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First look at SlingPlayer Mobile for iPhone

Mel Martin

This is a painful review to write, because the SlingPlayer for iPhone had so much potential before AT&T decided to cripple it. One can understand the terror at the thought of a million SlingPlayers draining network bandwidth dry, but in fact, AT&T seems to be violating its own Terms of Service by allowing other smartphones to run SlingPlayer without interference.

OK, so how does the SlingPlayer [App Store link] for iPhone/iPod touch work on a WiFi network? Pretty well. The video can be a bit choppy, but it is quite watchable, and basically gives you a full-featured television receiver (or DVD player if you are set up that way) wherever you have an accessible network.

Set up is pretty easy and does not require a manual. The only pain point is inputting your unique Sling ID which requires typing long strings of upper case letters followed by numbers. This can be skipped if you have a Sling account configured in advance.

In my case I have a SlingBox Pro, connected to a DirecTV HD receiver. The remote worked fine, and it is a transparent overlay so the video shows through. Entering a command results in a 4-5 second wait for it to be executed, but that is understandable considering what is going on behind the scenes. Entering pretty much any command to the remote pauses the video and audio, which again, is understandable but not desirable.

If you have a DVR, the SlingPlayer app will control it, which is a real benefit to users who are away from home and want to catch a program, or play it back remotely.

The loss of 3G functionality is sad. In the old days I used the SlingPlayer on a Motorola smartphone. When traveling, it was easy to catch a newscast or get some ball scores from any location. Now, you have to have a Wi-Fi connection, which seriously limits your options.

Finally, there is the matter of price. It is hard to endorse paying $30.00US for an app that has lost a major feature. Sling charges the same price for versions of the app that do run on 3G. It seems unfair given all that has happened to this app.

It is certainly true that Sling Media is not to blame for the business decisions of AT&T, but the company certainly controls the pricing of the app.

I think there will be a lot of people who want to buy and use SlingPlayer Mobile for iPhone. On the other hand, many people have had their enthusiasm severely dampened by the current situation. Unfortunately, no matter how clever the app, and it IS clever, AT&T, Apple and Sling Media have all been damaged by this drama.

Nothing is forever, and policies can change. All concerned will have to figure out if the decisions made so far with this app are worth the damage to reputations and corporate image.

Note: The Sling web site is running pretty slowly as I write this, and I was surprised to see that the iPhone version of the app is not listed in the support options.

Here are some screen shots of the app in operation:

Gallery: SlingPlayer Mobile | 6 Photos

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