Solid Signal’s Hands on Review: DIRECTV App for Android Phones

It’s here! It’s here! Only a week after the release of DIRECTV’s iPhone app, too! You’re looking at DIRECTV’s revised Android phone app, now updated to version 3. It’s a major change and brings the iPhone and Android phone apps into exact sync. No more wondering when you’ll get the latest feature for your device… it’s clear that DIRECTV has made a major commitment to supporting both platforms.

Let’s take a look at the new stuff in action!

The good

The new Android app has been redesigned to make finding and watching your content easier. When the app first launched, the only thing you could do was schedule recordings. Since then, watching online has become an important part of the experience, especially for phablet users. After all, why else would you have such a massive screen?

Whenever possible, a bar has been added across the top to let you filter programs by what you can watch on your phone, versus what you can watch at home. This makes it very easy to see what you’re looking for.

Large, finger-friendly “watch” and “record” buttons have been added to every info screen, too, along with friendly little icons that let you see where the content is available.

Speaking of finger-friendly… the networks list is now perfect for mashing with even the fattest thumb, and it’s graphically oriented and easily filtered to show you just what’s available to watch on the phone. There are now over 50 networks that allow live viewing outside the home.

 

The Android app has the same voice search functionality that iPhones have had for several months. It’s smooth and works very well. It’s a little slower than Google Now but it does seem to have a little better accuracy. This is probably due to the smaller number of search terms.

Streaming video works flawlessly. It streams quickly and gives you very reasonable quality on a small device. It’s still not full HD but it’s definitely DVD quality especially on a good high-speed connection.

The stuff that still needs improvement

It can be very hard to design for an Android phone because of the huge difference in screen sizes and form factors. This app looks very good on smaller, lower res phones (which are still the norm) but as you get up to larger devices, you see there are some issues with scalability. In some cases the content doesn’t fill the screen.

In other cases, the information is too dense and the area to tap is too small.

In some areas, there’s just an excess of empty space. This is the slide-out menu that comes when you tap the three lines on the upper left. There’s nothing wrong with it, but there could be better use of space.

Usability and conclusions

In general, this app works extremely well. It loads up on many different devices, and even though it won’t load through Google Play on every device, those who choose to download it and then sideload it onto a device will be pleased. There are still some restrictions on rooted devices. This is something that DIRECTV has chosen to do with the last several versions and it’s their right. Obviously there are those who root a device for their own reasons that have nothing to do with illegal activities but DIRECTV has chosen to be cautious here.

The dark menu look is right at home on Android devices. It’s the same look as the iPhone app but where it looks very out of place on the iPhone it looks perfect on an Android phone. It’s clear they designed for Android users first, especially those with smaller phones, and then ported the look and feel over to the iPhone. This is a huge change from the days when the iPhone app was the only one in town and Android users had to make do with a very weak web interface.

There’s still no upgrade for the tablet version, but it is expected to come soon and with it will come support for 7″ tablets. At that point, savvy phablet users should be able to sideload it onto their devices and get more usability and consistency. In the meantime the phone app is … if not a home run a solid triple. It’s very hard to design an app that looks great on a 3″ cheap-phone and also looks great on a top-notch superphone and for the most part DIRECTV has delivered.