Late last night, an updated SlingPlayer Mobile for iPhone was released to the App Store. And the refreshed placeshifting software inherits two notable features from its iPad big brother… the new program guide and, much more significantly, higher resolution streaming — I’m thinking in the neighborhood of 640×480 and utilizing H.264 encoding. Which is why only the newer, more capable Slingbox SOLO and PRO-HD units can provide it.
Unfortunately, I’m not in the position to test much of anything at the moment. While I’ve downloaded the update, my PRO-HD (and a ton of other gear) is boxed up in the basement after the big move. So we’re counting on the ZNF community to share their experiences in the comments.
First revealed as the Slingbox 700u at CES back in January, the smallest, sleekest Echostar placeshifter is now available to DISH Network customers for a low $99. And it’s the tight integration with DISH DVR hardware that allows the “Sling Adapter” to shed so much bulk… and cable clutter. Whereas an agnostic Slingbox requires video and network connectivity, along with an IR blaster and power adapter, the Sling Adapter requires a single USB cable to facilitate the broadcast of your television content around the home and beyond. However, Sling Adapter access is currently limited to web browsers on Windows or Mac OS X. Versus all the various options (web, OS X or Windows software, mobile clients) available to Slingbox customers. Lastly, the Sling Adapter only brings placeshifting capabilities to ViP 722 and 722k DISH hardware. Which might be OK as literally millions of these units have been deployed and this model DVR is standard for new customers (at no charge).
We’re still not quite there… but getting closer to the highly anticipated SlingPlayer Mobile for iPad ($30).
As previously discussed, this isn’t an enhanced iPhone Slingbox client – but rather an entirely new app that’s reworked to stream at the more efficient (for Apple devices) H.264. Additionally, I’ve confirmed with Sling Media that the maximum native resolution has been upped to 640×480.
As you can see above or below, the iPad SlingPlayer UI is quite different from what we currently see within the iPhone app. The video perimeter looks like it can get pretty busy with buttons. However, it beats dropping them on top of video content and a simple tap seems to clears them at will. Additionally, unlike what we saw at the iPhone client launch, this iPad app appears to ship with a full complement of aspect ratio toggles. Perhaps it’s heresy, but (on screen sizes these small) I prefer stretching and cropping to black bars. So I’m happy to see them fill the entire 10″ iPad display with video. Lastly, there’s a new EPG for navigating live content.
While the upcoming SlingPlayer iPad app isn’t an Universal build, I’ve learned that Sling’s existing iPhone client will see an upgrade in the near future — delivering some of these iPad features, including both the new guide and H.264 streaming. Which may mean some of you will need to upgrade to current Slingbox hardware (SOLO, PRO-HD) to partake.
Unfortunately, we don’t have a SlingPlayer Mobile for iPad release date and the software hasn’t yet been submitted to the App Store for review. However, Sling intends to do so “in the very near future” once they work through a few lingering items… like what streaming resolution they’ll facilitate over 3G (versus WiFi). In fact, they assure me the app will “definitely” be available this year.
Believe it or not, I’ve read each of the 22,896 comments (plus countless spam) left here on ZNF. And yesterday we got a great tip in response to the forthcoming iPad Slingplayer… that requires owners of earlier generation Slingbox placeshifters upgrade to the SOLO or PRO-HD. But wait, it’s not just the new iPad Slingbox client that requires newer hardware. It turns out I overlooked that same upgrade tidbit in relation to the new Windows Phone 7 software.
As we’ve previously discussed, I suspect this new line in the sand is both a technological and business decision. Regardless of how we got here, there’s probably a large number of disgruntled Slingbox owners exploring their upgrade options. So this $80 Slingbox SOLO deal from OfficeMax, with free shipping, is probably the best your going to get. In fact, I can’t recall seeing ever seeing new SOLO hardware listed under $110. For comparison purposes, Sling’s own upgrade program prices the SOLO at $130 and Gazelle.com will buy a brand new one from you for $82.
