I spent some time today with two very different iPhone apps with video at the core. Each wowed the teen server at our local diner, who was intrigued by our ability to keep up with a baseball game on an iPhone (actually two different Phones) and by the chance to watch a full episode of Dexter for free. Some of my own first impressions:
Postseason.TV: The playoff version of MLB.TV, a partnership with post-season rights holders Fox Sports and Turner Sports, has some tiny glitches but nothing that ruined the experience. With the Detroit Tigers and the Minnesota Twins locked in an extra-innings duel and dinner time slipping by, we tried it on two different iPhones — a 3G and a 3GS — with the premium version of MLB At Bat already loaded. One, already updated, was instant on; the 3G had to be upgraded before the TV symbol showed up. We started in quad view on Wi-Fi, moved to the car and 3G (I was driving so just getting reports) but couldn’t get video back and switched to audio of the Detroit feed. We tried again on 3G at the diner and it loaded right away. Ditto for the other iPhone but, oddly, the 3GS lagged behind the older phone even when the camera angles were the same. The video came in and out during the ride home, in sync with the usual blips in our network signal. More disconcerting, when we got home the game was over on TV but we were a full batter behind — something to keep in mind if you know someone is watching by iPhone or iTouch. Switching angles was easy but, as expected, the quad view was hard to watch on the small screen — not impossible to follow, just not easy. If I didn’t already have the app, I’d be tempted to pay the $10 for post-season access to every game.
Showtime: Launched Tuesday, Showtime’s free barker app provides some real content — and plenty of reminders to click on a phone symbol and order the premium network for a promo price. The click dials an 800 number, something I’ve never run into before. (That doesn’t mean it’s novel, just that I’ve never seen it done like this.) The offerings include full episodes of the net’s originals including Dexter, Californication, United States of Tara, Weeds and The Tudors. I’m a little surprised by how well The Tudors, a lush series, translates to the iPhone — and by how easy it was to stream in 3G. Powered by Transpera, which gets to promote its own ad offerings, the app also includes clips, previews, schedules, podcast — and 5-15 second pre-roll ad avails. The Dexter Scramble game is a little tame — and requires leaving the app to download as a separate app, so a little confusing. Overall, will the Showtime app get people to sample? yes. Subscribe? Maybe. Better chance if it came with full iPhone access.