It’s been happening for a while, and the process is accelerating: Traditional TV is dying–or rather, it’s evolving into an Internet-based, on-demand service. Web-based services like Hulu and Netflix offer thousands of popular TV show episodes–but if you’re using an Android device, you won’t be able to view them. That’s because arcane licensing schemes prevent many syndicated shows from being displayed on “unapproved” devices, even though it’s technically feasible.
Now Droid TV (for Android OS 2.1 and later, on phones and tablets with a screen resolution of at least 480 by 800, a 1GHz processor, and a Secure Digital memory card with 2GB or more of free space) provides free access to hundreds of episodes from more than 50 popular network shows including 30 Rock, Community, and The Tonight Show in full 480p resolution.
Droid TV doesn’t stream video; rather, you select the episodes you want to watch, and the app then downloads them and saves them on your SD card. The advantage of this approach is that once you have downloaded the episode, you can play it even when you don’t have a network connection. Playback is very smooth with no need to wait for the video to buffer as is often the case with streaming video. Sound quality is very good as well.
The disadvantage is that you have to wait for the entire episode to download before you can watch it. Sometimes the wait time is quite substantial. But at least the app will download episodes in the background and notify you when they are ready, so you can open another app and do something else in the meantime.
Droid TV’s home screen is called TV Guide. This is a thumbnail list of available shows. Shows that are starred are available only if you purchase Subscribe to DroidTV Primetime (six months for $6). Prime-time subscription shows include Burn Notice, Castle, Family Guy, Fringe, Glee, Grey’s Anatomy, House, Lie To Me, Modern Family, Outsourced, Private Practice, Raising Hope, The Cleveland Show, The Office, The Simpsons, and Warehouse 13.
Clicking a show thumbnail opens a list of available episodes with brief descriptions. Click an episode to select it for download. Once the show has downloaded, it will appear in Menu, Now Playing. Click it to play.
You can also search for shows by title or category, but I find the TV Guide to be quite adequate. The number of available shows is not huge, but you do have quite a few popular shows to choose from. This app is one of the few ways to view syndicated TV shows on an Android device, so you should give it a try if you want to watch TV on your phone–especially since it’s free.
You might also want to check out SlingPlayer Mobile, a more versatile (and pricey, at $30) app that lets you stream TV shows over the Internet using a Slingbox.
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