When the iPhone was first released, one of the strongest draws that convinced me towards purchasing an iPhone was a cool little app that enabled me to control iTunes, straight from my iPhone. The “Remote” app, provided by Apple, essentially took one more remote out of my hands and all my music, whether on the iPhone or off, was right there, in my hands wherever I went. Today i.TV has taken that concept and with the help of the new iPhone 3.0 firmware, applied it towards their strength, TV and Movies. Today they announced a new remote control framework, allowing TV and device manufacturers to allow individuals to control their home entertainment devices from the iPhone, straight over WiFi, bluetooth, or the iPhone’s own built-in connector.
Your Own Universal Remote in Your Pocket
As devices like GPS get ready to make their way onto the iPhone, the iPhone is quickly becoming a single, all-in-one device users can take anywhere, and simply plug in to the situation they are taking part in. i.TV has realized this and applied it to the TV watching experience. Today, they announced when the software is released in the app store, that it will launch immediately with a built-in TiVo remote control. You simply register your TiVo, and for any show you want to control, you’ll no longer be searching for the remote. Just pull out your iPhone and play, pause, fastforward, rewind, and even schedule recordings, straight from the comfort of the same device you take phone calls from.
i.TV has built an entire framework around this concept, and is hoping other device manufacturers will also embrace it. I, for one am hoping for a Windows Media Center plugin I can simply control my home media center experience from. Maybe an Xbox controller that I can control my TV watching remotely?
iTunes Integration and New Design and Layout
In addition to the Remote Control framework, i.TV has completely redesigned their application to a much smoother, and faster application flow. The buttons are now easier to push, it is much easier to control your watching and viewing experience, schedule shows, add to your Netflix queue, or just see what’s on at your local Movie theater (and preview the movie before you see it!). In addition to that, they have finally integrated iTunes into the experience, allowing you to purchase and download relevant iTunes movie and TV shows, and even soundtracks and music straight from the app itself.
With a single app, i.TV has provided you everything you ever needed to know about the movies and TV shows you are watching, also allowing you to control and react to the experience as you’re watching or preparing to watch a show. I can just see the Movie theaters cringing at all the i.TV users checking their phones as they watch movies now. No worries though, because you can purchase your tickets, straight from i.TV too!
Alongside the rest, i.TV is finally releasing Push Notification alerts for upcoming shows. Now, when your favorite show is about to play, even if you don’t have means to record it, you’ll never miss a show, as your remote, er, iPhone, will notify you when the show is about to happen. Simply schedule the show, set the alert, and catch each show you never wanted to miss! Previously this was only available via e-mail.
As a loyal i.TV user there are still a few annoyances that have not yet been embraced. Knowing the team I am sure they are being worked on. The number one missing feature I would love to see is despite the “i” in i.TV, i.TV still lacks social network integration. I can currently send myself reminders via e-mail, or even share with friends via e-mail, but i.TV has seemed to have missed the easiest sharing tool of all, and that is social networks. Facebook has provided simple libraries to integrate Facebook Connect into any application (it takes just minutes to set up), and Twitter integration and sharing also is a fairly simple feature to implement (a matter of simply sending to a simple link in a browser window, no API needed). I hope these are features we can expect to see soon – I’d like to share the TV shows I’m watching with my real friends, and not have to spam them via e-mail. Or maybe I could post a review and have it appear on Twitter or Facebook. These are very simple updates.
In addition, the registration process is still a little too complicated. Currently, to register, you have to type your e-mail address twice, and provide a username. I would suggest one or the other, or even better yet, just integrate Facebook Connect or Twitter OAuth as your registration means and get rid of the registration altogether. Regardless, once you’re registered, there is little mess or pain beyond that, so perhaps it is only a personal annoyance.
i.TV Keeps Getting Better
Regardless of my own annoyances, i.TV is still the best TV Guide app for the iPhone, hands down. Every release they continue to blow away the competition and keep getting better at it! As devices like the TiVo begin to embrace the iPhone as a remote control device using universal frameworks like i.TV’s, I’m sure other manufacturers will want to get out of the stone age and incorporate their own products as well. My hope is that we’ll see this very soon as i.TV seems far from losing any momentum in this race. While I don’t have a TiVo (I’m a loyal Windows Media Center user), I’m looking forward to seeing what the future holds, and will continue checking i.TV for reminders and updates to the TV shows I watch, hoping my own device manufacturers also hop on (ahem, Microsoft???). i.TV continues to be one of the best apps in the app store, and when the 2.0 version is released, you should definitely give it a try – it’s free!
Now, where did I put my remote?