I have nearly 200 apps on my iPhone, but a mere few are what I consider staples. For instance, Pocket Casts has been my preferred podcast management app since I can remember, and no other app has come close to unseating it from my phone. But no app is sacred, and can be removed in favor of another; as much as I loved Tweetbot, Twitter ultimately became my go-to Twitter app for a number of reasons.
After such a dramatic introduction, you may be wondering where I’m going with this thing. A few months ago, I reviewed TVShow Time, an app designed to track your favorite TV shows. I was so smitten with the app that I called it the best in its category. Since then, a new challenger — iShows — has tossed its hat in the ring in hopes of becoming the top TV show tracking app on iOS. Let’s find out if iShows has what it takes to achieve such a lofty goal.
Unlike TVShow Time, and some other show tracking apps, iShows does not require you (or offer the ability) to create an account. Instead, when you fire up the app for the first time, your first task is to add shows to track. The Find Shows view displays a list of trending shows, in which you’ll encounter many popular programs like Dexter, Breaking Bad and Doctor Who. If a show you wish to track isn’t listed, you can enter the show’s title into the search field. Tapping the + icon next to a show will at it to your following list.
I found the Trending list to be very convenient for adding most of the shows I watch, which I was able to accomplish in a just a few minutes. Coming from TVShow Time, I definitely missed the plethora of filter options to better narrow down show types, but the the trending list, as is, will be good enough for most individuals. The only issue I encountered was finding myself idly waiting for the app to load show options before I could make a selection, which occurred in a few instances.
Marking Episodes as Seen
After adding shows to follow, your next step should be to go through each one and mark the last episode you’ve seen. Typically, this is a rather painful process in most show tracking apps, which requires you to mark episodes individually — leading the hundreds to taps. TVShow Time’s use of sliders to perform this task is one of the reasons I gave it such high praise, but iShows makes it even more simple.
If you’ve seen all episodes of Doctor Who, navigate to the Episode view by tapping the show in the Following view and then swipe left (or tap the list icon in the upper-right), and then tap the eye icon next to the the last episode in season 7 to mark it as seen. All previous episodes are automatically marked as seen as well. So, if you’re the type that skips around while watching a show, iShows may not the right app for you.
Once you’ve finished updating the progress of each show you watch, the Following view will provide some useful tracking information that would otherwise defeat the point of the app. By default, the view displays shows in the order they were added. From here you can long press and hold a show to select it, and then drag it to the position of your choosing. If alphabetizing is your game, no need set up your list manually, as you can tap the gear icon in the upper-left and toggle the Alphabetical Sorting option. I personally find the Next Episode sorting option to be the most useful, which sorts your shows by when (you guessed it) the next episodes airs.
The Following view includes two layout options — list and grid. Both options are well designed, but I find list to be the better choice. This is because the shows are easier to distinguish from one another, and show information (i.e. episode title and airdate) has better spacing and doesn’t get cut off like it does in the grid layout. One unique, and really cool, feature in iShows is the ability to change show art. Simply swipe right on the current art and scroll through until you find your preferred image, which you’ll need to tap to complete the task.
If you wish to be notified when new episodes are set to air, iShows includes a rudimentary notification feature that allows you to select a specific hour to be notified (e.g. you’ll can be notified at 10 a.m. of all shows set to air the same day). In addition, you’ll need to swipe left and tap the clock icon for each show you wish to be notified about. While useful, iShows implementation of notifications pails in comparison to TVShow Time’s highly configurable notification options, which offers the ability of being notified at a specific time for each individual show.
Design & Navigation
Like most apps in their initial release, iShows isn’t quite as featured packed as it would be in future releases, which I’ll get into a bit later. However, I’ve found that initial release or not, there’s no reason for an app to be lacking a quality design and navigation scheme, and iShows doesn’t disappoint. First off, the minimal design is fantastic, allowing the app’s content to take precedence over everything else. IShows also offers two themes — light and dark — which can changed in the settings or by long pressing two fingers from anywhere in the app.
Navigation is based on a three tier setup, with the left tier housing the Following and Find Shows view (the Setting view is accessed from this tier, but exists on its own layer). The middle tier is accessed by tapping on a show in the Following/Find Shows view, and displays either show details or episode information. Finally, the right tier is home only to the Episode view. I found this system to flow wonderfully as I transitioned back and forth between tasks.
The Bottom Line
IShows is a prime example of when a brand new app can come out of nowhere to upstage those that are already well established. Interacting with iShows is a pleasure, and I never found myself wondering how to perform a task. Top that all off with a design that is pure eye candy.
As much as I like iShows, there are a few more features that would be beneficial if added in a future update, both of which are lists. The first is a list of missed episodes, allowing you to see episodes for all your shows that you’ve yet to mark as seen. The second is a list of upcoming shows to watch, which would help get an idea of all the new episodes set to air on a given day or week.