Powered by Peel, the HTC One helps discover what to watch - and then deftly turns into an infrared remote control
A common thread among smartphone manufacturers this year is the inclusion of an infrared port and television remote control and show discoverability. That is, you use your phone to control the TV and change channels and volume and stuff. You also have a way to see what's on, and to easily tune to it.
Know what? It works pretty darn well.
To be clear, we're not talking about watching TV on your HTC One. We're talking about watching TV with your HTC One. See the difference? The idea behind all this (for HTC as well as other manufacturers) is that there's a pretty good chance you're sitting there with your phone in your pocket anyway. Might as well put it to use. Whether that's a good idea? Well, we'll leave that for another time.
For now, let's take a deep dive into the TV app on the HTC One.
A hidden IR blaster on the HTC One
Know that black power button sitting atop the HTC One? It's not just a power button. It's also pulling double duty as a hidden infrared port -- or IR blaster as the kids are calling it these days.
The HTC One's not the only device with an IR port -- it's had a bit of a resurgence in the current generation of hardware from a number of manufacturers. That's there it is on the HTC One. Right up top.
Setting up TV on the HTC One
Fire up the TV app for the first time, and you'll have a little setup work to do. Choose your country, ZIP code and sevice provider. (There's an over-the-air option if that's how you roll, too. You'll also be asked to sort through which channels you've got in your plan. The list is ridiculously long -- TV's like that now, we suppose -- but it's important. Don't forget about your premium channels.
For you newfangled Internet-type video viewers, there are options for Hulu Plus, Crackle and HTC Watch, as well.
Now comes the part where you choose your favorite TV shows. That's good and bad, depending on whether you like being recommenced something that you already like in the first place. We'd rather be recommended something we might not otherwise find on our own. "Law & Order" is always on somewhere.
That's it for the setup. Should just take a few minutes.
Showing shows on the HTC One
Now you'll be at the main viewing screen. Here's where you'll see shows that have been recommended for you, or that are on now, or that are coming up soon. Keep scrolling down in the first pane and you'll eventually see shows being shared by friends on Facebook or Twitter. (That it's at the bottom is fine by us.)
Pan one screen to the right and you'll see shows that are coming up this week. Depending on reruns, there's also a pretty good chance they'll be the same as shows that are on today. Pan over another screen and you'll see "My Videos," which is just a gallery of the videos you've got on your phone. And finally pan over one more screen and you'll see scheduled show reminders.
To watch a show, just tap on the thumbnail. To get more information on a show, tap the three dots on the bottom right of each thumbnail.
At the top of the app, above the show thumbnails, you've got a dropdown menu (for recommended shows, movies, TV programs, sports, social and a tried-and-true channel guide), a power button for turning everything off, the remote control button, a search button, and the overflow menu for settings and tips and tricks.
By the way: If this all looks and sounds a lot like Peel, it's because it's powered by Peel. It's not quite as full-featured as the proper Peel app, but if you're familiar with one, you'll be right at home with the other. (Scroll all the way down to the bottom from the thumbnail menu and you'll see a tiny "Powered by Peel" badge.)
Pro tip: Note the blue progress bar beneath the thumbnails, showing you how much of a particular program remains.
Changing channels with the HTC One
To have the TV app switch to any shows, you'll have to have the infrared remote set up. It's a pretty basic process. Pick the make and model of your TV and box, help it double check that things are working, and you're good to go.
Now you can hit the remote icon in the top of the app to use your phone as a remote control. Or tapping a show in the main screen will tune to it. Note how the top of the display lights up red when the IR remote is in use.
The bottom line
The TV app on the HTC One probably won't replace your remote control, especially if you've got a good universal remote. But it's a fun extension, and a nice backup. And, frankly, if you're too lazy to walk a couple feet to pick up the actual remote control from the other side of the room, it can be a lifesaver. (It's cool. We don't judge.)
What you lose in a system like this is tactile feedback. You don't have the ability to pick up the remove and get to work -- by feel alone, without ever looking down at the remote in your hand. For me, that's a big thing. The less I have to think about a remote control, the better. It's all about muscle memory.
But in a pinch -- and this can be great at parties if you're up for a little hooliganism -- the TV app on the HTC One is a nice little addition to a platform already full of features.