SPB is one of my favorite software makers. Mobile Shell is an awesome program that I’ve used quite a bit. Today I’m going to go through the new version of SPB TV 2.0, an IPTV program for streaming a huge number of television channels straight to your phone. SPB was nice enough to provide us with a copy to review and I’m happy to report that the program worked great and provided a nice distraction from work with the Beverly Hillbillies. The program itself is very solid and well made and suffers from only a couple of issues that I’ll get into later. Let’s start with a few interesting design ideas that really make the program stand out.
The first thing that really sets SPB TV 2.0 apart from all the other IPTV solutions is their channel system. Most programs for TV streaming give you live feeds of the shows as you flip through channels. The problem is that these streaming tv channels take like four or five seconds to buffer up where you can see what the hell is going on. SPB solves this issue by giving you thumbnails of the video that update every so often. This allows you to have the illusion of channel surfing without having to sit through the buffer ever time you want to see what is on another channel. The interface is both quick and smooth. SPB has made sure this program runs lightning fast, even on my three year old Fuze.
This thing has channels for days. Some are slight variations of one another like a collection of Fox stations from around the US. Many are public access or publicly funded stuff but this is on par with other TV services. It does include some pretty awesome old-school sci-fi and horror channels that were a blast of nostalgia into my day. It had a decent comedy channel as well that seemed to load up stuff on demand. The number of channels is definitely impressive but with one issue. SPB, being a Russian software maker, have included a crap-ton of channels from all over the world. We’re talking English, Russian, Italian, French, and others. This is nice if you happen to be octolingual and all but for those of us English only people it just puts a lot of useless channels on your list to flip through. SPB was insightful enough to include the ability to remove channels and even denotes their country of origin making it easier, BUT (this is one of my only problems with the program itself) it does not give you a way to sort them by language. This would make the program much quicker to setup and have a more tailored experience.
The free-ness of the whole thing makes the biggest break from the older versions we’ve seen. The whole ad-supported business usually makes me cringe. From what I’ve seen so far the company only seems to be advertising their own products but in a manner that is totally unobtrusive. While the phone is working up its video buffer SPB gives you a still image of one of its own products, some key take-aways, and a link to download. This is the only place you will see ads throughout the entire program. No lines of text across the bottom of my screen. No banners across the top or breaks in programming to serve you ads based on what channels your watching. Just straight forward pictures that go up for about 2 or 3 seconds while the video buffers. It’s not like you can do anything else with your screen during this time anyway. It’s the perfect system to rake in some cash and not piss off your end user. I am the biggest ad skeptic on the staff and this didn’t bother me at all. It’s when they start taking away my usable space and interrupting my usage that makes my blood boil through my skin and out my eyeballs.
A few other design choices that make a hell of a difference in usage are the bits of information it brings to the user from within the program. While watching any channel the user can tap anywhere on the screen to bring up an onscreen menu (pic on right). As you can see you get the battery and time info from within the program and get maximum screen use for video. Clicking on that little matrix on the left brings up the guide while continuing to stream your current channel to you. The arrow following that allows you to change the quality from low to high. Even with okay 3G coverage I was able to stream the high quality feed with no problems at all. The low quality didn’t look too bad unless it was older black and white programming, such as said billies of the hills mentioned above. Obviously you’ve got volume next to that followed by a button to take you back to the main guide. I also want to mention the program’s ability to schedule reminders for television shows as somewhat of a cool feature but also sort of out of place. I can’t tell you when I have ever been in a situation where I desperately need my cell phone to watch something coming on television but it’s nice that it’s there.
All in all it’s a great program to have in your phone if you’re prone to boredom and like watching old TV or news. To pick it up for FREE, yes that’s right, FREE go HERE for the desktop installer or the .CAB.