It really surprises me how few decent TV-guide apps there are for the iPad. Especially when you consider that more than 24% of iPad users state that they regularly use the iPad while watching TV. This may be down to electronic programming guides (EPG) on the major platforms like Virgin and Sky have significantly improved over the years, but I still think there is a place for a TV guide on the iPad.
If you look in the app store, you will see several but having tested most of them, there are really only three apps that stand out and are worth your consideration- one from Sky (and so useless if you are not a Sky customer) and two third-party apps. I know that Virgin Media have been working on an iPad app for a year or so, but currently they only offer an iPhone app and it’s nothing special.
For many years, I’ve used a desktop app called Digiguide – and am really surprised that they haven’t developed an iPad app – but if you look at their poor iPhone attempt, perhaps they shouldn’t waste their time.
So, if you want to have a decent TV guide app on your iPad – here are the top choices for you:
Sky+ (iTunes link)
Naturally – this app works best if you are a registered Sky customer. If you link this app to your Sky ID, you will be able to unlock functionality such as remote record – always useful. Having said that, you can still use the app simply as a TV guide should you prefer to do so.
When you first load it, you have two choices – “Showcase” or “TV Guide”.
The Showcase section includes links to “featured” programming. You can typically watch a preview of these shows and get the full programming information – including a link to “remote record” (if you are set up to do so).
The TV Guide is very easy to use and well laid out – although the featured listings at the top seem too big too me taking up way too much screen real estate. If you want to know more about a show, then tap on it and you can more detail – also very clear:
The nice part about this detail screen is that it shows you other viewing times and suggests similar tv shows. It also allows you to remote record easily.
The search facility is excellent and you can also filter the listings based on channel genres.
All in all, a very attractive app and especially useful if you are a Sky customer, less so if you are not.
FindMe TV (iTunes link)
This app was originally one of my favourites. It has a really clean interface and some nice features that you you don’t get in other apps.
This is an independent app and so you need to select your channels based on your service (freesat, freeview, Virgin, Sky, etc) and your region. You can then select the channels that are available to you to include in the guide.
If you want to see the detail of a show, just tap on it and you are provided with a pop up with more information.
On this screen you can set reminders (alerts), mark the show as a favourite and are also provided with related shows. You cannot remote record with this app – which is a huge let-down for any Virgin Media or Sky customer.
It does have the ability to watch some shows “on demand”. This guide links to the various UK on demand players such as BBC iPlayer and displays a green “play” icon next to the show. Simply click on this and it will take you to that episode within the iPlayer so that you can watch it instantly. Very clever.
TV Guide (iTunes link)
This app is the clear “independent” winner of the bunch – the UI is beautiful, it is simple to use and it has some amazing functionality including full remote record for both Sky AND Virgin customers.
Where to begin – this app does it all. You need to select your channels based on your provider and you can also sort these channels so that you have complete control over the layout of the guide.
When you want to know more about a show, you tap on it like with other apps – but this time the show detail appears in the top left (and not a pop-up).
Here is the one user interface hiccup in my opinion – at the top left of this panel is a “+” icon which when you tap on you get more information / controls. Personally, I think this could be made more clear and also, if you tap on it – the “sub-menu” disappears after a couple of seconds and so you have to be quick.
On this sub-menu – you can set alerts, watch “on demand” from various iPlayers (loads Safari to do so), remote record, shows other viewing dates/times, social links so that you can tweet about a show, email a show, look up a movie on IMDB.com or wikipedia. It’s really very thorough.
On top of that – you can link this app so that it can change the channels on your tv too – supports both Samsung TV’s and Virgin Media TiVo boxes; pretty neat feature.
So for me, the clear winner is TV Guide. It looks great, has a very nice UI and has some fantastic functionality – it’s tough to beat currently. So I highly recommend this app as the top choice.
However, I think that they all miss some surprising functionality. Why not build in some of the TiVo like functionality to these apps? At the very simplest level be able to create “wish list” searches so that you are alerted / notified when a show / episode / movie etc appears in the listings. This would be relatively simple to do and would really enhance these apps. Recommendation engines based on crowdsourcing would also be an interesting option. Hopefully, they will soon.
If you come across any other apps that you think should make this list, please let me know in the comments.