It was the day England was playing against Nigeria in the world cup. I was driving to my friend’s house to watch the game but I was stuck in stop and go traffic in a small residential road. I had never tried to watch live TV on iPhone so I thought let’s see if I can open ITV-Player in Safari. As I was suspecting this wasn’t possible. Why? Because ITV player similar to many other video players uses Flash technology to play video, and flash is not supported in iPhone or iPad. Frustrated, I decided to get to the bottom of this and find out exactly how I can watch live TV on my iPhone. I spent the whole week reading reviews, Googling and testing different apps. Here are my findings.
BBC, ITV, channel 4, and channel 5
On the BBC iPlayer website you can watch the BBC channels live and you can watch previously recorded programs. On ITV player, Channel 4 On Demand, and channel 5 websites you get to see only previously recorded programs. Now if you try to open any of these websites in your iPhone or iPad browser (Safari) unfortunately you won’t be able to watch the TV programs. The only exception is BBC iPlayer which allows you to watch only previously recorded programs on iPhone (but not iPad, at the time of writing this post).
So is there a way to watch live TV on iPhone?
The answer is yes. You can watch pretty much all the standard free view digital channels on TVCatchup.com and the best part is that you don’t even need to download an app for this and it is completely free. How that is possible and how long is this going to last? I don’t know but I would say make the most of it while it lasts! All you have to do is to point your browser to this address:
To watch on iPhone:
Go to: http://iphone.tvcatchup.com
To watch on iPad:
Go to: http://ipad.tvcatchup.com
You can watch the following channels live:
What about the quality?
Surprisingly good, particularly BBC1, BBC2, ITV1, Channel 4, and Channel 5 which all play in high quality.
I watched BBC1, BBC2 and ITV over my home Wi-Fi and all streamed beautifully with good quality (ok maybe not perfect but very good). One thing I noticed is that on all three channels there was an exact 40 second time delay, and yes I timed this with my iPhone stopwatch (a true geek). Next I tested the channels over 3G. I switched off the WiFi on iPhone and was on O2 3G full 5 bar reception and… “Yes results I am super excited! I am watching live BBC1 very good quality over the 3G Network.” The delay is the same as on WiFi, 40 second. The Tvcatchup.com service was actually launched at the end of 2009 so not entirely new but it’s the first time am using it.
How can I watch the Sky sport channels on my iPhone?
The Sky Mobile TV app allows you to watch Sky Sports 1,2 and 3 as well as Sky Sports News, Sky Sports Extra, Sky News, At The Races and ESPN.
The Sky Mobile TV app currently works over Wi-Fi. Sky iPhone tariffs include unlimited Wi-Fi access over BT Openzone and The Cloud Wi-Fi hotspots in the UK (including most Starbucks).
The app is free but you have to pay a monthly subscription to be able to watch the TV channels. £6/month for iphone and £35 for iPad. The user comments are mixed on this one. There are many positive comments but also some concerns and complaints have risen over the streaming quality and the high price for iPad subscription. I haven’t yet tested the sky streaming myself so if you are a subscriber please share your thoughts on this.
A few apps for watching live internet from around the world
SlingPlayer Mobile Price £17.99
This is a slightly different proposition. SlingPlayer is for slightly more advanced users who want to get all their standard TV channels live streamed their iPhone. It is also costly and takes some setting up.
So how does it work? Hook up a SlingBox Solo or Pro to your home network and TV equipment, and it takes your TV signal, encodes it, and streams it over the internet. Install SlingPlayer Mobile on your iPhone or iPod touch to do the same.
SlingBoxes integrate with almost any hardware – Sky+, Apple TV, cables boxes – and can control them remotely. But the setup is expensive – £112 for a SlingBox Solo, plus the cost of the app which is £17.99. The good news is that the latest version 1.2 now supports viewing over 3G.
OrbLive by Orb Networks. Price £5.99
Orb works by recording live TV on a personal computer, which is then accessible on the owner’s Apple device using the Safari web browser. It requires a £70 TV tuner card and £5 Apple app to work.
TVU by TVU Networks Corporation. Price £2.99
Allows you to watch live TV from more than 300 channels worldwide. It costs £2.99 and works over WiFi only at this time. The basic features it includes are favourites, search, and landscape mode viewing. Also, there is no limit on the amount of time you can watch TV.
I have tried TVU and like many others must say the picture quality is generally very unreliable. You are able to check the signal strength for channels and I must say that from my experience many channels have low signal strength resulting in buffering and cut offs. If you are looking for some very special focus channel or foreign language channel this might be for you. For example there is a channel only dedicated to single dads and another one is for black belt karate viewers.
Justin.tv By Justin.tv Free
This one is more of a social media TV where everybody can create their own channel and stream it live on Justin.tv. Watch live video and participate in chat or share your favourite channels with friends.