Until this past week, the “network ahead” has been the network behind when it comes to their mobile applications. Verizon’s FiOS, the cable, internet and telephone service that was the first to deliver a true fiber-to-the-home setup, has been known for its amazing picture quality, and its blistering fast internet speeds (up to 300 Mbps with the highest tier of FiOS’s Quantum service). However, if there was one piece of molasses in FiOS’ quick armor (besides the fact it is only available in limited areas and not growing much at all), it was the lack of any real innovation with its mobile applications. Prior to the recent update of the FiOS iPad application, and still the case with the iPhone and Android offerings, the FiOS mobile application was nothing short of unimpressive. For such a cutting-edge service and network, FiOS’ mobile applications offered archaic features such as viewing your DVR content (but not watching it), the current channel listings and guides, current movies available to order (again not watch) on-demand, and the ability to double as a set-top box remote. Meanwhile companies like Comcast, DirecTV, Dish Network, and even Cox Communications, have offered their customers the ability to watch the television programming they subscribe to anywhere on their mobile devices. Verizon promised that they would bring these features to FiOS subscribers soon, and just in time for the New Year they have delivered.
Verizon’s updated FiOS application, released last week for the iPad only at this time, finally allows FiOS cable TV subscribers to view the programming they subscribe to live on their iPad. The updated app still retains the same functionality of its predecessor, but includes an updated user interface as well as the live TV streaming option. It’s the updated UI that FiOS users will immediately notice, especially when using the new Live TV streaming option. The new UI is smooth and easy to comprehend, and it includes some little extras that make it feel polished, but isn’t without its flaws. When accessing the Live TV area of the application, subscribers are greeted with a grid of available channels with the station logo. A nice feature is when selecting the channel you want to watch, a pop up menu is shown with the current show information and the station logo area automatically starts a live preview of the channel. This is one of those areas where the FiOS app’s polish really shows, as you can easily preview what the current show is playing (whether it be a show you don’t know much about or unsure of whether it’s something you’ve already seen) without having to commit your entire iPad screen to it. As nice as this polish is, the default listing of the channels seems to have no rhyme or reason to it. The application presents channels in channel number order. I found myself scrolling entirely too long to find some of my favorite TV stations such as ESPN, History Channel, or any of the major networks. A nice update would be the ability to have the default view be the channels in order of how much you watch them.
After choosing the station you wish to watch live, the app takes the preview from the station logo and pulls it full screen on the iPad. On the third-generation iPad with the Retina Display, the application did a very good job with the display quality, especially on high-definition programming. With a 35 Mbps FiOS internet package, we met little to no lag or buffering when using the application on Wi-Fi as well. Overall, the FiOS application delivers a sharp, consistent picture on its mobile application as it does with cable television.
Another feature sorely missing here, hopefully in a future update, is the ability to watch recorded shows on your DVR on your iPad. Adding this functionality, much like Dish Network’s VIP 922 set-top box that has SlingPlayer technology built into it, will further add value to FiOS, and really set it ahead of the curve among the competition. Currently, the only DVR functionality available is the ability to record, delete, or view scheduled shows. The current update only applies to the iPad (or iPad Mini we presume), with the iPhone and all Android versions left out in the cold still. This certainly isn’t the first time a streaming video app has come to the iPad only first, such as Amazon did with their Prime Instant Video app, but there really doesn’t seem to be any reason Verizon would exclude the iPhone and all Android devices.
Verizon’s updated FiOS app is definitely a step in the right direction and a welcomed update for any FiOS TV subscriber and iPad owner. A slick UI and a great video quality makes for an enjoyable experience overall. However, the lack of an iPhone and Android version keep this app good enough instead of great. Considering Verizon’s long history (on the wireless end) of Android support with the Droid line of smartphones, it could be argued that an Android offering would come before an iPad offering. Unfortunately, for a “network ahead” they’re mobile applications still scream a “network catching up”.
FiOS subscribers can download the updated iPad application here, or update their current application through the App Store.