Any proper cable TV junkie will tell you that searching for your favorite programs via the remote provided by the cable company is a tedious process. Flipping through endless screens and spending 10 minutes to type in “Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives” just to realize you missed an “i” somewhere in there is enough to drive a couch potato crazy and send objects rocketing toward walls. But Comcast’s new Xfinity TV app for the iPhone held promises of easing this process a bit, by allowing subscribers to view and search TV listings on their iPhones instead, even going as far as to let DVR users schedule recordings and change channels using their iPhone and a wireless connection.
Sounds cool, right? I was pretty stoked, too–until I, like many others who downloaded the app, couldn’t get past the login screen. After daily check-ins for a few weeks yielded no results, I deemed the app worthless and bunk.
While a good chunk of the country and I were without Internet service Sunday night, thanks to a major fail of Comcast’s DNS servers, I opened the app out of habit, expecting the same denial of entry. To my ecstatic surprise, it miraculously began to work, two weeks after downloading it from the App Store. But after finally getting past the troublesome login stage, did the app actually live up to its promises?
The big selling points behind this version of the app–not the version demo’d earlier this year–are the easy searching of your TV listings and the ability to control your TV using your iPhone as a remote, even scheduling recordings on your DVR. We’re sure about a million customers jumped on this app as soon as it was released, but most of them probably failed to get connected because their cable boxes didn’t end up being compatible with the app–a notice popped up in the app’s description a few days after its release, with a link to find out if your cable box is compatible with the app.
Thankfully, my Motorola cable box works with the app, and I was able to tap into my TV listings. (After, of course, getting past this wretched error message on the login screen for two weeks, of course.)
Once you’ve signed into your account and have chosen your area network, you can begin to look at your channel listings. The listings are very simple to scroll through, and tapping on a program will open up a description and a photo, as well as the option to “Watch on TV” or “Record,” just by pointing the iPhone at your cable box.
This was a very simple and bug-free process, at first. But then the channel listings didn’t quite match up with my channel lineup. Tapping on a program I wanted to watch would turn my TV to the channel number–not the correct station or program. It eventually took a few tries to get the correct Comcast service area to match up with my zip code and channel lineup, and then I was off and running.
Another great feature for subscribers is the OnDemand feature, which lets you search through all of the movies and TV shows available in the OnDemand database, either by searching or filtering results by genre, network or price. Anyone who has used OnDemand on their TV knows that sifting through the Free Movies section by alphabet is time-consuming and enough to make you say, “Screw it, I’m doing Netflix tonight.” I managed to discover movies in OnDemand that I had no idea were available, thanks to the app.
The turnaround time between hitting controls on my iPhone and seeing the channel change or program record on my TV was minimal, but the app itself glitched and stalled a few times after fumbling with the channel lineup, because of said mismatching issues. The last time I tried to change the settings to update my channel lineup eventually rendered the app useless, which is where my journey with the Xfinity TV app basically came to an end.
Our Grade: B-
The app, during the short time that it worked, was pretty kickass. If the features in the announcement of the app are going to be possibilities anytime soon, this could be a fantastic companion to anyone’s cable service. That being said, it’s not so surprising to find that yet another Comcast product is full of glitches and eventually rendered itself useless after a few successful bouts.
So did it work? Yes and no. While the app wasn’t in “Loading” mode, it did just what it promised to do. But now? It’s simply junk clogging up the home screen on my iPhone.