Members of cable company Comcast in the U.S. have been complaining for a long time about not having a way to stream movies and TV shows to their Android phone or tablet. A few days ago, a new app appeared in the Play Store by Comcast Interactive Media by the name of XFINITY TV Player.
We’ve been teased before with an app by Comcast called XFINITY TV, but that app was purely informational and had no streaming ability, unlike the same app for iOS users. As Android users, we’ve been used to being second in line to Apple when it comes to the release of apps (remember how long it took before we got Netflix streaming?) but now that Android is the biggest mobile OS in the world, I would hope those release schedules would start to sway in our favor.
In any case, we are thankful when we get the apps, and in the case of Comcast’s latest, it may have been worth the wait.
When looking at a streaming video app, there’s usually not much we look for besides reliable streaming, good quality video, and a good selection. We’ll get into those later, but XFINITY TV Player has a couple of extras that are worth mentioning.
Tablet and Phone Support
First and foremost, the app works for both Android tablets and phones running Android 2.3 Gingerbread or higher. The user interface adapts itself to fit the screen of a phone or tablet perfectly.
Below is an example of the phone screen showing the list of available networks, followed by the same screen for tablets.
If you have kids, you’ll appreciate the parental controls built into the app. There’s a simple “Show Adult Content” checkbox specific to the device. There’s also a “Manage Parental Controls” button that actually launches a browser and takes you to the parental controls page on the Comcast web site. Settings there affect any device that logs in to your Comcast account to display videos. It does not affect how your parental controls are managed on your actual digital cable box you have at home. This is for remote devices only.
Finding a program to watch can be daunting, but XFINITY TV Player makes it easy with its use of content filters. You can filter programs by Genre, Network, and Title. Selecting a filter opens up a list of items to check or uncheck. For example, under Genre, you can select to show or hide Action, Comedy, Crime, Drama, etc.
Filtering by Titles allows you to select titles alphabetically by letter, meaning you can show or hide all programs starting with a specific letter.
All these filters allow you to narrow down your results to easily find exactly what you’re looking for.
Streaming Video Quality
I have been using Netflix on my phone and tablet since it became available. It’s been great, but sometimes the video quality has been spotty, even on Wi-Fi.
I would have to say that in the few days that I have been using XFINITY TV Player, I have been very impressed with not only the quality of the video, but the reliability of the stream. Of course, this has been only over the course of three days, so it’s hard to say how truly reliable it is, but as of yet, it has been great. Also, your mileage may vary since the stream quality and reliability is affected by other factors, like your own network.
Just like Netflix, the stream quality also seems to degrade if your network speed can’t handle the bandwidth. I’ve been having intermittent connection issues on my Wi-Fi network at home recently, and the only time I saw a lower quality video stream was when my network had slowed down. The good news is that it adapts quickly and is still watchable even when the quality is lowered.
This is where XFINITY suffers a bit. If you happen to be a subscriber to all the premium channels (HBO, Showtime, Cinemax, Starz, etc) your selection will be a bit better than most, but you only get what you pay for. Luckily, my Comcast plan includes all the premium channels so I have full access.
That being said, it’s obviously not nearly as large a selection as Netflix offers. On the plus side, the selections do tend to be more timely, especially in the TV series categories, where the TV shows are typically only one season behind, sometimes even showing current episodes.
Basically, XFINITY TV Player is your remote window to Comcast’s OnDemand service. But it won’t replace a Netflix subscription as far as selection is concerned.
Comcast did an excellent job with the usability of this app. The tablet UI is quite nice and easy to use, with a simple left-hand strip that contains a few simple icons for Spotlight, Browse, and Search. The Spotlight page is essentially a page that displays the last thing you watched plus other suggestions, including a scrollable Must See section, Top Movies, New Movies, etc. It’s unclear exactly how these recommendations are generated, but it’s not a bad place to land on when the app opens.
Browse let’s you select between TV Series, Movies, and Networks. Below is a screenshot browsing by Networks and selecting BBC America.
Search is just that… a search box that allows you to simply type in what you are looking for.
For version 1 of a streaming app, Comcast hit this one out of the park. The simplicity of the UI coupled with flawless streaming (so far) make XFINITY TV Player a must have app for any Comcast customer. I would still consider it a supplement to something like Netflix, however, since you’re not going to get the large selection on XFINITY alone.
For me, this has made it onto my “must install app” list for any new Android device I own.
Download XFINITY TV Player from the Play Store link and QR code following the screenshot gallery below.