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Bell’s RemotePVR a let-down

The digital video recorder was one of those game changing pieces of technology when it first debuted in 1998.  In our house, as in many, it has become a mainstay, especially through the last couple of weeks of the Olympics.  So let’s just say I was jazzed when Bell announced their remotepvr service

With Bell Remote PVR, you can now search listings, queue the PVR to record shows, manage the recordings you already have, and when you come home, you can watch them. And you can even do it on your iPhone using the Bell Remote PVR iPhone app.   Sounds good, no?

Well, the answer is no.  It’s just not a very good app, bearing all the hallmarks of being rushed to market with little user testing.  For example:

  • The iPhone app has no “remember me” for the login.  Each time it starts you have to fumble around with logging in, and with the Bell user name and password security requirements that’s a lot of shifting and typing to get the required combination of letters and numbers in there.
  • In a universe of 313 “now on” shows, the UI metaphor is a scrolling web page – complete with a next link at the bottom of each page allowing you see the entries 30 at a time.  You can search easily, but browsing to see what’s on is annoying.
  • Bell TV allows you to add a secondary disk for archival purposes.  Want to hang onto a show?  Simply archive it.  And that’s good, because the only disk that you can record to is the primary disk.  What that means is that periodically you have to tell the box to archive material you want to keep.  RemotePVR let’s you see everything on the PVR, but doesn’t differentiate between archived and primary disk. You can delete a show from anywhere, but you can’t move a show from primary to archive.

These are basically nits, however. With a little polish, this jewel in the rough might become a gem.

By far the biggest let-down of this application follows.

If you were looking through a listing of previously recorded shows using your iPhone, and saw this screen, what would you think that the Watch button is intended to do?


Or how about this…  While browsing the guide, I note that Canada AM is currently on, and click on the show.  The following screen is displayed.  What would you think the Watch button would do in this circumstance?

photo (2)

Only one way to find out, right?  Go ahead and press it.  And this is what you get. 

photo (3)

No video plays, though, which is a bit strange. No matter how many times I press that play and pause button the video just doesn’t seem to show. 

So what does it do?  I’ll give you one clue… Janice just wandered into our home office and asked who was watching the TV downstairs.  It turns out that the TV is blasting out CTV’s Canada AM as I write this, and it started up when I pressed that watch button.    You can’t actually stream a show to your iPhone, but your iPhone can serve as a substitute remote while you’re watching TV.

In other words, to watch TV using Bell REMOTE PVR you have to be sitting in front of your TV


{ 2 comments… add one }

  • Jim Courtney March 2, 2010, 6:35 am

    Now returning to using SlingPlayer Mobile (BlackBerry, iPhone, Symbian) to remotely set my PVR recordings and … to actually Watch a selected program. (and it works with any cable TV subscription, including Rogers).

    All through the Olympics I was seeing those ads and saying to myself "What's new here?". Been doing that for a couple of years. Eh?

  • Kevin Haggerty March 3, 2010, 12:49 pm

    While it sounds like the app does need some polish, it's way better than not having it at all. I'm currently with Rogers and have been trying to get an answer out of them for when/if they will be offering something like this. No response.

    Question: I assume you can also access this functionality through a browser on your desktop? Is the experience any better that way as compared to the iPhone app?

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