For a long time I’ve been using the U-verse app on my iPhone. I’d use it to record shows I remembered I wanted to watch while on the road, or double-check I had the football game set to record. But that’s it. The iPad version was much the same, just a blown up version of the iPhone app. I’d use it to quickly delete and managed recordings (can only handle so many Blue’s Clues on my DVR and removing them via the remote takes forever) and, thanks to the large screen, able to use the old style guide to scroll through the titles of what I might want to watch. But that was it. I didn’t have a U-verse 300 plan to take advantage of any of the “on the go” programing. I couldn’t use it to actually control my set-top box even though ATT builds in network access control into each box. I had to use a 3rd party app (BuddyTV) to take advantage of ATTs own features.
But this latest iPad update looks to take advantage of everything ATT seemed to promise from previous versions.
It looks like ATT hasn’t touched the iPhone version yet (AT&T has updated iPhone app that now includes remote control options), but is the iPad app enough to satisfy u-verse customers?
- Free (requires u-verse TV to use)
- iPad Native
- Updated: Jan 06, 2012
When I saw the update come down on my iPad I said “FINALLY!”… and then realized that the iPhone version wasn’t updated. Bummer. But the iPad app seemed to be offering a lot of the features that I was always expecting in a system that was, for all purposes, an IPTV house system. I’m not going to review the iPhone app here, as I’m desperately hoping they are just working out the inks to update it.
OK… so what do I want out of a cable app?
There’s been a lot of talk about iPad apps for Cable companies. Cable vision lets you watch TV on your iPad (as long as you’re at home), Time Warner has a similar app. So what actually do I want from a iPad TV app? The ability to find TV shows, as well as quickly view what’s on TV (in case I’m bored). Since ATT has a built-in DVR, I’d want to be able to add, delete and control what and when things are recorded. Being able to watch those DVR shows (even if while on the home network) would be a plus. Ability to control my cable box (channels, managing the DVR, etc.) would be even better. Basically looking for something to either be the TV or at the very least be the “second screen” to the TV. Does the u-verse app deliver? Almost.
So let’s walk through using this thing…
The app is divided into 4 sections: Browse TV, Guide, Recordings, & On Demand. As well 2 “hidden” functions: The ability to explore and a built-in remote. Also the App works in both landscape and portrait mode although it has the exact same layouts.
The first thing you are going to want to do is set up your home’s ATT u-verse boxes to play nice with this new app. I’ve done this before with BuddyTV and the steps are pretty identical. Tap the settings gear up to, and choose receivers. When you choose to add a receiver it walks you through setting up the box to accept network connections. Simply turn to channel 9301 and allow the on-screen instructions. Once that’s set up you can choose which of the boxes you want to control. Move into another room? Simply tap that receiver, and now you have control over that one.
The Help menu is also quite helpful, more so than anything u-verse has had before, and better than most apps I’ve seen. It has a full user guide that’s dividing into easy to understand sections, complete with images and links to more information outside the app.
Also available in settings are parental controls (just for this app), and default recording settings, how to use 3G data. There is also setting to only see HD shows and/or New shows in your listings.
The Browse TV section is main screen you start at. It’s a new, and welcome feature, in this app. It shows you what is on right now, as well as a quick blurb of what that show’s episode is about. The cover flow like top allows you to quickly scroll through all the channels. You have the option to view everything, or just the HD channels. As this app requires you to sign in with your u-verse account, it knows what channels you have wand those you don’t so you aren’t seeing every channel, just the ones you can actually watch. There’s even integration with Yahoo’s TV/Movie reviews with the average ratings for everything you might want to watch.
But it’s more than just a guide. It’s a launcher as well. Each show has 4 options available to you. The first is what all apps seem to be doing – the social thing. There’s a Facebook button which allows you to send a post to your wall about a show (although that appears to be it, no links or anything). You can mark something to be recorded. If you are on your home network you can click a button and set it to that channel. And lastly a feature to “Explore”.
The explore feature is something that’s available from any place that you can select a show. It gives you a cast and crew list, and photos. You can see any upcoming episodes (which you can narrow down by specific channel if you want) in the schedule section. It has a full episode list, sorted by season. Each episode you can see a summary, if it’s available on demand, or if it’s being shown on TV in the next 2 weeks. You can also choose to record any of the episodes individually, or if it’s airing now jump right to that channel.
