Optus brings TV replay to your mobile, we go hands-on

Have you ever been sitting at work and realised that you forgot to setup a PVR or the Tivo to record something? Optus aims to make it easier for you to watch TV from where ever you are, with a new service that will let you schedule, record, and even watch free-to-air programs from your mobile.

Called “Optus TV Now”, the service allows you to browse through the TV guide on your mobile and then select which programs you’d like to record. While it’s available only to Optus subscribers, everyone using the system gets 45 minutes worth of recorded TV shows free, with five hours of storage on offer for $6.99 per month and 20 hours for $9.99 per month.

So does it work?

Our results were mixed, with Optus TV Now providing a decent service, albeit one that’s severely limited especially in comparison with PVRs.

To use the service on your smartphone, Optus provides an app, available on both Android and iOS. This app doesn’t just serve the TV replay service, but also offers paid access to channels such as MTV, Sky News, Comedy Central, and Nickelodeon.

Logging in is easy – just run the app – but you can only do it from the mobile connection on your phone. Once you’re connected to WiFi, the service tells you to switch off wireless networking and use your mobile connection. While the traffic for streaming video is unmetered through Optus, everything else coming through mobile internet at this time – social networking, email – isn’t, making it a potentially costly affair if you’re watching when you could be connected to WiFi, say at work or home.

Why you need an app to access the service is anyone’s guess, however, as once you click on the “TV Now” button inside the app, your browser launches and takes you to the service. You’ll need to register to use it, but once done, you just browse to the program you want to record, follow the on-screen steps, and the system will do its thing.

Playback is a little harder on you. For starters, the quality isn’t fantastic, with the stream fairly low quality and blocky. But that’s not the main issue that bothered us.

The service doesn't always work the way it should.

When the Optus service records your show, it will also record 10 minutes on each side – before and after – so if you wanted to watch “Shaun the Sheep”, a five minute program, you actually end up with 25 minutes of video.

This seems like it’s been done in order to avoid scheduling conflicts, but it can still be annoying, especially when you’re sitting on the bus trying to find where the show starts as it streams to your handset.

The service can also be a little problematic. Occasionally while we were reviewing, the Optus service just wouldn’t work, with the app either displaying that the service was having technical difficulties, we had run out of our space, or that our selected show had been rescheduled.

You also can’t record when something has already started, forcing you to schedule the program ahead of time.

If you’re already an Optus customer, you can try the service and not lose anything other than time in the process. We’d personally recommend setting up your PVR at home, especially as it will have greater quality.

But if you have to watch something and you’ve got plenty of time on the ride home, this could certainly work for you.