Monsoon Multimedia’s HAVA products have long been a lesser-known competitor to the Slingbox line of place-shifting devices. I’ve always been impressed with the HAVAs I tested, which were functionally better then most Slingboxes, though a little less refined. The same is not true of the newly released HAVA Mobile Player for iPhone app, which doesn’t quite live up to the standard set by the SlingPlayer for iPhone app.
The HAVA Mobile Player lets you view the contents of your HAVA-connected TV over your iPhone’s Wi-Fi connection; like the SlingPlayer app, it does not work over 3G connections. It’s available for $9.99 in the App Store. That’s a bargain compared with the $29.99 that the SlingPlayer app will set you back, but it still seems high to me. To use it, you need a HAVA set-top box, the cheapest of which costs $150. I’d love to see the mobile app come with the device.
I tested HAVA Mobile Player using a demo HAVA set up by the company for testing purposes. Connecting to the device was easy: I just entered the name and password, and within a few seconds, video was playing on my phone. Video looked good, too. The picture was clear, and audio was always in sync with video. I was even able to read on-screen print and graphics with ease when watching news channels like CNN.
As impressed as I was with the app’s video quality, I was equally unimpressed with the way the app’s controls were implemented. The menu reappears when you tap the screen; from there you can access favorite channels, the remote control, the controls for the set-top box, and the DVR controls. But once you delve further into these controls, the app stumbles. The remote control, for example, lets you scroll through or tune to a specific channel. There’s a slight delay while you wait for the channel to change on the remote TV, which is to be expected. My complaint is that once your channel comes on, the remote doesn’t disappear the way it should. Instead, it stays on-screen — occupying at least half of the screen — until you manually close it.
You access the guide through the set-top box control icon — and similarly, after the guide launches, the controls don’t disappear. They stay on-screen, blocking most of the guide info, until you manually control them. But the problem here is that there’s an X icon that says Exit, and another X icon, which sits in a circle. The “Exit” button is the one that you use to Exit the guide itself, while the circled X is the one you tap to hide the controls. Figuring this out, though, took some trial and error.
HAVA Mobile Player also lets you access your DVR remotely, but the DVR features did not feel fully fleshed out in my tests. The DVR controls are basic, with options for playing, pausing and recording live TV. When I pressed pause, though, nothing happened; I saw a message saying that the app was sending a pause command to the remote DVR, but the show continued to play. Adding to the confusion, the DVR controls don’t actually allow you to access the content stored on your DVR; to do that, you have to go into the set-top icon, and then into the menu. It’s an inelegant solution.
HAVA Mobile Player tops SlingPlayer Mobile in price and in video quality, but lags in usability. If you already have a HAVA set-top box, this app is a decent mobile solution. The mobile app alone, though, is not enough to make me purchase a HAVA — not until those controls get revamped.