SlingPlayer Mobile for Android
- Improved boot-up and response times
- Generally intuitive interface
- Good video quality
- More expensive than most other apps
- Video temporarily freezes up upon each input
- Some controls not intuitively labeled
Now, back to the Android mobile app. At first launch, obviously you'd need to put in your Sling Media account credentials, and then the app will let you choose one of the SlingBoxes associated with your account -- don't be alarmed, since each box only allows one live connection. With everything typed in, launching the app in the future would prompt an automatic connection (you can always log out in settings if necessary). If all goes well, you'll be greeted by your usual TV display as well as SlingPlayer's four groups of buttons: "DVR," "D-Pad," Keypad" and "Misc," all accessible from the top bar. These are rather self-explanatory and are very similar to the ones on the iOS version, although there are areas where one version does better. For example, the iOS version's keypad and D-pad are rather intrusive to the eye, whereas the Android version's still leave you some clear viewing space; on the other hand, the Android version's "Misc" category is rather unintuitive with all the text-only buttons, while the iOS version offers pages of graphical buttons instead. What put the crown on the green robot were the start-up and response times, just as Sling Media promised us -- on our Nexus One and Dell Streak, it took about four to six seconds before the video stream showed up over WiFi, whereas on our iPhone 4 it took about eight to twelve seconds; the response time was similarly halved on the Android devices.
We applaud Sling Media for making its mobile app available across such vast range of platforms. While we've only had the chance to play with the iOS version and Android version, the latter newbie was almost as intuitive and was as stable. Sure, there are no breakthrough features here, but the point is now you can benefit from the same option on the numerous Android devices, and not to mention the snappier performance over the iOS version. As for justifying the $29.99 price tag, it'll really depend on how often you watch TV, as well as the number of functionalities you get on your set-top box. In our case, we could only use the app to watch live TV, but had our SlingBox been connected to a DVR, it would mean that we could've also used the app to remotely record a show, or even stream a recorded show from our library instead of relying on video-hosting sites (and some might be blocked in certain countries or premises, anyway). In that sense, it's safe to say that SlingPlayer Mobile is well worth the price for TV addicts that are often on the move, and not to mention that it's a great way to cure your homesickness while abroad -- just make sure you're not on data roaming while watching re-runs of Top Gear.