Cable TV Apps: Are They Worth the Download?

More and more people are looking for ways to make everything portable.

By HLundgaard (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

With technology at your fingertips, it essentially puts your entire world into the palm of your hand. The viewing capability of today’s devices has made the sound and picture quality excellent, while 3G and 4G speeds make streaming an actual possibility. One arena in the world of mobile applications is the emergence of cable TV streaming apps.

Many apps tout that you can stream all of your favorite cable TV shows right to your phone, tablet, or computer. The claims often state that they can save you money from your home cable TV costs, however, care should be taken when reading these claims. There is more to it than simply downloading the app and watching. In many cases, the app goes hand in hand with your cable TV service provider, so make sure you choose the right TV service for viewing. So before you download your streaming app, be sure to consider the following:

  • Requirement to subscribe to a cable service – many of the apps offer viewing of cable channels through other devices. However, they require you to be a subscriber to the cable channel through a cable provider.
  • Monthly subscription fees – the download of the app may be free, but there is a monthly subscription fee to use the app.
  • Limits to viewing time – some apps are free to download, and free to use, however, there are time limits to how long you can view. Again, many users of the NCAA basketball-streaming app know this unfortunate fate all too well.
  • Monthly data limits – with the disappearance of unlimited data plans for most phones, streaming shows through your device could cause you to go over on your data plan. Overages can be very costly.
  • Limited selection of shows – many channels and cable TV apps only offer a limited selection of what is available on their channel from home.
  • Instability of service – one of the biggest complaints about cable TV apps is that they crash frequently, won’t load, problems with streaming, and often freeze in the middle of shows.
  • Battery usage of device – even with the longer life batteries available for many devices today, streaming videos and shows through your device can drain your battery rapidly. Forgetting your phone charger, or lack of an outlet to plug into can leave you with a dead device away from home.

While there are many plus sides to being able to stream your favorite TV shows to your device while away from home, caution is required. There are limitations to what each app can do, and what is available through each app. It is important to read the fine print and avoid charges you weren’t aware of, restrictions, and usage limits.

To summarize, the apps are great, and I’m sure that eventually they will be a no-brainer for any TV fan as many of these apps are excellent for occasional viewing outside of the home. However, as a reliable, full range option for cable viewing, these apps currently just don’t fit the bill. Instead, they could leave you frustrated and paying for multiple services you did not expect.