|Available In: App Store||Price: $29.99|
As a former SlingPlayer user on my Windows Mobile Samsung i730 and i760, I was anxiously awaiting the release of the live television streaming application for the iPhone. For nearly a year now, I have been without the live feed of my Slingbox (recently upgraded to a SB Solo due to a change in cable service) on my mobile phone. There have been a few wedding receptions, baby showers, and dull meetings where I could have benefited from catching some live sports coverage on my iPhone. After months of rumors leading up to the eventual release in the App Store this past Wednesday, the moment has finally arrived. Thanks to Brooke and the folks at Sling Media, I got a chance to play with the pricey app on my iPhone. Now, let’s get this out there right away: SlingPlayer only works on WiFi. No 3G, no EDGE, only WiFi. You can read about why and why people are mad about this, but I’m going to hold SlingMedia free from blame for this, and instead, I’m only going to judge the application on its performance under these conditions.
After downloading the app, I quickly (and excitedly) went through the setup process. To my delight, the application allowed me to login using my email and password, and within less than a minute, my home television was on my iPhone’s screen. I did not have to enter any long Slingbox ID numbers, names, or passwords. All that was needed was my account info, and I was up and running. There is the usual 4-7 second delay in the signal between my television and the Slingbox, but I wouldn’t notice this if I hadn’t been watching both simultaneously. On the options screen, I can set my favorite channels. This will come in handy, as there is a significant (3-5 second) lag on the SlingPlayer when changing channels. There is an extra few seconds on top of this for me, because I link my TiVo to my SlingBox, but I’m hoping that Sling will pare down the former a bit in updates. With favorite channels, I can cut down on the lag time, since there would be no need for entering the channel number. The iPhone app also allows me to swipe up and down for channel up/down as well as swipe left and right for my favorite channels. On a side note, the SlingPlayer can thus be used as a second remote control should you find yourself missing your regular one.
Other options include an on screen remote that gave me standard TiVo functionality, a guide button that pulled up my TiVo guide, and a button that pointed me directly to my TiVo menu screen. An options menu includes delivering audio only, a Standard/High Quality toggle, a help menu (had some trouble accessing some topics here), a letterbox toggle, and the ability to change device should you have multiple ones connected to your Slingbox. Using a test account provided my Sling Media, I pulled up similar options for the guide and menu screen for the Dish Network service. Both picture and audio quality were tolerable and borderline impressive in my point of view. I don’t have HD at home, so I may not have the keenest eye for sharpness, but I appreciated the reasonably sharp screen, and more importantly, the non-choppy signal (to be expected since I’m on WiFi). Outside of my home network, I tested the app at a nearby WiFi hotspot, and the smooth video continued to flow as quickly as the coffee.
My cousin used to travel a lot for his job. He would often pull up his Slingbox to watch the Angels game no matter where he was. As a teacher, I’m not frequenting airport terminals quite as much, so there is not as much of a need for live television streaming on my phone. For me, the Slingbox always has been and continues to be a gadget of excess. As with many gadgets, the Slingbox is something that symbolizes “cool” in that it shows the possibility of what can be achieved. For the consumer, I would be hard pressed to recommend this app for $29.99. The price does fit Sling’s pricing model as compared to their other mobile platforms, but given the WiFi limitation, I’d argue for a discount. However, given how the application seems to be climbing the Top 25 paid application chart, I doubt that this will come anytime soon. Thus, you’re left with a WiFi only version, and if you’re considering this app, my bet is that you probably have a laptop that’s just as capable of delivering a Slingbox signal with a larger picture and better sound for free. So, I’ll end on giving you a few reasons for and against purchasing SlingPlayer for the iPhone.
You’ll get to show off TV on your iPhone (sans Orb/TV tuner), provided you have WiFi access.
Sling will most likely provide updates to tighten up and improve functionality.
Setup is easy, picture quality is solid, and video is smooth (again, all on WiFi)
It’s not a $0.99 application. (Wait for a sale or check out Orb if you have a TV tuner)
Unless you will always be near a WiFi connection, you’ll be watching nothing.
We all know the iPhone battery’s not the best. Don’t plan on watching an entire game in one sitting.