The people over at Sling Media really get it. They consistently make products that work — and work well. Their latest application, SlingPlayer Mobile for BlackBerry, is no different. In fact the only downside to this application, which is currently in beta, is the price tag the final version is due to have, which Sling says will be $29.99.
Like the existing SlingPlayer Mobile applications, which work with Windows Mobile, Palm OS, or Symbian phones, SlingPlayer Mobile for BlackBerry lets you view the contents of your Slingbox-connected TV on your smartphone. Right now the BlackBerry app only works with GSM phones — so you’ll need a BlackBerry that’s on the AT&T or T-Mobile network. You’ll also need to make sure the phone is running version 4.5 (or higher) of the BlackBerry operating system. I tested the application on a BlackBerry 8820, and had to update the phone’s software in order to run SlingPlayer — a process that took more than an hour.
Once the phone was updated, though, installing and running the SlingPlayer application was simple. Just go to mobile.slingmedia.com on your phone and click to download the app. Once it’s installed, you can connect to your Slingbox, which has to be remote viewing-enabled, by logging in with a user name and password. From there, you can view the TV, change the channels, and access content that’s stored on a connected DVR.
I tested it using two demo Slingboxes set up by the company for media purposes. I’ve used both of these Slingboxes before to test the remote access capabilities of Sling.com and the SlingCatcher device — and I have to say that the video quality over the BlackBerry was as good, if not better, than when using either of those products. Video looked surprisingly sharp, and audio was almost always in sync with the picture. Video tended to stall when changing the channel on the remote TV, but quickly caught up. And you can easily switch to a full-screen view that, on the 2.4-inch BlackBerry display I was using, looked very good. Still, don’t expect to see HD content in full HD: One of the Slingboxes that I tested was an HD model, and video quality was about the same as when viewing content from a standard-def Slingbox.
Sling recommends using a Wi-Fi or 3G connection to stream video, and I did see a noticeable improvement when connecting via Wi-Fi instead of the slower EDGE network. But even when using EDGE, I found the video very watchable, which is more than I can say about plenty of other mobile video services. Right now, the company only lists six supported BlackBerry models on its site, but I tested the app on an unsupported phone — the brand-new BlackBerry Curve 8900, which has a high-resolution 480-by-360 screen — and found it worked fine. The high-res screen did not provide a noticeable pop in the image quality, though, so don’t worry if you’re using an older BlackBerry with a lower-res screen.
Sling also has an iPhone app in the works, and says it expects to submit the application to Apple for certification by the end of March. After that, it is up to Apple when the app will be available for download in the App Store. Sling won’t say how much the iPhone app will cost.
If you have a Slingbox and a BlackBerry, you’ll want SlingPlayer Mobile for BlackBerry. It’s a great way to watch the TV you want to watch when you’re away from home. I only wish the app were free. After all, you’ve already paid $180 — or more — for your Slingbox. That price should include the mobile software, too.