some of the features it has, and most of the game specific services are great, but it's missing a lot, and has gotten no significant updates besides complicated voice chat for additional games, and two new game services, which isn't a lot.
No. It's awful.
Why are these functions limited to certain games and a pitifully small number of them? Why are many key features from a decade ago just missing altogether? Why do I need the cumbersome set up of needing a 2nd device to communicate in a game rather than just using the device I'm already holding in my hands?
The app should be a supplement offering things like AC QR codes and whatnot. It should not be the primary and only option for basic online functionality.
Sometimes, being different simply for the sake of being different (as Nintendo is known for) really doesn't work out. Too bad they are also like a stubborn mule when it comes to changing, so we'll likely never see any improvement.
@MasterJay I want them on my phone. I want them to have features like Discord and have a phone app that interacts with my game.
@BenAV discord does it better. And regardless those features should be in the game so the app is still trash.
@Cool_Squirtle majority of people I interact with on mk8 are pretty chill and funny. Every now and then you will run into someone that constantly trash talk. They tend to be the younger crowd who bad mouth. Just choose those N64 tracks and watch the salt pour.
@mesome713 your from the past!
@Cotillion cos Nintendo won't be held responsible when little Timmy gets groomed
@PickledKong64 I'm not talking about the voice chat.
I use it for Splatoon battle stats and that is about it. I would rather not use it. Just make this info accessible via the game or a Switch online portal page accessed via the console or web.
Nintendo online is still a clunky mess even though we use it daily.
I use it to look up Splatoon stages and stats and that is it. For that purpose it is great. Apart from that it’s potential is completely wasted IMO.
The app makes text chatting in Animal Crossing way faster and easier and far more efficient than constantly pausing mid game to type something that takes you twice as long than typing it on the app. Plus you can message people in your Best Friends List which makes it feel like you are actually phone texting in-game using your actual phone which is really cool! 😄
Animal Crossing is the first time I used the app, but I have used it a lot. Getty Museum artwork imports, pixel artwork, and saving my life in not having to use the tedious keyboard to talk to someone in game.
I used the NSO Splatoon 2 app for two years.
Frankly, making us pay extra for features that used to be free is a slap in the face. I still love the game, but it irks me that something as basic as pattern sharing requires an online subscription.
I use for it for in game messaging. So much faster and easier with my phone. I've scanned a few qr codes early on too.
I use the app with Splatoon 2 also to check the schedules, shop, and occasionally check my last 50 matches record. I have used it for smash but very rarely.
So it's not worthless just not that good either.
Excuse me, one of the pros is that it relies on a third party site to generate QR codes instead of doing it itself..?
Yea, totally worth it, now.
Nope, voice chat should be done natively on the console. Literally no one wants to operate their phone and Switch at the same time; it's clunky and stupid.
IMO, all Nintendo really needs to do with the app to make it worthwhile is put the eshop on it and Nintendo news. Having a themes and music store would be an extra plus too.
@mesome713 ? Not entirely sure what you mean, but the both apps can be downloaded on your phone, and the Xbox one has Clubs, which are very similar to discord's servers
Pointless app (never downloaded it and doubtful I ever will) and it's rewarding Nintendo for their ineptitude for a proper lobby and chat options within the console itself. If I want to talk to someone on my AC island, I call them. Remember, phones these days still can be used as phones! You can also simply "chat" with them on the phone, not "voice chat".
I wish they add some functionality to bookmark Mario Maker 2 level IDs to play later when i open the game
I can't see why Nintendo seems to like creating phone apps that either should have those features on the console too or take functionality out of a game and put it in an app such as pokemon home and the GTS feature as it isn't even accessible in the switch app. The normal switch online app is bizarre as it does what other third party games can do through the Switch and that has been a standard way of doing it since the original Xbox. I could understand if the app let you do all of the same functionality in regards to communication that the switch could already do just when you are away from the system like both the Playstation and Xbox apps do but not act as a bare bones substitute that only a few games support. If your one big selling point for using the app is to put a few pictures on a single game then it isn't that much of a must use app seeing as the actually main functionality is poor. Also the whole you can talk to some one on your phone while playing with them on a game. Well then you might as well just phone them or use a multitude of of communication apps that work better and faster. Honestly isn't like they have invented the most conveluted way possible to make a phone call on your phone for a select few games.
Nintendo aren't just behind the industry standard for online here, they're behind their own previous consoles. Miiverse allowed chatting and direct messaging on the console itself, and both the Wii U and 3DS had built in mics and cameras for voice chat ingame and QR code scanning, without having to use a phone or pay extra for the privilege of doing so.
At this point I only don’t use the app because none of my friends do so it’s basically useless to me. If I play Switch games online with people we use some kind of video chat or call
Typing in the app is ok when it works, but it's a lot easier to just plug my USB keyboard in.
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