T-Mobile’s innovative and contentious video streaming compromise took additional heat this week … when it was disclosed that YouTube, a non-Binge On partner, is being served to customers at 480p by default – irrespective of LTE speed and coverage. As to how many customers noticed the reduced quality on their own or are aware they can opt out of Binge On, we just don’t know.

Google’s YouTube complaint:

Reducing data charges can be good for users, but it doesn’t justify throttling all video services, especially without explicit user consent

And T-Mobile’s response:

Using the term “throttle” is misleading. A better phrase is “mobile optimized” or a less flattering “downgraded” is also accurate.

I assume most consumers are satisfied with T-Mobile’s favorable rates over lesser quality cellularly-served video given the relatively small screens and abundance of WiFi. But it’ll be interesting to see if this runs afoul of FCC net neutrality guidance, should the situation escalate and despite their initial blessing.

Hack Thyself

Dave Zatz —  January 1, 2016

Like Chipotle and Honda before them… “Jessica Jones” took over Netflix’s Twitter account today.

As Comcast, the nation’s largest cable provider, continues to transition from MPEG-2 to more efficient MPEG-4 video delivery, TiVo is walking back plans to abandon legacy hardware.

Whereas TiVo Series 3 and HD owners were originally told (in dramatic fashion) to upgrade their DVRs (at a cost, of course), I assume the fear of significant stand-alone customer defections motivated the company to rethink their approach … and they’re now engineering a solution to retrofit TiVo HD hardware.

TiVo HD and TiVo HD XL: TiVo is working on a software update which will bring MPEG4 capability to TiVo HD DVRs. Customers can expect this update sometime in the first half of 2016.

The original Series 3 is still out of luck as far as MPEG4 goes and both platforms are smarting from the loss of Amazon and YouTube video. Yet, I’d wager that most these TiVo owners have had a great 7-10 year run — a span pretty much unheard of in this space.

(Thanks Mike!)

Deal of the Day: $30 off Apple TV

Dave Zatz —  December 26, 2015

While it may be a few years before we once again “watch TV”, my new blessed reality clearly hasn’t slowed me from acquiring gadgets. So, although I missed out on Target’s limited Black Friday inventory, I just ordered Apple TV on sale from… RadioShack’s zombie corpse. This $120 deal drops $30 off MSRP and bundles an HDMI cable of unknown length and provenance.

appletv-deal

Of course, what sets the new Apple TV apart from its predecessors is a full-fledged and open (vs curated) app store along with a premium touch sensitive remote that also sports Siri voice control. Apple offers both 32GB and 64GB models, but the extra space doesn’t yet seem useful and the 32GB is probably suitable for most… for now. The Roku 2 (2015) is still the streamer I most frequently recommend given the broad app selection, simple but efficient interface, at a very attractive price point ($60-70). However, until or unless Roku migrates their platform to Android, Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV offerings will potentially be richer and more capable.

(Thanks Bryan A!)

Where’s Dave?

Dave Zatz —  December 21, 2015

Yes, the blog has been quiet. And it’s likely my already low output will further decrease in the short-term as, after five long years…Eliana, our sweet, magical little miracle baby has arrived!

eliana

Despite working so hard towards this goal and the vast majority of our circle having children, we’ve clearly only understood parenthood on an abstract level — no matter how good our time management and organization, we’ll be playing catch up for quite awhile. But I couldn’t be happier about it. :)

DISH Wally Headed To CES

Dave Zatz —  December 14, 2015

As originally revealed, Echostar has been prepping an unsurprising Hopper 3… alongside the mysterious new DISH Wally. And, mere weeks ahead of CES, details have started to trickle out.

dish-wally

The single tuner Wally satellite receiver may be targeted towards small business, in addition to secondary rooms, and will run only $7/mo in rental fees. The non-DVR STB includes HEVC decoding capabilities, although it’s unknown if this is geared towards linear programming or the advertised raft of apps within its “brand-new user interface.” Given the available intel, we suspect Wally is the DISH 211 heir apparent sporting the Hopper UI.

Giving or getting a Roku this Christmas? The streaming pioneer has lined up an impressive array of free trials. Some of the more compelling offerings:

  • Hulu – 3 months free
  • HBO Now – 1 month free
  • Netflix – 1 month free
  • Showtime – 1 month free
  • CinemaNow – 3 movie rentals

hulu-trial

Some of the promos, like Netflix can be applied to (certain) existing accounts, whereas Hulu and HBO require new identities. But while the terms may slightly vary, the bottom line is you’re going to need to link up a Roku account with your credit card and remember to cancel any subscription before the trial is up. Unless you’re so enamored with the service you choose to carry on — which, of course, is their hope.

Having recently outfitted both our kitchen and guest bedroom with 32″ Roku TVs, I took advantage of the Hulu trial. Despite the commercial interruption, we thoroughly enjoyed the first season of Manhattan and are currently bingeing the Hulu-original Casual. We have until 1/16 to activate any of the others before the promotion period expires… and it sounds like I’ll want to catch up on new seasons of Showtime’s Homeland and The Affair.

Philips just released firmware for the Philips Hue bridge that may permanently sever access to any “non-approved” ZigBee bulbs. We previously covered third party support in January 2015, when Philips indicated it was not blocked – and have since benefited.

hue-zigbee-faq

The recent change seems to suggest any non-Philips bulbs from manufacturers such as Cree, GE, and Osram will not be supported in many situations, whereas “Friends of Hue” branded product are. At the time of publication, it’s unclear whether 3rd party bulbs will stop working immediately after the firmware update or if they may only become inaccessible after the bridge is reset. We’re also not sure if being “reset” means rebooted or factory reset. This appears to apply to both the round v1 bridge and square v2 HomeKit-compatible bridge after the latest firmware update is applied. Continue Reading…