Very, very full featured. If there’s anything you might want to know about the show it’s probably in here. Oddly they may have over done I, as I couldn’t imagine using all the features built into this section of the app… but glad it’s there if I ever need it.
The guide is everything you’d expect. You can view it in traditional grid view, favorites, or HD only channels. Since you’re linked with your u-verse account, you only see those channels you currently subscribe to. Moving around is also pretty straight forward. Swipe left or right to move the time, and up and down for the channels. Clicking the Date button will allow you to jump to a specific date and time, right now, or that date’s Prime Time. Selecting “Jump to Channel” also does exactly what you think.
Selecting a show in the guide will bring up brings up a mini “explore” view with all the same options – record, explore, Facebook, info, ratings, and a star for favorites. Clicking the star will add it to your list of favorite shows. If you are on your home network, and viewing something currently on, you can change your TV to that channel by clicking “Watch now”. Also for those at home, whatever channel you are watching is highlighted on the side.
Recordings are split into Recorded Shows, and Scheduled Shows. Both are very similarly set up. On the left is a column of all the shows. You can organize it by date or by series. On the right is a description of show, and favorite marker. You can also set or change the recording for the entire series here. Underneath that is a list that changes depending which section you are in.
For the recorded section that list includes all the episodes that you already have on your DVR, as well as an option to delete the individual recording. If at home, you can choose to watch it on whatever TV you have connected to the app. For the Scheduled tab the list will show all the upcoming episodes you have set to record, with information on when and what channels the recording will take place, and the option to cancel it.
• Remote Control
If you’ve been paying attention to the images, you might have noticed the little remote icon in the upper right corner. This gives you full access to your ATT u-verse box. On top of the remote is what TV your connect to as well as whatever show is currently on the channel or recording your watching. On small note: If you have paused the live TV feed, it shows what’s on “now” not what you are viewing. Minor annoyance but something I’d thought I’d mention. The rest of the remote is divided into three sections – Remote buttons, Number Pad, and Gestures.
The remote button section is all the non standard number features of the u-verse remote, and numbers pad is everything else. Interestingly, but understandably, missing is the ability to control the volume. The interesting section is gestures, which is a trackpad area which allows you to swipe to accomplish actions. The BuddyTV app I had been using had that as well, but I found myself (and still do) using the physical buttons more often.
First off what this is not. It is not a way to view your record shows on your iPad. Nor is it a way to view live TV on your iPad. Many of the other cable companies offer this with their apps, and I’m not sure what’s preventing ATT from following suit. Even if it requires you to be on your home network, the ability to view those two things would be quite nice. At the moment I need to use my Slingbox to accomplish these tasks, and would be nice if it would just stream directly.
However it does take advantage of the ATT channel on demand feature. Many of the channels allow users to view certain number of episodes of a show or movies that they offer within a time frame. The iPad app allows you to view any of these directly on your iPad, whether you are at home or not. However you only have access to those channels you subscribe to. So for me, that means basically no movies as I’m on the 200 plan. For those with premium channels you have access to the entire online catalog.
For all the downsides this, however, is an upgrade at least from how “On Demand” used to work. Before it required a 300 or better plan. So the ability to view even some shows is welcomed.
TLDR… Do I Want it?
Overall this is a welcome upgrade. The ability to control the TV is a huge bonus. Being able to both jump to any channel, recording, or show that I may want via the app is incredibly useful. The Browse TV feature allows users a smooth and easy experience to select and view everything currently on your TV. The Explore feature succeeds as a very informative breakdown of the movies and shows. Hopefully ATT will be able to add some of the features and figure a way to upgrade the iPhone app to match (especially the remote feature).
Although the inability to view Live TV and Recordings directly on the app would be nice, it’s not enough of a missing feature to not use it. Really the only true downside to the TV viewing experience is you can’t control the volume from it so you will still need a remote control near-by.
For those with an iPad and u-verse, this app succeeds as a TV second screen device. Definitely worth a try.
I realized I did this entire post… and forgot to talk about the searching function. It does have a good searching function
, and I’ll create a mini post about it shortly. The search function is up. Enjoy.