By Mari Silbey | Wednesday, November 17, 2010 at 12:33 pm
Comcast launched the Xfinity TV app to much fanfare this week, and though we knew it was coming, we didn’t know all the nitty gritty details until we got our own hands on. After a test run on the iPad, here’s my take on the good, the bad, and the future of the Xfinity app.
Set-up is quick and painless, and the TV guide experience on the iPad is awesome. Remember how easy it used to be to read the print version of the TV guide out of the newspaper? It’s like that, but better. Scrolling on a large touch screen is fast and effortless, not only through all the different channels, but also across hours and days. You can also filter channels so you’re only looking at a certain category of content (like sports or movies), or so you only see HD shows available. The search function still separates linear programming from on-demand content, but results are in tabs right next to each other, making it easy to toggle between views. I had no trouble setting up a recording from the iPad app, and while there was a delay when switching channels from the touch screen, it was still cool to be able to browse and then change stations without picking up my regular remote.
As Jeff Baumgartner points out, you can’t start an on-demand program using only the iPad app. The app will take you to the screen on your TV that shows the program listing, but you still have to hit select on your standard Comcast remote. I also found that you can’t tune to a channel if your TV is in On Demand mode or if you have a DVR menu up. Speaking of DVR, the remote DVR function that lets you manage recordings isn’t integrated in the new Xfinity app. On the iPad, the app exports you to the Safari browser to access the myDVR Manager. Finally, the application crashed on me a couple of times as I tried to dig deeper into program descriptions. Restarting required surfing through menu screens again to return to the right page.
Comcast has been very clear that not only is it bringing the Xfinity TV app to the Android and Blackberry platforms next, but it’s also adding on-demand TV viewing to the experience soon. This is what Verizon is doing now with the Flex View app, though we don’t know how Comcast’s on-demand library for mobile devices will compare to its telco rival’s. Ultimately I’m hoping we’ll also see linear broadcasting, which Verizon has promised for the future, and access to DVR programming through some kind of syncing mechanism.
Aside from video availability, there is a big future for the Xfinity app in how much metadata it provides for different programs, and how it uses the web to link information across multiple databases. For example, I found out from the app about Summer Glau’s guest appearance on Chuck this week. A natural extension to the application would be to see it link to more information on Summer, including other current projects and potentially where I can watch other programming she’s in in the Comcast line-up. The web is an infinite source of information, and suddenly it’s all available in the wonderful world of IP.
Note: The screenshot above is from iTunes. The rest of the photos here are my own.