With the advent of smart phones and tablet devices, it seems natural to migrate from a paper subscription for TV listings to an electronic version. The iPad, with its large touchscreen display, is a perfect device for this use, but are there any decent apps for it? An investigation showed that there are three main methods for viewing TV listings on an iPad:
Use the Safari Browser
TV Guide Website - Free
The main TV guide section has a small display, but at least the pinch to zoom feature works, because Safari is an Apple app with full feature support. The main guide has limited show descriptions of current episodes, but you can select the show title in the description window and pull up more information on that particular episode from the TV Guide site. I have seen the cached zip code information mysteriously disappear from time to time, forcing the re-entry of location information. This isn’t an iPad or Safari issue. I’ve had the same problem using Firefox in Windows, so it’s probably a site issue.
Tv.com Website - Free
This site is owned by CNET and has excellent news articles on television shows. You have to navigate a ways into the site to get to the full TV listings. They are displayed as a basic black and white chart. Clicking a TV entry sends you to a new webpage with episode clips in Flash. Unfortunately, Safari does not support Flash on the iPad. The breadth of information is still excellent and worthy of a browser bookmark.
TitanTV Website - Free
This site has a color-coded TV listing page. The episode information is in a pop-up window along with an ad. My cable provider wasn’t listed, but another, for a nearby town, was usable. There is also an iPhone-only app, but not one optimized for the iPad. You can set this site up to track your favorite show listings and send reminders to your iPhone when one of your favorite TV shows is about to start.
Dedicated Full TV Listing Apps
i.TV by i.TV LLC - Free
This is the best-in-class for a full TV listing app for the iPad. It has an excellent GUI that scrolls smoothly with a nice episode synopsis containing color pictures. There are informative TV news articles from the i.TV site. You can bookmark your favorite shows, too. It works in both Landscape and Portrait modes but does not support zooming.
What’s On TV from Zap2it? - Free
The display on this app is just the right size and easy to read. It has smooth up and down and side to side scrolling with concise TV show descriptions and a small cover art picture in a bubble window. Portrait and landscape views are supported, but not pinch to zoom. There is an annoying banner ad at the bottom, taking up 10% of the screen real estate. This is a common way to subsidize an app to offer it for free. Users have reported that the ad sometimes reverts to a full page version, hindering the usefulness of this app. There is a favorite show list that you can customize to show only new or HD episodes.
TV Guide Mobile by TV Guide Online Holdings LLC - Free
The display for this app is big and easy to read, supports landscape and portrait modes, but does not support zoom. It has a favorite show feature and a tab for news on television happenings. The app is poorly rated by users. Show descriptions are spotty and in text form only. If you don’t use the app often, there is a very long lag for the local database to update. Going to the TV Guide site with the Safari browser is a better experience.
TVDaily TV Listing by acrossair - Free
This app is only set up for cable TV users and has no options for those with just over-the-air reception. You can work offline, with just a cached database. The app has TV shows ratings from other users of the TVDaily website. You can sort the channels in the order that you want, creating a custom TV listing guide. The show descriptions are in a very tiny font and the app doesn’t support pinch to zoom. The updated listings can be slow loading when the TVDaily website server is overloaded. At first launch, even after five minutes of waiting, I still couldn’t see show listings four hours into the future. An hour later everything worked fine.
TV Show Tracker Apps
TV Chaser by Laurie Murphy - Free
The GUI is excellent on this show tracker. It fully embraces the preferred Apple iOS GUI methods. For some users, that means there will be a learning curve. For example, if you mistakenly track the wrong show, just press and hold for about ten seconds on the main page entry for that show until a delete button pops up. The app displays in portrait mode only, with no zoom feature, but it really doesn’t need one because of the high-contrast colors and bold fonts of the GUI. It has an excellent presentation of episode information with large color pictures.
TV Forecast by Matthew Comi - $1.99
This particular app is only optimized for an iPhone/iPod and the text is grainy and pixelated on an iPad. Otherwise it’s equal to or better than TV Chaser. Consider it, if you’re only using an iPod Touch. There are details of both previous and upcoming TV episodes of your favorite shows. The GUI has an excellent snappy response. There is also an option to push notify you 15 minutes before a show comes on.
TV Tracker by Keith Avery - $0.99
This app has only a very basic text GUI that packs lots of information onto a single page. Just enter your favorite TV shows that you want to track and it shows last and next episode listings plus complete season episode guides. The show descriptions are in a very small font and there is no pinch and zoom capability. The app only works in portrait mode.
TV Schedules (Lite) Madhuri Godbole - $3.99 or Free for the Lite version
You can track all your favorite shows with this app but only a total of three are allowed in the Lite version. Episode summaries are provided along with user ratings and air times of upcoming episodes. Before I could finish evaluating the Lite version, it went buggy and crashed repeatedly after only five minutes use. Restarting the iPad from a full power down did not clear this issue.
All the above methods were road tested on a first generation iPad. If you want to try them for yourself, just search for the title in the Apple app store. Clearly there is some room to grow in this category but i.TV and TV Chaser are excellent first choices to try.