Xfinity TV App for iPhone and iPad
Tonight I downloaded the new Xfinity apps for iPhone and iPad from the iTunes App store. Comcast first offered its popular communications app on the iTunes Store in 2009, which enables customers to view integrated email, voice mail, receive home voice mail alerts and manage calendars, among other features. But the new Xfinity TV app is nothing like the orignal Comcast app.
According to Comcast with the Xfinity app you can:
- Browse and discover video content from either TV listings or selections from the On Demand library in a rich user interface with colorful poster art and details.
- Use it as a TV guide so, in just a few finger taps, users can find what to watch by reviewing their TV listings and change the channel in real time.
- Program their DVRs to record TV shows, series and movies so they never miss their favorites.
- Sort content based on different filters like Networks and Genres such as Movies, Kids, Sports, or by HD content.
- Search by keyword or by title A-Z in TV listings or On Demand.
- Watch movies and TV shows directly on the iPad anytime, anywhere (coming in December).
- Personalize viewing with a “MyTV” feature to create a “Watchlist” of favorite TV shows and movies (coming soon).
- Seamlessly access social networking sites to share what they’re watching with others (coming soon).
After using both the iPhone and iPad apps for a few hours I am impressed. Now, if you really like trying to find something to watch using the current Comcast STB guide and your current remote control, these apps might not be for you. However, if you are like most people, you’ve never liked the STB based guide, it’s slow, not particularly well organized and difficult to search.
Finding Something to Watch
Finding programs to watch is a snap. You can scroll through the guide visually applying filters for HD, movies, sports and kids programs. You can also search for programs by keyword. This was always awkward and difficult to do on the STB guide. Entering text one character at a time via remote control was a error prone and non-intuitive way to find something to watch. Contrast that experience with the excellent user interface of the Xfinity TV apps. For example, the ability to see visually program information, including enhanced program metadata is very helpful. The filtering and searching functions are surprisingly fast. I believe this is due to the app locally caching Electronic Program Guide (EPG) data on the iPhone/iPad. Once you find the program you can click to “Watch on TV”, record an individual episode or record a series.
Best Remote Control Ever?
I always watch TV with my iPhone right by my side. I’m increasingly watching TV with an iPad in hand. Often this is the best way to do quick some quick research or fire off a quick email while watching TV. Now I can find programming to watch and actually control my STB right from my phone. Now Comcast didn’t magically add infrared (iR) capabilities to your iPhone, but by selecting a program to watch, you send a command to your STB to change the channel and instantly it does. It seems like a little bit of magic, but in reality is due to the magic of Internet Protocol. Yes, even your coax connected STB has an IP address. I don’t have access to all of the technical details about how channel changing is accomplished, but it’s good to see the Comcast team is definitely thinking outside the set-top box.
My only criticism is that the Xfinity TV app can’t control my TV. That means I have to reach for the universal remote control if I want to turn the volume up or down. The fault lies with the hardware and not the Xfinity TV app. There are no IR ports on the iPhone and iPad and I don’t expect there to be any time soon. When Comcast releases versions for other devices, this shortcoming might be resolved.
Over the Top of OTT
The current version does not appear to allow streaming to the iPhone or iPad, although Comcast has announced plans to do just that–at least for the iPad version. It will be great to be able to access Comcast programming on the road, at the office or with a 3G enabled iPad, on the go. If Comcast can acquire content rights to lots of TV content and stream it to devices on the go, it’s tantamount to going over the top of the OTT guys (Netflix, Apple).
If Comcast supports Apple’s new AirPlay in iOS 4.2, one could, in theory, stream Comcast delivered content to an AppleTV box connected to your TV, and with the exception of DVR, obviate the need for a Comcast STB. Assuming more and more linear TV programing is available on demand, I wouldn’t mind losing the Comcast STB and the $15/mo fee (Yes, that’s 3 * $15/mo, although one STB is included in my Xfinity TV bundle).
More Platforms on the Way
Comcast will launch several Android™ apps this year and also plans to offer apps with similar functionality on as many different devices as possible including BlackBerry® and other smartphones, tablets, laptops and PCs.
Download the Xfinity TV apps at the iTunes App Store.