As mentioned in a previous article, all of the major content providers are quickly pushing out mobile apps which not only let you view your programming guide but will also allow you to schedule recordings if you use one of the company's supported DVRs.
Execution is where it counts however and while some companies, such as Dish Network, are working to ensure that you can not only schedule recordings but actually view them while traveling, others, like Time Warner, seem to be putting as little effort as possible into their remote app development.
Time Warner has chosen to use the web to power it's application. If you're an iOS user you simply go to the mobile DVR website using Safari. Once there you can add a link to the site to your home screen. As I am an iPod Touch user, I'll be mentioning iOS throughout this review. Be aware however that since this is a web app, it should function in the same manner no matter which platform you use.
Making your application web based does have advantages from a company standpoint. You only need to develop it once. Then, anyone with a web enabled phone can use the application. This does take away from the user experience however. Resolutions are different and so you can end up with a website that doesn't fit the user's screen. As well, I find that many of the web apps I use are slower and more cumbersome than applications developed specifically for the mobile operating system they run on.
Using the Application
Once you sign in using your Time Warner account (which you'll be required to do every time you want to use the app), you're presented with several options presented in tabbed form. The first is "Manage" where you can see what recordings are scheduled on your DVR. Unfortunately, that's all you can see. There's no way to view what has already been recorded and delete or otherwise work with the files. There is a settings option for your DVRs but this only allows you to rename them. Helpful if you have multiple boxes in your home but otherwise, not worth a whole lot.
The next tab is "Search". Here you can search for programming to record. Searches can be performed for title, description or person. There's also a check box which allows you to only search for new episodes of a show.
Once you've performed a search, you'll get a full list of all of the episodes available to be recorded. You can view full episode info, record that episode or set up a series recording.
When you set up a series recording, you're presented with all of the options you would have if you were sitting in front of your DVR. How many episodes to keep, new or re-runs, etc. Being able to specify these options is great.
The last tab is "Browse". Here you can browse your programming guide by category, date and time or channel. It makes scrolling through the guide in different ways easy and can help you find a new show to watch quickly. Overall, not a bad way to see what's on.
The problems are many fold when it comes to actually using this web app. First, on iOS, when I click the shortcut to open the site, Safari opens a new tab. This isn't really a problem but a bit annoying as you can quickly end up with 10 or 15 open Safari windows depending on how much you use the application.
Trying to schedule a series recording is troublesome to say the least. Each time I tried, I received a message that said the recording was successfully schedule along with a full page of errors. After checking, it turns out that the series wasn't scheduled. I was finally able to get one series scheduled after several attempts. While I'm glad I was able to get this series scheduled, I wish it hadn't taken multiple tries.
If you can manage to get the application working, it is nice to be able to schedule recordings and view your guide remotely. Each time that I've successfully scheduled something, it has always recorded on my DVR without fail. The problem is actually getting the shows scheduled.
Your best option while using this application is to search for programming. The guide is a bit clunky. Unlike on your TV, you can only view one hour at a time and if you have digital cable, there are approximately 10 pages of listings for each hour. It can end up taking a good bit of time to find what you're looking for going hour by hour.
As well, if you want to search by channel, you'd better know your local affiliate's call letters. Searching for "ABC" simply brought up ABC Family for me. Not helpful if I'm looking to record ABC Nightly News or other network programming.
With companies such as Dish Network offering remote streaming and Comcast moving forward with Xfinity, Time Warner is going to have to step up their game in the mobile area in order to keep up. The slow interface and multitude of problems take away the fun and function of managing your DVR on a mobile device. If you want to access your Time Warner DVR while away from home, you're better off heading to the "My Services" website on your PC. This has been much better designed and as of yet, has never failed to make my DVR do what I've asked from afar.
With Time Warner working so hard to connect other devices in your home such as Sony and Samsung TVs, it's a bit disappointing to see them go into the mobile space half-heartedly. Hopefully they see the issues with their application and make appropriate changes quickly.