Watching TV on a mobile phone is a relatively new venture that is increasingly available as networks experiment with ways to bring the shows we love to the “small screen.” Discovery Channel app does not make any grand attempts to deliver full length episodes, nor the full breadth of programming found on it’s Cable TV counterpart, but it does provide a good sampling of the most popular shows.
The app loads fairly quickly and you are greeted by the “Latest Videos” page. You can scroll down through about 25 videos in this section with small, finger friendly, thumbnail images of videos alongside the show title and clip description. Each show also has an info icon that brings up a brief summary description of the show and allows you to select the show as a favorite or share via Facebook, Email, and other methods.
Video clips can vary in length but none really go longer than about 4-5 minutes. That’s enough time for small segments of longer shows. I found the segments chosen to be fun and entertaining and certainly served as teasers to the full length shows to be found elsewhere. Once a clip is started, you can pretty much sit back and relax as the clips will continue to play back to back with a brief commercial in between each clip. During playback you can press on the video to bring up a surprisingly useful, dynamic menu that shows categories of other shows and convenient thumbnail images of each clip. A video progress bar is available at the top of the screen and it allows you to pause/play and jog forward or backward to any point in the video as well as showing you the download progress of the clip. I counted 20 shows to choose clips from and each show has about 20 clips or so. Video clips play back in landscape mode.
Not to be completely outdone by video clips of popular shows, a “Photo Galleries” section and “News” section can be accessed via the menu button pop up window. There are lots of photos to go through (about 25 slide shows). I find that low res video is more acceptable due to load times and bandwidth concerns, but the photo section really could have used some higher res photos. Pinch to zoom functionality wasn’t available, but a double tap on a photo zooms in and you swipe to get to the next photo. Zoom was pretty much useless as it’s not really helpful to zoom into a low res photo. The photo section only worked in portrait orientation and not landscape. Also, the sharing feature was missing in the photo section.
Also found on the menu button pop up window is a working search bar that returns relevant results during testing. The News section has more video clips and had over 30 clips available. The “more” button on the menu brings up additional neat features. Here you can pull up a full TV Schedule that goes forward as far as 2 weeks ahead. The schedule shows date, show length, title, and even a brief synopsis. A “Quizzes” section reveals mini trivia games and tests your knowledge of your favorite shows.
- Intuitive user interface
- Ability to “share” content via Email, Facebook, etc.
- Video progress bar. You can jog forward easily by dragging progress bar slider control.
- Easy to navigate to other clips while viewing a video.
- Search that works well
- Ads are everywhere and a bit repetitive. The same AT&T add played over and over again during testing.
- Load times took as long as 1 minute before video begins playing over Verizon 3G. Once it begins playing you will still have to wait through an ad.
- No full episodes.
- Most videos don’t show up full screen (black bars surrounding video)
- Video and photo quality is very low res.
The Discovery Channel App is a worthy download and a fine example of a polished app. A solid effort that makes up for its short video clips by having a good variety of popular content and a simple user interface that makes it easy to explore.
Tested on a Motorola Droid over Verizon 3G data connection. Video load times are likely to improve with a WiFi connection. Discovery Channel Version 1.3
Note: This review was submitted by Jonathan Morales as part of our app review contest.