The Big iPad TV App Smackdown

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TWCable TV

The Time Warner Cable iPad app is a drama queen. First, it made a splash by offering a bunch of TV channels for live streaming. It stole headlines again when several channels were removed on the request of disgruntled networks. Now, Time Warner Cable is taking those networks to court, seeking a decision on whether its existing carrier agreements allow for live streaming.

Hanging on to those channels is important for Time Warner Cable, because the TWCable TV iPad app serves no purpose aside from streaming live TV. The app offers no on-demand content, no DVR functions, no channel guide, and no virtual remote. The drama distracts from the fact that, aside from providing an extra screen for watching live TV, this app is kind of lame.

AT&T U-Verse Mobile

Although AT&T allows U-Verse subscribers to watch live TV on the iPhone, that feature is not available on the iPad due to "contractual obligations." Instead, the U-Verse iPad app serves as a DVR manager and programming guide, with the ability to create a list of favorite shows and channels. The lack of a virtual remote or any other ability to control television playback holds this app back from greatness.

Lucky iPhone users can manage a DVR and even download (via Wi-Fi) TV shows from a "mobile library" for playback on the iPhone.

Comcast Xfinity TV

The Comcast Xfinity iPad app is unique in that it offers only on-demand videos for streaming, including material from premium channels such as HBO, Showtime, and Starz. It provides neither live TV nor DVR playback on the tablet. Set-top box controls are a standard mix of TV listings, DVR scheduling, and channel changing, but you'll find no virtual remote just yet.

This app will work only on Wi-Fi networks (Comcast recommends using a "strong" Wi-Fi signal) on the iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch. An Android version of the app is also available; the only notable difference, according to Comcast's official description, is that the Android version does not require Wi-Fi for on-demand viewing and can work on 3G Internet connections.

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