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What TiVo Could Teach My Verizon FiOS TV DVR

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Written by Liane Cassavoy.

I recently swapped my old Series 2 TiVo for an HD-capable DVR from Verizon FiOS. While I love the fact that I can record high-def programming, I miss my trusty, user-friendly TiVo. Here are a few things that Verizon — and all of the cable companies that also rent DVRs to their customers — could learn from TiVo.

Use clear menu labels, and don’t be afraid to add a few more: TiVo’s menus are easy to understand. To search, for example, you select “Find Programs & Downloads” from the main menu, and then can opt to search for a particular show, actor, category or keyword. My Verizon FiOS DVR groups all of these search options into one, catch-all category entitled “Search for Show.” While this means fewer menu options — and potentially less scrolling — it’s actually more confusing, as it’s not clear that you can actually do anything other than search for a program by name.

Design a remote that’s easy to use: With its peanut shape and clutter-free layout, the TiVo remote is a cinch to use. It even passes my ultimate test: My mother can use it when she babysits my kids. The Verizon FiOS remote (which looks almost identical to my old Comcast remote) is as cluttered as can be. It’s overloaded with buttons that are nearly impossible to distinguish from one another.

Work as advertised: The Verizon FiOS DVR has a nice feature: It groups episodes of the same series into folders, which results in less scrolling when I’m searching for a show to watch. Unfortunately, this feature doesn’t always work.

Make friends: TiVo has deals with Entertainment Weekly, YouTube, and others to bring content and recommendations to your DVR. Verizon is testing web video on its set-top boxes, but currently my Verizon DVR can only access content from my TV. It can’t even connect to my home network like my TiVo can. It has a USB port on the front of it, but a quick web search reveals that the best use for this port is charging an iPod, as it provides power but does little else. (Verizon does, however, offer a Home Media DVR that lets you access photos and music from your PC, and view them on your TV.)

Add a reboot button: I recently went away for a week and came home to find that my DVR was frozen in time. It thought it was still Aug. 14, and all of the programs that should have been recorded since that date were still listed in the scheduled recordings section. All that was required to fix this problem was a simple reboot of the device. After digging through several menus — including the unhelpful help menu — I decided to unplug the DVR and then turn it back on. It worked, but it would have worked much more quickly if there was a reboot option somewhere in there, the ways TiVo does.

Of the 26 million DVRs in the U.S., only 1.7 million of them are from TiVo. I understand completely why so many people opt for a DVR from their cable company rather than purchasing one from TiVo. After all, it’s cheaper (about $15 per month, as opposed to spending $300 on an HD TiVo and $13 per month for the service) and it’s convenient. I just wish that all of those people didn’t have to settle for a DVR that can be too hard to use and simply not as good.

Liane Cassavoy has been writing about and reviewing technology for the past 10 years. She was a staff member of PC World magazine and has contributed to Entreprenuer,, and other publications, and recently authored a book that will be published by Entrepreneur Press later this year.

7 Responses to “What TiVo Could Teach My Verizon FiOS TV DVR”

  1. This doesn’t exactly address the price issue, but I was able to purchase a lifetime subscription with my TiVoHD.

    Also, it the Verizon DVR a dual tune? I like being able to record 2 shows at once with the TiVo. The Tivo onscreen guide is also easier to use, IMO, and I’ve noticed that the Verizon guide has very generic show descriptions for some programs, instead of an actual episode description.

  2. 1.6 is a staggered region by region rollout. They should be done in a month or so I’m thinking.

    Regarding VOD and TiVo – TiVo does offer Amazon Unbox. It’s a fairly large library, though content is standard def.

  3. Liane Cassavoy

    Dave: I’m still running 1.5, but I would love to see the improvements you mention in 1.6, as I find the current UI very inefficient. And you’re right, Verizon does have a few deals–and has more in the works–but, in my opinion, they’re just not as useful right now as TiVo’s deals. TiVo’s partnerships can bring more interesting content to my DVR. But it does sound like Verizon is moving in the right direction on this one.

    Ben: I agree that price is the biggest reasons to choose a FiOS DVR over a TiVo, though I do also like the idea of their Home Media DVR, which lets you watch content from one DVR on another. Still, price is the reason I’m sticking with my Verizon FiOS box for now. And I haven’t been bothered by the lack of the 16×9 guide. Do you find that you’re not able to see enough information on the current guide?

    megazone: I am considering a Series 3 or HD TiVo, but I know that I can’t do without the On Demand service–my children just wouldn’t have it. The wealth of new programs on there can be an absolute life saver when I need to keep them occupied!

  4. As Dave said, FiOS is basically cable delivered over fiber, and they do support CableCARD. So you could pick up a TiVo Series3 or TiVo HD and use it with your FiOS service. As with cable you lose access to OnDemand content, but it works with all of the standard linear channels. Right now a ‘factory-renewed’ TiVo HD is just $180 from

  5. Stephen Simon

    It is hard for me to understand why Cable, Satellite, and Broadband are not partnering upright with TiVo and offer all of that you can get with a TiVo standalone DVR. It can save time, money, and the constant drops of clients due to flaws with in-house DVRs. TiVo is a great solution. A generic TiVo is only 1 to 2 dollars a month, a fee that can be shared between Verizon Fios and its costumers. Just see all of that a TiVo can perform–by just using the remote control with a great simplicity:
    Click where it say: SHOW ALL.

  6. I’d say Verizon does have deals – they already broadcast CNET content for example and they hosted Olympics content – plus, as I blogged on my site web video (via PC) is coming towards the end of this year or early next. As you noted, there is a higher tier package which includes photo and video sharing from PC and the new software also allows web scheduling.

    Also, you didn’t state if you’re running v1.5 or 1.6 – there’s been a lot of subtle tweaks, some of which makes the UI more efficient with fewer “OK” confirmations for example.

    I agree on the remote. It blows. Not sure if it comes with the Moto hardware or what, but they (and Comcast) can do better.

    And if you’re dead set on TiVo, you can continue to use it with FiOS TV – either controlling their STB (SD) or via CableCARDs (for HD).