Nearly everyone in the world watches television, whether it be for five minutes a day to catch the news or to indulge in a favorite show. Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video and other streaming services have tried to do away with traditional TV so you can conveniently watch it whenever you wish. The first two services even have some exclusive shows, but they’re far from watchable if you have any sense of taste. To that end, people continue to watch traditional TV because shows air there first, with a few exceptions.
For the people who need to find something to watch this evening, look up when the next episode of Doctor Who airs or need to know when to schedule TiVo for so as not to miss anything special, there are many an app for that. One in particular that interests me, however, is TV Guide Mobile. I know, when you hear that you think of an ugly website filled with too many canards. The app is actually much better though, starting with the design. Surely there’s more than that, right? Let’s find out.
Upon initial launch, TV Guide will ask you to sign in using Facebook, Google, Twitter or Yahoo!. Alternatively, you can tap the Use Your Email button to sign in or sign up with an email address the traditional way. If you don’t like giving your information to strange online companies that claim to guide you to your TV, tap Skip. In case you’re wondering, signing in will allow you to add actors, movies, shows and teams to your Watchlist, along with alerts and sharing features.
Things aren’t over yet: it’s time to enter your location, or just use your WiFi network/GPS to find where you are. If you’re using cable or satellite to receive all your favorite channels, tap your provider. I’m using an antenna, so I used that tab and selected the appropriate broadcast. There’s always the International tab if you’re outside the U.S. and need to find listings as well.
You can modify your provider by tapping the list icon in the top left corner of the main screen and tapping Change Provider.
Once everything’s set up you’ll be presented with a “Welcome to TV Guide!” screen that’s similar to a tutorial. Swipe to the right to make your way through the tour and meet me at the end of the tunnel.
Listings Aren’t All-Inclusive
The app starts in the Tonight tab, which displays everything that’s on from 8 to 11:59 PM — at least, it should display everything. I’ve found that national channels — CBS, NBC and MyNetwork, to name a few — don’t show up on the listings. Now why would they leave out the most watched channels on TV? To find out what’s playing on the aforementioned networks and others after 8 PM, you have to go to the Listings tab, tap the date at the top and tap Prime Time. All this should be available in the Tonight tab, though. There’s no reason to exclude it.
Moving on to individual listing info, the Tonight tab doesn’t offer much data compared to the Listings tab. In fact, when you tap a show in Tonight, it has a fancy little info pane that appears below it. I really like this and it should be in Listings as well. Apparently, the designer thought it wouldn’t fit though, because episodes you tap there will bring up a separate page featuring the exact runtime, season and episode number, original air date, a description of the episode, an I’ll Watch button for sharing, and alert settings.
The Listings tab has detailed information on everything, but the navigation could be better. It should use the same slide-out info pane as the Tonight tab, for one thing. Swiping up, down, left and right is a good way to get things done initially with a pull-to-refresh function to make sure everything’s up-to-date. The advertisements, which I will talk about later, take up space on the screen where there could be more listings. It’s pretty unproductive.
The second main function TV Guide Mobile hopes to provide is find videos around the Web for you to watch. In the videos tab you’ll find editors’ picks, sneak peeks and other popular stuff. Unfortunately, you can’t play any of these in the app and it’ll offer sources including ABC, Hulu and iTunes which, when tapped, will take you to the App Store or iTunes app to either purchase an episode or download an app for watching. The only video available in this app is TVGuide.com’s Watchlist.
It looks like TV Guide wants this feature to help people discover videos. I can’t really see how that works since all it does is suggest where to buy or watch them elsewhere. There are also way too many mini-tabs containing categories of videos that should fit every need. They take too long to sort through, and in the end offer few prospects to the average viewer. You’d be far better off going to IMDb for this.
A Beautiful User Interface, Except the Ads
TV Guide Mobile was redesigned back in August to appeal to the more modern crowd. It’s a welcomed change in most areas, but some images aren’t optimized for the iPhone’s Retina display, and they obviously look even worse on the iPad. Still, I enjoy a texturized user interface that uses nice shades of blue since it’s easy on the eyes. Some areas, like the information screen in Listings, are light on contrast and hard to read at times, though. Blue text on a blue surface doesn’t work well.
My main problem with TV Guide Mobile is its advertisements. They’re banners that take up 100 pixels vertically. I don’t usually have a problem with ads, so long as they’re Retina optimized. These aren’t and it irks me. Advertisements are part of free apps and I understand that, but when they’re not optimized for the display, that’s annoying. TV Guide could at least use iAds; right now it uses Google AdWords. Additionally, how about a way to remove them entirely? A monthly subscription or in-app purchase, perhaps? I know I’m not the only one who’d appreciate that.
I didn’t hate using this app. It was good and has potential to grow. In its current state though, the only reason to use it over something like IMDb is because you need to know the local channel a show is airing on. Even then, IMDb’s app has an On Tonight feature that shows the channel, so long as you know what the number is for your TV. Plus, it has less disruptive ads.
That’s my recommendation. TV Guide Mobile still has a ways to go before I can suggest it.