When it first emerged, Channels was interesting firstly for jumping from iOS and Apple TV, and secondly because the DVR portion can be set up on the Shield. So your Android TV box can become a DVR for an iPhone, iPad and Apple TV.
Crossing the streams.
Work has been ongoing and Channels is now available officially as a viewing app for live TV. And it's also made an additional jump to the Amazon Fire TV as well.
How it works
Channels has always been the best way to use a HDHomeRun with Apple devices, and its premium price tag was always worth every cent. Fancy Bits, the developer, is a small operation, but when the product is this good, paying for it is more than fine.
Just as with the Apple TV, you can set up Channels to work entirely in the app if you're going to use it just for watching TV. If you have a HDHomeRun attached to your network it can find this, pull in the program information and let you get on with watching TV.
You can also attach it to a DVR (which is a separate subscription of $8 a month) that lives on your PC or Mac. If you use an NVIDIA Shield, you will be able to set that up to be the DVR, but if you're running this on a Fire TV or the other supported Android TV devices (Nexus Player, Mi Box or Sony Bravia TVs) then you'll have to go down the computer route.
At launch, this app doesn't yet support the DVR feature, but it is coming soon, and it's the first thing that the developer was actually working on.
For a $25 app, you'd expect features, and Channels has them. It'll also keep getting them, because the developer is very active and there's a solid community built around the app.
DVR is the big one that's still to come, and also on the roadmap is a jump back feature, sending you back to your previously watched channel with a double click on the remote.
What Channels does have is a really slick interface that launches really quickly, supports HD TV channels from your HDHomeRun and has the smarts to be able to isolate movies, sports, kids tv, news and so on removing the need to go through your entire guide all the time.
You also get the important pause, fast forward and rewind for live TV, and what's especially useful for HDHomeRun owners is that Channels will allow you to update the firmware on your tuner from within the app. You don't need to go back to your PC or open up the official HDHomeRun app at all.
To anyone who ever used Channels on iOS or Apple TV, the app feels very familiar. The overall styling is about the same, but the simplicity of use has always been one of its strongest features, and nothing has changed here.
And it's pretty easy to set Channels to launch every time you boot your Android TV.
There will always be the "why would I get this" responses, especially to an app that costs $24.99. Extra especially when Android TV has a Live Channels app built right in. The answer to that isn't black and white, and especially with TV, there's no one "best" solution that will suit everyone.
Why do I like Channels? My household is a mixture of Android and iOS, both mobile and TV, and Channels is an app that bridges that gap. It's more reliable in my experience than the Google app (which doesn't have DVR in the UK still), and yes, it's expensive, but I can have the same experience on the Shield, the Apple TV and the Fire TV Stick we have, as well as easily the best experience on the iPad.
But your needs and tastes will be different. I think for actually enjoying live TV, this is better than Plex, because the Plex way of doing things isn't 'normal,' and I like a traditional guide when I'm watching television. And when DVR is added to the main app, my Shield will be the hub for all the devices I watch TV on.
More will come, even if you're not taken right now, and I can understand caution. If you're remotely interested, the Channels forums are a great place to have a look around and chat with some pretty enthusiastic users. Personally, I hope that an Android mobile app will follow, too.
But it is a quality app from a quality developer and one I'm happy has shifted their attention to Android as well.
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