What we’ve been waiting for: DIRECTV merges Satellite and Stream apps

I’ve been forecasting this for some time. DIRECTV is moving forward with a new app which brings the same experience to both DIRECTV Satellite and DIRECTV Stream. The new app is expected to roll out across phones, tablets, and streaming devices in the next week or so.

First thing you need to know

If you have the current DIRECTV app on your phone or tablet, you can keep it but it won’t give you the new features. I suspect it will eventually be phased out. You need to load an app which is now called DIRECTV. It’s available on the App Store and Google Play Store. This is the app that used to be called DIRECTV Stream. The old DIRECTV app has been renamed “DIRECTV On the Go.” I know it’s confusing but it’s just a temporary issue.

As I write this, the new app is only available for iOS despite some outlets claiming it is available for AppleTV. I expect that’s going to change in the next couple of days. It’s eventually expected to be available on all platforms. If you search your app store and you see the DIRECTV Stream logo:

directv stream

That’s actually the app you will want, but it hasn’t been updated for satellite customers yet. You can load it now and it will be updated when the new version is available.

iOS app overview

This is a quick look at the updated iOS app. If you’re a DIRECTV Stream customer it’s going to look very familiar to you. However, for DIRECTV Satellite customers it’s quite a change.

Guide

What you see is a very contemporary guide experience with everything you expect. Some local channels are available depending on the market. Not every channel you get in your satellite package is available but most are. You can favorite individual channels and then sort by favorites. The black rectangle at lower right is a live TV picture, but it didn’t show up in the screen capture.

Receiver Remote

Like the old app, you can use the new app as a remote for your networked DVR, receiver, or client. The remote section no longer looks like an old white remote, but now has a much more contemporary appearance. However, you would be forgiven for thinking that the dark area with the arrows was a touchpad for scrubbing. It simply functions like the arrow buttons on a traditional remote.

Info Cards

This part isn’t really new if you have DIRECTV Stream but it is new to DIRECTV Satellite viewers. This is the same info that you would get by pressing INFO on the remote, but it’s presented in a little more of a contemporary way with a very nice presentation. Again the rectangle at lower right is a live TV image that didn’t make it into the screen capture.

DVR Playlist

This is a huge improvement from the old app. First of all the playlist loads instantly and doesn’t require you to refresh it. It’s also a very nice presentation which looks tons better than the on-receiver display and is more interactive.

You will notice that not every program is available, and I am guessing that’s a rights issue that will eventually be resolved. In this case, it’s possible that DIRECTV’s servers didn’t record Jeopardy, but they most certainly recorded Better Call Saul and you just don’t have the right to stream it. However, you can also look at the full on-demand selection and sometimes you find stuff there too.

Note that programs appear stream from DIRECTV’s servers, not from your personal playlist. You still need a networked device in order to use this feature but it doesn’t seem to use your upstream bandwidth.

Coming soon: The Streaming Box Experience We All Want

I think we’ve all been waiting for a streaming app that will let us stay on the same device while watching both DIRECTV Satellite and apps like Netflix. Of course you can do something similar with DIRECTV Stream’s box, but DIRECTV Satellite still has the edge on programming.

The TvOS app is expected very soon and when it comes I’ll do a full review of what’s available for now. However, I expect that this is only the first step. I fully expect that more programming will be available through the app. There’s some indication that it will be a true client for the Genie and deliver every program and every recording you have locally. However, that’s not what you get today.

It also seems that at least for now, DIRECTV’s app no longer allows you to download programs to keep on your device without a connection. In this always-on world, I have to imagine only a few HDTV fans really only took advantage of this sort of thing.

Score: Good and getting better

This app successfully bridges the DIRECTV Satellite and DIRECTV Stream worlds and gives you an identical experience for both. The only thing missing for satellite customers is the unlimited cloud DVR, while Stream customers are missing some local channels. As this app continues to evolve, I expect that the experience will become more and more common, and that suits me just fine.

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 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.