[Apps] Review: Sky Mobile

Sky Mobile - on iPhone and iPad

Sky Mobile - on iPhone and iPad

For those of us not rich or lucky enough to be able to install Sky in all it’s chav-tastic satellite glory, the broadcaster offers a range of alternatives. As well as allowing cable providers, BT and TopUpTV ro resell its sports channels at truly extortionate fees, it offers the chance to watch certain channels on a PC or Xbox 360, via Skyplayer – or an iPhone or iPad via Sky Mobile TV. Having used both of the Mobile TV services for a few months now I thought I’d share my impressions.

Firstly the iPhone app. It’s a free download, but without a subscription you won’t be viewing much of anything. For eight pounds a month, however, you get access to live streams of Sky Sports 1, 2, 3, and 4, Sky News, Sky Sports News, At the Races, and surprisingly ESPN. Let us not forget that a Sky TV subscription that encompasses all those channels would run to more than fifty pounds a month (though of course you’d get a lot more channels besides, and the PVR functions of Sky+ for that). So it isn’t bad value. The quality of the video streams over wi-fi are excellent. Annoyingly they’re fed in widescreen which means you have to choose between fidelity to the aspect ratio, at the expense of resolution (i.e black bars top or bottom) or a zoomed in, slightly lower quality view. Football Matches though are perfectly watchable, especially if you’re not planning on sitting there for a full ninety minutes. It’s great if you, for example, want to take the match to the lavatory with you, or into the garden.

Originally the iPhone app only streamed over wi-fi, but last year the feeds became available over 3G. With a stable, decent connection things work pretty well, but move around too much, or lose a full signal and the quality of the stream rapidly shrinks to something that looks like RealVideo circa 1998. At least the app does a good job of smoothly switching between the streams, and early teething problems with dropped streams resulting in app crashes appear to have been fixed.

So we come to the iPad app. It all works fairly similarly – an EPG menu giving access to the various channels. On the iPad though, there’s no ESPN or At The Races, something of a disadvantage for completist live sports fans. The quality is fantastic – I’m not sure of the resolution but at times it looks like it’s bordering on a 720p feed. The iPad app is incredibly stable. On Sunday I watched about four hours in a row, and the stream only dropped once, for about 5 seconds. So it’s a slick package on the iPad. But then it should be, after all the subscription costs a staggering £35 a month. Yes, you read that right. £35. Of course the price is much lower for Sky Sports TV subscribers, but as I’m not one, I want to deal with the app as a prospective alternative to Sky ownership. It seems pretty obvious that Sky’s pricing is designed to put people off who might be considering an iPad subscription instead of a regular setup. If the iPhone app, which offers more content, is an £8 a month sub, how on earth the reduced content on the bigger-screened device can justify a price tag more than four times as much is beyond me.

So it’s a great app, at a ridiculous price. If you can cope with the smaller screen, or only want occasional viewing, stick with the iPhone (the subs, by the way, don’t transfer – you’ll need a separate payment plan for both iPhone and iPad if you own both devices). If you’re thinking about the iPad app, wait for one of Sky’s many discount deals (it’s currently half price at a much more reasonable £17.50) and give it a try, after all, there’s no commitment beyond the first month – so you can cancel any time you like.

The Sky Mobile iPad UI

The Sky Mobile iPad UI

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Categories: Apps

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