As part of the iPhone’s reach into every and any part of our daily lives previously unexplored by phones, TV guide apps are well represented. With a snappy interface, hooks into Facebook and Twitter and the killer feature of Sky’s Remote Record, a TV guide could just be the most useful application on your iPhone.
Consider you’re on your commute home and you’re passing through a busy train station, and an advert for an upcoming show catches your eye. If you’re anything like how I used to be, you’ll sternly remind yourself to either watch it or more likely “Plus It” on Sky+HD when you get home. If you are indeed anything like me, it’s around 3 seconds after that thought has formed that you notice that you’ve missed your train because you’re at the wrong platform and the mental note has already been flushed from your feeble mind.
Let’s flip to an alternate reality; let’s call it, say…”Reality with an iPhone”. You don’t have to use your memory, brain power nor any higher mental faculty at all, you simply need to draw your iPhone and open up a TV guide app. Bonza. But which? I use three.
TV Guide provides at first a list with a snapshot of six channels, what’s on now and the next two shows plus a rating of each show alongside it. A rather rich snapshot which can be flipped in favour of a more classic grid which works well in landscape mode. It also provides the priceless Remote Record functionality for Sky users (requiring an account on the Sky website).
Of course this is bread & butter for a TV Guide app; the real value for me in TV Guide is the interaction with the Calendar App (refer to previous example of non-existent memory and concentration) and Facebook. Look if Batman Begins is on in the next few days and I share when and which channel with my geeky mates then they’re gonna respect me, ok?
The Sky+ app is the latest official offering from Sky TV and is a huge improvement in look and performance over the original app, which sported the look and feel of the pre-HD Sky yellow and blue EPG with latency to match. The newer app forces a category selection upon opening when really it would be nicer just to start seeing what’s on at the moment (both are shown above). Once a category is chosen, i.e. HD, Sky+ sports a similar list to the TV Guide app, but with less detail. There are no hooks into other apps here, though there are options to manage your Sky profile and even upgrade your package from your iPhone. Murdoch never misses a beat. Something that can be relied upon in the Sky+ app however is the Remote Record, as one might expect.
Finally FindMeTV, is the most rounded app of the three and offers easily the best interface. As well as well-proportioned multi-channel listing (similar to TV Guide but not as detailed) or landscape grid, FindMeTV stays in portrait and shows one channel at a time with easy options along the top to navigate to another channel or indeed any day in the week ahead. It works very very nicely and sports a fast search as well as the option to download listings. There’s also a useful “My TV” view which displays those shows flagged as favourites or to be remote recorded, and the option to sync this information plus channel choice with the FindMeTV website. The move to FindMeTV seems to have left the functionality exactly the same but enforced a garish pink theme that detracts from the otherwise simple and effective interface.
So why do I need all three?
When I want to find a show, I use the search in FindMeTV as it is quick, easy and the interface is excellent. When I want to record that show in FindMeTV and it fails, I use Sky+ and the Remote Record always works. When I want to let my geeks and nerds alike know that a movie they’ll want to watch too that their partners won’t, I use TV Guide to feed it to Facebook.
A perfectly balanced trinity, but is it too much to ask for this to be wrapped up in one app? Seriously; even though I used my iPhone instead of my sieve-like memory after seeing that TV advert by the time I’ve gone through all three apps, I’ve still missed my train.