Written by Technology, TV

TV Apps’ Shortcomings

You know when something should be easy but it just isn’t? Well this is what I often find with apps on smart TVs and other devices. They’re just there to try us. While they function adequately for normal use, it’s those edge cases where they break.

Here are two examples.

Last weekend, I decided I’d like to watch the Cyclo Cross World Championships. No TV station was broadcasting it, but it was being streamed live via YouTube. Visiting YouTube on a laptop was trivial. But I’ve got this massive glass looking thing in the corner of my living room, and thought I’d like to watch it on that – my television.

My Samsung TV has a YouTube app. But it’s a bit more limited than the website. I wanted to watch a live stream, and they just don’t seem to show up in the app. Even adding the video as a “Save For Later” title wouldn’t let me watch it.

The same was true for the even worse YouTube app in my Bluray Player.

In the end I ended up using the awful web-browser built into my TV, having painfully entered the full URL using a remote control and keyboard based upon a scrolling arrow.

Yes – HDMI would have been quicker.

Today, I wanted to watch the new Amazon Prime/LoveFilm Harry Bosch pilot. Amazon does this thing where they put their “pilots” up online and let viewers say what they think about them. They commission full series based on this feedback.

I’m not a LoveFilm subscriber, but these pilots are available free online to anyone! Well they are on the web.

Again, I thought it’d be nice to watch on my TV. Again, there’s a LoveFilm app. But it’s not sophisticated enough to know that there’s a “free token” to watch the pilot. Ditto the Sony Bluray player app. You have to sign up for them. The web is easier.

OK. I’ll try plugging my Asus laptop into the TV with a handy HDMI cable.

Wait one moment mister! I got a delightfully opaque “6031” error code. Googling isn’t altogether clear, but it seems that perhaps my HDMI output isn’t HDCP compliant. Or something like that. I’d update my drivers, except that they are up to date. Either way, it wasn’t going to let me output via HDMI, even when I turned the laptop screen off.

I whipped out my Chromebook, but that doesn’t have the odious Silverlight that powers LoveFilm even available for it. So no LoveFilm on it at all (Netflix incidentally, does work on Chromebooks).

I’d try the LoveFilm app on my Nexus 7, except Amazon in their infinite wisdom, has not released a LoveFilm app for Android tablets despite there being a perfectly serviceable one available for Kindle Fires which have operating systems based on Android. And if Sky Go is anything to go by, they’d prevent me from mirroring it to my TV with my Slimport HDMI adaptor. (Sky Go does this from an Android tablet despite letting you do it from some laptops).

So basically, LoveFilm is going out of its way not to let me watch their new pilot on my TV!

Who says getting video onto your TV is easy? Roll on a UK release of Chromecast.