I've made no secret that one of my favorite apps for my iPad comes from DIRECTV. How can you go wrong with one free app that turns your iPad into a mega-remote, lets you watch live TV right on the iPad, see what's on next, schedule recordings, and look at your playlist? Did I remember to mention the part where it's free? DIRECTV's iPad app, as great as it is, suffers from the same problem as other DIRECTV features: you pretty much have to be inside the home to use it. While competitors have piled on the remote management features, DIRECTV has chosen to hang back, get the contracts settled, and wait until they could provide the best possible experience.
DIRECTV Everywhere, they call it. With the latest version of the app (still free) you can watch selected programs from outside the home. Right now the selection is limited to a few movie channels and the Audience Network, but you know that there are going to be more channels added. If things go the way they have in the past, those channels will be added automatically to the app. Watching DIRECTV outside the house is easy to do but it does take a few steps. Tap on the Watch on iPad button, located at the lower right, to get to a menu of everything you can watch on the iPad. Tap on Networks near the top to see the networks you can watch anywhere.
Then, tap on a network to bring up a list of what you can see. Tap on a show to see available episodes, and tap on Watch Now to start watching. It sounds harder than it is, and if you tap on the large question mark on the upper right, there is a help menu to get you started. There's a large amount of content from the Audience Network that's free to anyone, and if you subscribe to Starz, HBO, Cinemax, Encore, or Sony Movie Channel you can watch that content as well. Once you've done it once or twice it's actually pretty easy. Video quality can be affected by a poor internet connection, of course, so make sure that you've got a nice clean connection. A wi-fi connection is a good bet there although this should work over 3G or the 4G connection coming with the new iPad.
Social networking is easier than ever with the iPad app. What's Hot now takes recommendations from your twitter feed and facebook page, as well as from DIRECTV's own feed to give you a much more comprehensive view of what's really going on and what people are watching. It's easier than ever to see what your friends are watching and schedule your own viewing. Every info screen also has a share button allowing you to quickly post to Facebook, Miso, GetGlue, and Twitter. For those who are unfamiliar with Miso, it's a real-time social networking app designed to give anyone the opportunity to create a "second screen opportunity" with comments and trivia. It's available for desktop computers and iPhones.
Here are a few more shots of the iPad app. Click on the thumbnails to see full-resolution versions of any image.
DIRECTV didn't stop at streaming, either. They added an easy link to the Answer Center. If you read my review of the mobile site, you saw that I complained that the Answer Center was very hard to get to, all the way at the bottom. Here, click the question mark and tap "Support" and you'll be given a link that opens a full version of the DIRECTV site within the iPad App and starts at the Answer Center for iPad. DIRECTV's got themselves a winner with the iPad app and the addition of DIRECTV Everywhere is great. I hear rumors that versions for other platforms are still coming, but it's too early to say when they will come. Still, I think DIRECTV made the right decision in starting with the iPad app. If I were streaming video, that's the platform I'd use.
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