Missed a show? Or come Christmas, does everyone else want to watch Fools and Horses for the 57th time when you want to watch the Queen’s speech? – Check our round-up of the best apps and websites to watch free live TV or paid telly channels, and catch-up on shows and films you’ve missed.
It’s that time of year again when Christmas TV will either be a treat-filled cracker of festive cheer or, well, a duff cracker which leaves you with your shoulders slumped and looking glum in your paper hat.
I often miss what’s on TV, Christmas or not, but I intend on catching every second of the Coronation Street Christmas special this year and will rely on my phone to help. You can view days of festive telly in a slick app or online, and even program reminders – so save spending £3 on a bumper Christmas edition TV guide and check out this glittering line-up.
For more app recommendations from Which? read our app reviews.
The TVCatchup app and website let you watch live TV for free over an internet or mobile 3G and wi-fi connection, and shows TV from all UK free-to-air stations, such as BBC1, ITV1, Film4, Dave, and E4.
Apps for iOS (iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch) and Android (2.2 and up) are available, and those with Blackberry, Symbian, or legacy Android (2.1) phones can use an optimised mobile site. You’ll need to create a username and sign-in to use them, but computer users can stream live TV on the full website without needing to register.
It’s great; a clear list of channels is easy to scroll through and displays the current and next program for each within one screen – a program synopsis isn’t available in the app, but is online. A downside is in-app adverts that appear when you launch the app and the guide, but they don’t pop-up while watching a show.
Virgin TV Anywhere
Virgin’s new and free TV Anywhere service lets Virgin Media customers watch live TV and on-demand video through the Virgin website. Customers need to sign-in using their Virgin Media details to view the channels available on their subscription, and can also search for and schedule recordings on their TiVo box – so if you’ve gone away and forgot to schedule your recordings, you won’t be faced with the realisation that you’ll miss the season finale of your favourite TV program.
A TV Anywhere app is available for iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch – an Android app is expected in early 2013. The app lets TiVo box owners connect to wi-fi (not 3G) and use a smartphone or tablet to watch TV from anywhere, outside and inside the home, access their box to manage recordings, and search or browse for programs. The app also has a ‘TiVo Remote Control’ which you can use at home to control the box.
Sky Go lets Sky TV customers view live TV and on-demand Sky content from 43 live channels including Sky Sports and Sky Movies for free in UK and Ireland. The Sky Go website service also makes it possible to watch live TV online. It’s primarily for Sky TV customers, but non-subscribers can get a monthly Sky Go pass for £15.
The app supports streaming to both Android and iOS tablets and smartphones via a 3G or Wi-Fi connection. A recent update adds support for Android 4.2 and more devices, including Google and Acer Nexus 7 tablets, and Google and LG Nexus 4 phones.
It’s a nice app, with a good program guide and controls and also integrates with the Sky Movies app. A range of Sky apps are available for Sky customers, including a Sky+ app to control the Sky+ box, view the guide, and schedule recordings using your device.
Not only can you view tons of movies and TV shows for free, it’s licensed by Sony Pictures too. There’s a good mix of action, comedy, drama, and horror films that are old-ish, older, and not-so-old. While you won’t find the latest Hollywood blockbuster, there’s a good number of well-known titles (and faces) from the vaults rather than just a bunch of ‘B’ movies. We found Gothika, 13 Ghosts, Blind Date, Single White Female, and The Wild One.
It’s a great alternative to those apps that offer movies and TV shows to buy or rent on a pay-per-view or monthly subscription basis, like Google Movies & TV or Netflix, and did I mention it’s free? You just have to create a username, then you can sign-in and stream movies to a supported Android device or iPhone, iPad or iPod touch over a 3G or wi-fi connection. You can also watch online via the Crackle website, using a computer or laptop for example.
Not only are programs available from across the BBC channel line-up, including BBC1, BBC2, BBC Three, and BBC News, you can also watch films that have been aired too. A recent update adds the option to tune into some live TV shows and catch-up on radio broadcasts – Android users can access radio within the app, whereas iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch users have a separate iPlayer Radio app. It’s slick, looks great, and features options to add favourites, link to a series, browse by category (e.g. Drama, Films), and even check what’s expiring to prioritise your viewing.
Tip: Watching over wi-fi not only keeps your data usage in check, it also improves the quality of streamed video (I use it on Android). Android users can also install the BBC Media Player app which is currently only integrated with BBC iPlayer, but will work with other BBC websites and apps to playback video and audio.
You can also watch online via the BBC iPlayer website, using a computer or laptop for example.
ITV Player lets you catch-up with ITV shows from ITV1, ITV2, and ITV3 on your mobile or tablet device, but the latest iOS version also lets you watch live TV streams from ITV1 and ITV2.
However, ITV’s catch-up offering has poor reviews on the app stores for both Android (Google Play) and iOS (iTunes).
It’s worth giving it a try – if you can – it’s not compatible with the latest Android OS (4.1, 4.2), doesn’t support the latest tablets and phones such as Samsung’s Galaxy S III and Note II, and reviews suggest that it doesn’t work very well even on a compatible device.
As an alternative, you can use ITV Player via the website, although this is limited to computers and laptops.
Used these apps? Let us know your thoughts after the jump.