As a longtime Tivo user, the experience had with the Android app to date has been just shy of absolutely miserable. The first release was little more than an iOS port that didn't scale correctly when using larger screens or devices with higher than what was considered normal resolutions at the time, and when the app did finally improve enough that it was usable on all devices the UI was outdated and sluggish. It didn't matter what device you used the Tivo app on, scrolling through the Guide with a finger flick was inviting pain.
That was then. This is now. This is the new Tivo for Android.
DVRs did a lot to change the way a lot of people watch TV, and Tivo is largely responsible for leading the charge with that particular experience. Things have changed a little with smartphones, LTE, and at least a dozen truly great streaming video apps out in the world, making it a little harder for those who aren't interested in cutting the cord to justify the cost of a Tivo. The company has made some strides over the last year to help make that decision a little easier — namely the ability to stream anything and everything straight from the box to your mobile device — but with competing services picking up speed what Tivo really needed was an entirely fresh approach to the living room.
Coupled with the software update to the Tivo platform we saw initially at CES this year, the Android version of the Tivo app has been completely redone. Not only does the app let you take advantage of the new features found within Tivo itself, but the updates design and dramatically improved performance of the app makes the experience feel as though it's a new platform altogether.
The folks at Tivo set us up with early access to the new app to demonstrate just how different the experience was, and since my personal Tivo is a generation old at this point we were able to use a Roamio Pro to get the full experience. To say there was a performance difference in the app after the update is the understatement of a lifetime. Everything from the fly-in Material Design menu to scrolling through the live Guide was amazingly smooth, with no noticeable lag when using the app as a remote control for the Tivo. The UI had also been updated to match the deeper blues and darker shades of the newer Tivo user interfaces, which not only stand out and look nice but serves to make using the phone as a remote less distracting when the lights are out and your screen brightness is down. It's an all-around huge improvement, both long overdue and deeply appreciated.
Since we're using a Roamio Pro for this test, live streaming live TV and recorded content is another feature worth mentioning. Tivo has worked hard to make the streams as smooth as possible for mobile devices, transforming the feature from an afterthought to something worth using whenever you need it. Streams over Wifi start in seconds and are immediately watchable, with streams over LTE taking only slightly longer. Tivo adjusts the stream quality quickly to meet whatever your data connection is, with none of the strange audio issues the previous version of the app experienced. These adjustments make it possible to take your entire Tivo experience anywhere and actually enjoy the experience, and as tired as this phrase is the whole setup truly did "just work".
Tivo's big new change on the DVR side of things is the addition of OnePass. This new tool is an evolution of the Season Pass setup that Tivo has had for years, leveraging the ability to stream content on your Tivo box to complete a season that may be missing some episodes. For example, if you've just discovered Marvel's Agents of Shield this week, and decided you need to watch the whole show from the beginning, you can tell OnePass to pull from Amazon Prime Instant Video, Hulu, and others as well as recording any previously aired and new episodes that are set to broadcast in the future. The end result is a single list of episodes from multiple sources that lets you binge watch the show you've just discovered with minimal effort on your part. The OnePass manager works similarly enough tot he old season pass manager that existing users should feel right at home, and toggles for things like purchasing episodes that aren't available as part of a streaming subscription offer just enough flexibility for every use case.
By the time you read this, most of the modern Tivo devices will have already gotten the software update on the DVR end of things. Users will have already been prompted to check out OnePass and seen the small differences the change made to the system UI, but the big changes can all be found here in the app. It's fantastic to see Tivo finally taking mobile — and Android — so seriously. Even if you're not likely to enjoy streaming from your Tivo, the new app has almost everything you need to seriously consider sliding that peanut-shaped Tivo controller in a drawer and never using it again.