The Slingbox folks sent out an email newsletter yesterday indicating that SlingPlayer Mobile for iPad is “about to launch” and “Almost Here!”
Like other Slingbox mobile clients, whenever it lands, it’ll run $30. And it sounds like they’re finally moving to H.264 for iPad streaming to provide higher resolutions and hopefully a more responsive client – versus their existing iPhone app. Speaking of that original app, it’s not being (immediately?) replaced. And if you own an older Slingbox (Classic, AV, Tuner, PRO), that’s the Apple software you’ll be stuck with. As the new iPad client requires a Slingbox SOLO or PRO-HD… in what I presume to be both a technological and business decision. Regardless, I hope the existing iPhone client is eventually replaced so it too will experience more efficient and higher def video playback.
For Sling aficionados, this pre-announcement isn’t exactly a surprise… as the same details were dropped into their forums back on October 5th. Click to enlarge:
The first SlingPlayer Mobile client was built on Windows Mobile and Sling has largely relied on Microsoft’s Windows Media Video (WMV) technology over the years, so a Windows Phone 7 client shouldn’t come as a surprise. However, one very interesting nugget from the video above is reaffirmation that the current 320×240 max streaming resolution for mobile clients is about to be superseded. Given the processors and screen resolutions found on todays handsets, Sling can surely do better. And I’ve confirmed with the company that the Windows Phone 7 client will natively stream up to 640×480. Although, no details on timing or pricing were revealed.
Has anyone been successful at getting SlingPlayer or SlingPlayerWeb to control a Tivo Premiere? In the player setup, there are no choices for Tivo Premiere or Tivo Series 4.
This should have been a trivial question to answer, even though Sling hasn’t yet published an official virtual remote for the Premiere. Because TiVo’s IR codes and general remote layout are pretty consistent amongst their hardware lineup, classifying the Premiere as a TiVo Series3 or HD for the Slingbox should have handled just about everything other than the four OCAP shortcut buttons. However, after perusing Stephen’s lengthy transcript with Sling Media’s tech support, I realized something was amiss. And, unfortunately, Christina wasn’t able to deviate much from her script to identify that Sling has a problem on their end.
As it turns out, Sling’s online database of IR codes and remote skins has been corrupted or rolled back in some way. Perhaps related to their horribly botched data center migration that resulted in a week or so of downtime for many. Basically, in attempts to set up the AV source via Sling.com as two different TiVo models the remote skins were blanked out and non-functional in several ways/places.
What I did to resolve this problem was to set up the DVR (as a Series 3) in Sling’s stand-alone OS X software client. Once done, I headed back to Sling.com where the remote renders and works properly as seen below.
After a somewhat protracted (and public) lead-up, SlingPlayer Mobile for Android will enter the Market late tonight. Priced at the same $29.99 as Sling’s other mobile clients (and maybe 1/3rd too much in the current app environment), SlingPlayer Mobile allows you to stream your home television over 3G or WiFi while on the go with the assistance of a Slingbox. Officially, the Slingbox SOLO, PRO, and PRO-HD are supported… but I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that some of the older units also get the job done.
Sling Media believes the new Android client provides their most polished mobile experience yet — with quicker app launching and channel changing, along with a refreshed UI. Check out Engadget’s video coverage of a beta build, shot last month, to see for yourself. While Sling wouldn’t give me the streaming resolution and codec details I was looking for, they did suggest video quality would be comparable to the iPhone client. Leading me to believe mobile Slinging still maxes out at 320×240, WMV. Hopefully, we’ll graduate to H.264 and higher resolutions at some point… perhaps divined via confirmation of upcoming iPad support.
Despite what appears to be fragmentation of the Android lanscape, Sling tells me they’ve successfully built and tested the new SlingPlayer on over a dozen handsets. So it’s safe to assume they’ve got the leading candidates (HTC Nexus One, HTC Incredible, HTC EVO, Motorola Droid, etc) covered.