Here’s a first look at the latest build of the DIRECTV NOW DVR on Apple TV. The build, Version 1 Build 400, was released on December 6, 2017 and has been met with fairly positive response among Beta testers. From our personal experience with the app, It would appear that AT&T is inching closer to a finished product.
Interestingly, the beta build is not set to expire until March 7th 2018. Could this foretell that the release date of the Cloud DVR will at least be delayed until after this date?
DIRECTV NOW recently sent out a new round of invites to their Beta program and welcome emails began arriving this week allowing a new crop of beta testers to access the software. The screens in the slideshow below reflect that latest beta build available for Apple TV and Apple TV 4K
DIRECTV NOW DVR – First impressions:
- Speed and Responsiveness – The channels load reasonably fast, and menus overall are responsive, with the noted exceptions of the grid guide as documented below. There doesn’t appear to be any of the buffering issues that users have reported in previous builds. It appears that the infrastructure has been beefed up to more adequately handle system demand.
- DVR – Recordings and playback appear smooth and reliable thus far on both the Apple TV and the Chrome/Safari browser based UI. With the exception of some noted UX misses mentioned below, the overall app design appears to be pretty well thought out. A couple significant caveats though, unlike PS Vue’s DVR, which currently sets the bar for Cloud DVRs, you cannot retroactively record live program content after tuning in. When you opt to record a program, the recording starts from the moment you tuned into the channel, not the start of the actual program. And there’s no rewind capability until you choose record – you don’t have a live buffer to play with without counting against your storage limits. You cannot indefinitely pause live TV without first choosing to record the program.
- App Sophistication – Overall it seems like they are moving closer to what I’ve grown accustomed to with the traditional DIRECTV satellite service’s “Genie” DVR, which I was extremely pleased with before I swapped over to the OTT service last November.
DIRECTV NOW DVR – A few issues that need to be ironed out:
- Missing Locals – Users have reported that some of their local channels are not appearing on the beta, despite appearing on the regular version of the app. For example, here in Birmingham, were we have access to both ABC3340 and WVTM NBC13, only the ABC affiliate is showing up. Fox and CBS still not available in my area although Youtube TV has ABC, CBS, NBC and CW – but we are still left wishing and waiting on an wider device support to see Youtube TV take off
- Grid Guide Quirks – The grid guide departs from the existing app and adds a details row containing a thumbnail image of the selected programs as well as episode information, description and time. The guide still appears to be a work in progress however. There are some overlapping of the grid squares and the animation is jerky rather than smooth. Its reminiscent of the Playstation Vue grid guide in which elements change size as they are displayed, resulting in screen redraws that have somewhat jarring transitions.
- Favorited Channels – While on the grid guide, users can select to filter the listing by their favorited channels. This feature works flawlessly on the non beta app, however, the beta app does not persist the user’s last selected filter. In other words, if you selected to show favorites only, after you close and reopen the guide, you will have to refilter the guide all over again.
- Recording Episodes and Series Passes – In order to set up a series pass (for those shows that allow it), you have to first click the “REC” icon while watching the program or the episode name that appears when you mouse over the screen – this text is not clickable in full screen mode but does work while in the half screen “Watch Now” mode. So once you activate the details screen by clicking on the episode name text, you can select “Record Episode. The popup menu that appears to confirm your choice, then allows you the option to select “Record Series”. However, the popup goes away automatically unless you quickly make a choice within about 3 seconds.
- Full Screen Mode Options – You cannot set up a series pass from the full screen mode. Currently you have to exit to the “Menu” screen overlay, then click to activate the “Watch Now” screen in order to be able to click the program name (bottom left corner) to access the program details screen to set up a series pass.
- Series Passes Limited – Not all programs that can be recorded can be set up on series pass.
- Swiper no Swiping – Puzzlingly, the FF/RW controls do not utilize the Siri’s swipe pad like virtually every other Apple TV app. You first have to click the touchpad, then you have to move an underline cursor to the appropriate icon that controls FF/RW and Pause. It also means that Harmony remotes FF/RW buttons do not work for the app. This is not ideal and we hope they will rework this before the final release.
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