Our first look at HBO Max

Today’s finally the day. AT&T has been hyping HBO Max pretty heavily across their channels, and we as dealers have been participating as well. Now, the app’s finally here and it’s time to take a look. Note: The screen caps are from an iPad but really the experience is pretty similar across platforms.

It’s HBO, but maxier

The HBO Max app is designed to replace the HBO GO and HBO Now apps. I’ve heard that if you have HBO Now, it sort of automatically turned into HBO Max as you updated it. However, the HBO GO app is still separate because there are still some providers who haven’t signed on to HBO Max. Comcast is the biggest. Update: AT&T and Comcast have announced a last-minute deal that will bring HBO Max to Comcast subscribers with HBO and incorporate HBO Max on their Xfinity platform.

Consider HBO Max as everything on HBO GO/NOW and then some. You get old Warner content, TCM content, DC Universe content, and a lot of TV shows produced by Time Warner. Let’s dive in.

Sign in Experience

I’m pleased to say that the sign-in experience was perfect. The app picked up my DIRECTV credentials with no problem. Apple Single-Sign-On has always been a little dicey for this sort of thing, and here was no exception. It picked up my email address but not my password. Still, it wasn’t a problem and I signed in quickly.

The big addition here is multiple profiles. This is a popular addition to a lot of streaming apps. I personally don’t use it, I use a single profile for my whole household. But as long as it’s not naggy like Netflix, I don’t terribly care. Multiple profiles means that you can get better suggestions if you watch separately.

User Interface

Really, this is a nice upgrade to the HBO GO/Max interface. It’s not earth-shattering. It won’t blow you away with modernity and on the other hand it’s not impossible to learn. It has a fairly familiar feeling to it, due to the use of the same fonts as the HBO GO/NOW app. It’s just a lot more purple.

A LOT MORE PURPLE

Yeah, guys, we get it. Purple is your color. You want to own it like T-Mobile owns their particular shade of pink. But if I had any complaint at all here it would be the purple overload. Decide for yourself:

The content

There is a TON of content here. The HBO GO/NOW apps had a lot of content but this really cranks things up. Not only do you get all the HBO stuff and the  TV series you were expecting, but there’s a lot more, organized by interest as you can see above. There is enough to keep you busy even if you end up being quarantined another month or two. This is perfect timing to be honest.

Except I have to mention…

For whatever reason, you don’t get the Nolan Batman films, Man of Steel, any of the original Superman films, or the Wonder Woman TV series. I have a feeling these will make it to the service eventually, though. Disney had the same problem with some of its Marvel films at launch and is still working on getting them all on Disney+.

For some weird reason you get a sole Marvel film, Dark Phoenix. Of course it has to be the worst one. But it’s ok, there are plenty of films for you to watch and you can ignore this one.

A welcome injection of classics

You get a great selection of films from the TCM vault which is great because the regular TCM app is really hard to use. It’s also a welcome respite from all the purple. There are also Looney Tunes cartoons, great anime and other classics peppered throughout.

General usability

Right now, I think the bar is set so high for usability on these apps that the best you can say is, “it works.” I used it for several hours and had no sign-in or buffering issues. I’ve tried it across several platforms and it just does what it’s supposed to do.

I know the app isn’t available on some streaming boxes yet but I’m sure that’s going to be fixed very soon. Longtime readers of this blog know I’m an Apple guy so I really wasn’t affected by it. Those folks with Amazon or Roku devices can still get the app on their phone and cast while they’re waiting for it to be native on those platforms.

Yeah, but is it worth the hype?

Let’s be honest here. The sheer amount of hype for this product meant that it was never going to live up to the expectations. But I will say it’s a very full-featured app with a lot of content that I want to watch. It definitely beats Disney+ for anyone over the age of 10 and still has a lot of content for younger viewers too. I think the next step for them would be to integrate more DC Universe content and eliminate the standalone DCU app which, while inexpensive, isn’t really a big value unless you like DC animation from the last two decades.

HBO Max is available for free at the Google Play store and Apple App store, as well as on select smart TVs. Support for Amazon and Roku devices is coming very soon.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 6,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.