Hands On: The Xfinity TV iPad App

Comcast Xfinity TV iPad app guide listingsComcast launched the Xfinity TV app to much fanfare today, 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.

The Good
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.

The Bad
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.

The Future
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.

16 thoughts on “Hands On: The Xfinity TV iPad App”

  1. “but you still have to hit select on your standard Comcast remote”

    sounds like a simple job for a slingbox remote app. Sad to have to use two devices in conjunction, but if one can then stream with XFINITY AND BEYOND after the simple select, seems like an easy enough fix.

  2. Of course it doesn’t support the ComcastTivo box — what was I thinking it would … *sigh* … at least not on the iPhone version.

  3. What is odd that during setup it gave the option of Comcast/Cablecard, but that basically neuters the app and limits it to TV listings.

  4. My review is less positive, but regardless its a good start. I had trouble logging in (not the only one from the posts on Engadget) and had to try multiple times. Kept getting “Unknown failures” until it finally worked.

    App crashed on my several times.

    The ability to filter so it shows only HD stations is HUGE, but the inability to tweak the channel lineup (something Comcast presumably won’t do, since they want you to see the listings for channels you don’t currently pay for) is a big problem. I have to scan through tons of channels I don’t even get. Stupid. I can do it with other iPad guide apps, which means that for the moment those work better for me.

    Also the amount of guide data was pretty minimal. No indication in the guide of what’s new vs. repeat. You have to click on a show and look for ‘New’ in the description. Very little data on the show–less than 20 words of text, no cast, no episode number, season number, original airdate, nothing. Again, not competitive with applications that are already in the iTunes store (What’s On TV? HD say).

    The implementation for the guide is better than the On Demand part though, which is where they really need something given the horrid experience the blue pills menus on your STBs currrently offer. Half the screen is always taken up with the description of some show, in my case one on a channel I don’t even get. Which means the bottom half has room for only one row of 5 shows. Seriously? On an iPad?

    In the On Demand UI you have to pick the show by the Season Number and Episode Number. No airdates, no descriptions. Exactly the opposite of what you get in the TV Guide part. Weird. Again, more metadata please.

    Again it shows me all sorts of stuff I can’t get, since I don’t subscribe to those channels. I had to log in, why doesn’t it know my channel lineup?

    And like you say the whole in/out thing which requires you to use the Comcast remote twice, once at the start, then once at the end, is pretty hokey.

    I’ll come back when they offer streaming to the iPad. For now its just a good start.

  5. I think this is a step in the right direction. It’s certainly easier to program a flashy full featured GUI on an iPad/iPhone and keep it updated, so using the mobile devices as “companions” to the dated guide on the cable box is a very welcome addition to the products and services offered.

    I moved just outside of a Comcast area, however I downloaded this app just to check it out anyway. The guide and on demand listings are much smoother and better looking than the Comcast Mobile app with the DVR recording feature. Overall I think this is a good look and again a great start at something huge. As far as I’m concerned, they should bridge the original Comcast mobile app into this xfinity app so that you can do your DVR management, E-mail management and Digital Voice management all in one place, with this updated, smoother UI.

    I’m toying with IP Control on DirecTV set tops now on CE release 0x448 on my HR24-200. It’s nice to be able to control your equipment via an iphone or ipad by hitting it up through IP. I’d imagine that the Comcast solution has a feature built into I-Guide A28 that can accept these messages over the OOB channel to tune in what you selected on your mobile device. Scientific Atlanta/Cisco users are left out on this feature for now.

    As far as all the pieces that require this control to work, that I am unsure of. There are some Motorola headends where people are reporting no sucess in controlling their set top. There is a thread over at Broadbandreports regarding this app. Set top control at this point is a mixed bag. http://www.dslreports.com/forum/r25077885-New-XFINITY-TV-App-ipad-iphone-ipod-touch-

  6. As far as this not working with Tivo, that is to be expected. This is a software feature built into A28. I’m sure there is some web gateway application server cluster at Comcast which does some magic to find your compatable equipment and hit them through the Moto OM-1000/2000

    Sure Tivo has a Cable Card, but that just does channel map and decryption of services. The Tivo UI has control over the interface. If Tivo wants to make a simular app, it certainly is possible, as long as your Tivo is network connected they can do it two ways. Over the LAN, like DirecTV’s implementation (iphone/ipad over wifi to hit the Tivo directly at 192.168.x.x), or over Tivo’s servers through a Tivo based ‘proxy’. Both solutions require modifications to Tivo for the IP Control stack and if a proxy is involved, a small module written to log in and periodically send a heartbeat to the ‘proxy’.

  7. So the iPhone app can change the channel, including setting up an on demand session and everything, all over IP, but somehow Tivo can’t use IP to switch to an SDV channel.

    I call bullsh**.

  8. What a joke. Wheres the streaming. Why can’t I jump right to the station guide after I find a where I want to go. Setting up the Dvr’s doesn’t work(and requires you to Foto a standard site to set them up).

    Super inconvenient to use to reduce the time to move around. This is a buggy piece of junk. What were they thinking. Everything is disjointed. When you see the next generation of Apple tv, Google tv and new models like eqnetwork… How can Comcast be releasing alpa software that crashed 15 times in my firs use and requires me to re-authenticate 6 times between 3 or 4 different websites. Huh? Scramble and find other people that can deliver real software solution… Quick Comcast.

  9. For checking the lineup and changing channels, this app is perfect. Installed quick and easy and no problem logging in.

  10. Sooo, I can’t use my xfinity tv app while iny living room or something but I can use it while outside on my patio, so in that case why can’t I use it inside while someone is watching the main tv without going into a different room?

  11. Sooo, I can’t use my xfinity tv app while in my living room or something but I can use it while outside on my patio, so in that case why can’t I use it inside while someone is watching the main tv without going into a different room?

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