Last month we reported that telecoms giant Orange was bringing its hugely popular second-screen app TVcheck to the UK, after launching first in France last September. Well, the app is now live in the UK App Store.

The social TV app is free to download, and isnt’ restricted to users on the Orange network, meaning anyone with an iOS device, on version 4.1 or above, can use the app.

The concept behind the app is pretty straight forward – it lets users interact and discuss programmes with other people, friends or otherwise, whilst watching TV in real time. It’s a little like Zeebox, another second screen app we’ve covered before. Whilst Zeebox is also compatible with subscription TV channels through its BSkyB partnership, at launch TVcheck will be restricted to 25 free-to-air channels in the UK, including the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5.

a4 520x364 Orange brings its social TV app TVcheck to second screens across the UK

The Next Web was given a demo and walk-through of the app earlier today in London, and one of its most alluring features is the live TV image recognition tech it employs.

During any programme, you can point your device at the TV screen and the app recognises the show and automatically registers that you have ‘checked in’. Here, I try it out with Aussie soap opera Home and Away:

e2 520x386 Orange brings its social TV app TVcheck to second screens across the UK

However, if you prefer the manual approach, you can simply scroll through the list of channels and choose your favorite show, or opt for the ones that are currently trending according to TVcheck. It registers who’s currently checked-in through the app, and also gleans information from Twitter according to who’s discussing what programme the most.

b8 520x368 Orange brings its social TV app TVcheck to second screens across the UK

Once you have checked in to a TV show you can make use of the app’s other features. For example, you can participate in live quizzes (Orange has people behind the scenes watching the shows too, who formulate quizzes in real-time). And they’ve also gamified the app, letting users earn badges and challenge other viewers to become ‘top dog’ of a specific programme or channel.

It perhaps goes without saying that TVcheck also lets you connect seamlessly with the social sphere, with Facebook and Twitter integration allowing you to chat and send messages about your favourite programmes.

TVcheck is available on iOS only for now, though we’re told that it will be landing on Android in the coming weeks. Interestingly, they’re also working on an HTML5 version for the browser, letting those who like their laptop in on the second-screen action too.

Looking to the future, it’s likely that Orange will enter into partnerships with the main TV channels, as it has done in France with the likes of Channel NT1 (You Can Dance); Channel NRJ12 (Les Anges de la Téléréalité/Angels of Reality TV) and Direct Star (Direct Star sur Scène/Stars are on Stage).

Linking the app directly into TV content will help them deliver exclusive interactive features, and also offer giveaways and other incentives for users to tap-in to the second screen experience.

TVCheck [iOS]