HTC has thrown a new feature on the One in the shape of a new TV app, as well as an infra red blaster that shoots out TV-controlling rays from the power button.
It's a concept we were, like BlinkFeed, initially quite sceptical about, simply because history has taught us that these apps are usually gimmicks that only serve the country of production. Well, once again, our opinion has been changed by the launch of the HTC One.
The HTC TV app won't appeal to all, but those that spend the time to set up the phone to control a TV, DVD / Blu-ray player, set-top box or audio system will get a real treat, and no matter your territory there's something for you.
The app itself is very clever as you can set your favorite programming and then see large thumbnails when the stuff you care about is playing. Think of it as a TV guide that knows what you want to watch, rather than a list of channels.
That latter feature is actually there too, but it's poorly executed as it takes AGES to refresh when scrolling through and weirdly can't be used in landscape mode. It's better for when you need to get inspiration for your favorite shows.
Making sure the app knows what you like to watch is important, and while it takes some time to set up your fave shows, it's worth it, as you'll be constantly impressed when you flick on the TV, don't know what to watch, only to be shown that Friends or Scrubs re-runs are currently on. And here's the fun part: press the thumbnail and the channel will change to the show. It will impress those watching you, trust us.
Here's one real problem though – you're given a list of favorite options at the app set-up, and even if you later change your mind about what you like, they'll still appear in the "now showing" section of the app. Also, searching for your favorite shows is laborious, with a check for Arrow not showing the popular program until we'd refreshed the pane five times. It's really good, and should be shooting (sorry) straight to the top.
There are some other neat touches, such as being able to see episode guides of your favorite shows, see when other showings are available and get reminded when specific showings or new series are starting. We didn't get to test that new series functionality, but it's something that's invaluable if it works as missing new episodes really, really hurts. You know what we're talking about.
There's still a lot more that the TV app on the HTC One can't do though, as we constantly ran into limitations. For instance while it's cool the remote can learn functions (by pointing the power key at the original remote to show the command) you can't edit the layout of the remote itself. So if you've got a TV, amp and cable box and want to control the volume on all three independently, you can't.
Color buttons aren't available, and the power and input keys are locked away when they should be on the main interface for ease of use. One advantage of a real remote is tactility, to press things without looking, something a smartphone can never offer, so ease of use has to be enhanced.
There's also no inter-app operability as it stands, with only HTC's quite limited and expensive Watch available for on-demand content. It's good when it can offer you an episode of something you missed, but it would be really cool if your current on demand services were in there for you to jump into.
The app also likes to suck down the battery too - we noticed that after using it a little bit here and there throughout the day it will constantly be up at the top of the power consuming apps. Come on HTC, it's only an IR blaster. It's not a torch, let's see some battery saving here if it's at all possible, else the actual remote, which doesn't need constant recharging, will come back into play.
Overall though, we like HTC TV. It would be cool if the remote would pop up when your home network was recognized (as is the way on the LG Optimus G Pro) but we're glad the TV remote appears in the notification bar when we're using it, at least.