How to watch live TV on your iPad and iPhone



Despite its name, TVCatchup isn't actually a catch-up service like iPlayer. It's a website where you watch live TV in a web browser, completely free of charge (provided you don't go over your mobile's monthly data cap). It's only available in the UK and you have to sign up, but you'll be watching live TV on your iPad or iPhone in minutes.

You'll find the usual Freeview channels, and iPad users can see the name of the current show and how long it's been on. It's a brilliant way to get live TV on your iOS device without any extra hardware or software.

But before you dismiss the other options we've talked about, there are a few things to bear in mind.

First, the quality isn't always brilliant, and TVCatchup covers free-to-air channels only, so you won't be able to get Sky Sports and the like. And because it gets the TV stream over the internet, it will eat into your monthly download allowance - be that of your iPhone or iPad contract, or your home broadband package if you're on a capped deal.

The other thing to remember is that if your home broadband isn't particularly fast and there are several people using it at the same time, you may find your video stream gets interrupted at the climax of the film you're watching!


If you don't fancy buying a Slingbox to watch your Sky channels on the iPhone or iPad, there's another way - but it can be expensive, depending on your Sky TV subscription (or lack thereof).

You can only watch sports and news, with the iPad version of Sky's Mobile TV app offering Sky Sports 1, 2, 3, 4, Sky Sports News and Sky News. On the Sky iPhone app, you can also get ESPN and At the Races.

After downloading the free app, you log in using your Sky ID or set one up at and then sign up for the Mobile TV service using the links from the app.

If you have a Sky TV subscription including the Sports 1 and 2 package, the service will cost you an extra £5 per month for access on one iPhone or iPod touch and one iPad. If you haven't got a Sky Sports sub, it costs £8 per month for access on one iPhone or iPod touch or £35 for access on one iPhone/iPod touch and one iPad. So if you don't have a Sky subscription and want Sky Sports on the iPad, it's pretty expensive.

Using the app is a breeze - fire it up, log in and tap the channel you want to watch. A guide shows you the day's viewing, but you can't set reminders or anything like that. On the iPad version, you get a small preview at the top of the interface, which you tap to go fullscreen, so watching Sky TV on iPhone, iPod touch or iPad is simple - and you can do it over Wi-Fi or 3G.

The other app of note is Sky Remote Record. Also free, this handy service enables you to set a future recording or to start recording any channel you've got available on your Sky+ or Sky HD box remotely using the familiar TV guide interface. All you need to do is log in using your Sky ID and the app is automatically linked to your box.

BBC iPlayer


The BBC's popular catchup service is available in app form on the iPad, where you can also watch live BBC TV. The picture is brilliant, although the app may scale back the quality if you're on a slower connection. Check out our full review.

On the iPhone and iPod touch, you can enjoy the catch-up elements of iPlayer through the Safari browser by going to - note there's no live TV, though.

Unlike the PC or Mac version of iPlayer, you can't download shows onto your iOS device, either.

Watching stored media

Live TV isn't the only thing you can watch on your iOS device. You may well have a whole library of videos stored on your home computer, but these might not be in format compatible with iOS.

Using the Air Video app, you can stream many video formats to your iOS device either on your local network or over the internet without having to convert them to another format. It's both Mac and Windows-compatible, but requires your computer to be switched on to get at the media.

Apps to complete your TV experience

TV guide has free slick listings apps for the iPhone and iPad. You get channel information, either as a list or a grid, and programme details. It enables you to add a show to your calendar, set an alarm reminder or tell your Sky box to record.

Radio Times

The Radio Times app (£2.99), tailors its channel listing depending on the TV service you tell it you've got - including Freesat, Sky and Virgin. You can add favourite shows, find what films are showing and browse daily special picks.


You might also want to consider AirView, which streams stored videos between iOS devices, or from iTunes on your computer to your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch, provided they're on the same Wi-Fi network.

Air Video

Air Video (£1.79) streams numerous video formats from your computer to an iOS device, both over Wi-Fi and the internet. It won't play DRM-protected files, such as those you get off iTunes, though. There's a free version you can try.

Your must have kit

Must have kit

Just Mobile Gum Plus Power Pack - £50

There are battery packs that just beat this one's price and capacity - try the Proporta USB TurboCharger 5000 (£40) - but this little beauty is pocket-friendly.

Mophie Workbook - £45

Two birds with one stone. This protective case folds into a stand for your iPad and if bright orange isn't your colour, there are four other options.

Altec Lansing Octiv 450 - £100

A stand, charger and speakers for your iPad, all in one neat unit. Its adjustable arm means you can tweak the viewing angle to suit where you're sitting.

AppleTV - £101

This isn't for watching live TV, but if you have videos stored on your iOS device (see p84 for more on this), you can stream them to your home television using AirPlay and the AppleTV.

Three Mi-Fi - From £40

This turns mobile signal into a mini Wi-Fi hotspot, so you can connect a Wi-Fi-only iPad or iPod touch to the internet to watch TV. Various other mobile networks also sell them.

Griffin A-Frame - £24

A light, stylish and robust iPad stand - perfect for watching TV. It folds flat, so will easily slip into a bag when you're on the move, and its rubber feet stop it from sliding around.

Vogel's Basecover - £60 (case only, mounts are extra)

This system enables you to mount your iPad on the wall, in the car or stand it on a table. Flip the iPad round and it doubles as a hard protective case, too.