DTH service provider Tata Sky has launched a new app for iOS devices (iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad), which enables users to convert their device (iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad) into a universal remote control, by attaching an additional accessory to it’s 3.5mm headphone jack. Apart from offering program listings for TV channels, it also allows users to share what they’re watching on social networks Facebook and Twitter. The additional accessory, costing Rs 350, can be ordered by sending an SMS from the registered mobile number for the Tata Sky account; the amount gets automatically deducted from the account.

The app is based on Ryz Media‘s BlinQ universal remote concept and has built in remote control interfaces for TVs, DVDs and Amplifiers of various brands. It allows Tata Sky+ and Tata Sky HD+ DVR users to remotely initiate recordings, eliminating the need for the previously introduced Tata Sky+ Remote Recording app. It also allows users to configure more than one connection in case of a multi-room setup.

[P.S- I ordered the remote accessory, and a Tata Sky rep informed that since I was amongst the first 1000 customers to register, there would be no additional charge]

Interface

The app’s interface is cluttered, with too much information, too many buttons, a flashing ticker, program names, channel logos, all stacked together at one place. It is not optimized for iPhone 4’s high resolution Retina display and buttons and channel logos pixelate. The flashing ticker, which displays the most viewed programs appears across all pages, overlapping UI elements like buttons on the remote control page or the settings page. Thankfully, it can be turned off.

Functionality

The app is divided into three major sections: Program Guide, Remotes and Settings.

– The Program Guide section offers program listings from all channels for a period of four days. The user can also browse bookmarked/favorite channels, filter according to genre, top shows/most viewed, and shows that the user’s friends are presently watching (if they’ve installed the app and authorised it on Facebook).

– The user can remotely initiate and schedule recordings or set reminders for upcoming shows. Reminders are integrated with Google Calendar.

Checking In

– If the remote accessory is connected, users can click on channel listings to watch the show.

– Clicking on the button next to the listing, takes the user to a page, where they can Check-In to the program (similar to location check-ins), following which the app shares it on the user’s Facebook wall.

– The Check-In page also allows users to search for discussions related to the show on Twitter, and tweet about it from within the app.

– In addition to this, the user can add the show to favourites, hide the channel and view program description in Hindi, on the page.

– The Tweet button requires the user to type in the complete tweet and does not post a templated #NowWatching tweet, although it does add a ‘via Tata Sky Mobile Access app’ suffix.

The Remote section contains different remote control interfaces for the universal remote feature.

Our Take

Presently, the social sharing is mainly limited to users of the app, and they also need to have a Facebook account. Till the time Tata Sky does not launch this app for other smartphone platforms, the usage will be extremely limited. Perhaps Tata Sky could develop its own TV check-in service, which could allow integration with Facebook and Twitter, and at the same time be independent of them. Also, any Tata Sky user who has access to web could check-in and share TV watching info.

The show discussion from Twitter is a great feature, and will be particularly interesting during live events like Cricket and Football matches. However, I was not able to get any related tweets, at the time of writing this post, for the ongoing India Vs England test series, which means that the app is not doing its job of curating related tweets. We hope that the next update improves the overall user experience of the app and fixes these bugs.

This post first appeared on AppNama – Our sister site that focuses on mobile apps and services.