One of my all time favorite apps on Android is TV Shows Favs, which allows me to track my favorite TV shows and see when new episodes air. I’ve dedicated almost an entire home screen to its widget on my phone, and prefer to use it through the widget. Ever since getting the iPad mini however, it has become my go-to device for a lot of information access that I used to use my phone for, simply because the form factor of the mini makes it perfect for that use, while at the same time giving me an actual tablet OS with everything that goes with that. As such, I went out looking for a similar app for iOS, and found iTV Shows.
The concept of this app is the same as TV Show Favs: You add your favorite shows, and then use the app to see when episodes of that show airs, as well as view information about episodes, and track which episodes of a show you’ve seen. You can’t watch anything in the app, and the best description for it is a personalized TV guide. These apps are becoming fairly common these days, and thanks to various information databases they’re usually very good at grabbing both information and graphics and presenting it in a nice way.
iTV Shows is no exception. It’s beautifully designed, and a pleasure to use. You add your shows using the earch feature, and then when you start up the app, you get the schedule showing when shows air. From there, you can head into each show to view information about the show or specific episodes. The app uses the layered column/pane design that many apps use these days, meaning that when you click a show, it opens a new column next to it with an episode list, and clicking an episode further opens a new column with episode information. This hides the first column, and you go “back” by just dragging the columns out of view. This is a typical design for an iPad app, one which is both practical, looks good, and utilizes a tablet’s screen real-estate well.
This system also makes the app fairly easy to navigate. Because it fetches information dynamically from online databases, you’re always presented with both information and graphics/screenshots as you navigate the different panes. Apps like these should be graphically beautiful, and this definitely does that well.
Aside from just having the schedule, there are two other major features: Tracking watched episodes, and show discovery. Pretty much anywhere you are in the UI you see these small bookmark-like icons you can click to mark an episode as watched, and you can also head into the dedicated To Watch section, which gives you a sortable list of episodes you’ve yet to watch. Unfortunately, I’m having a lot of difficulties using this, as I’ve yet to find a way to mark all episodes in a show as watched. No matter where I try to click “watched”, it somehow translates to marking a single episode, not the entire show. There’s a setting for “Episodes Seen” in the app’s settings, but this setting neither makes sense nor does it seem to do anything at all. To explain what I mean by not making sense, take a look at this screenshot:
Personally, I have no freaking clue what this means. “Choose the desired behavior when checking an episode concerning the older unseen episodes” sounds like a translation gone horribly wrong, and doesn’t make much sense. It appears as if “check” is used to mean “mark something using a check mark”, because there’s no indication of what it’s actually “checking” otherwise. I played around with all three options, adding new shows for each option to see what happened, and I couldn’t for the life of me find a difference. I was never asked about anything, it never marked anything as watched, and there simply wasn’t a difference from one option to the next. Either I’m missing something, or this is some kind of bug, but it’s hard to tell when the option doesn’t make any sense to begin with.
As a result, I have 4200 “unwatched” episodes of shows stretching back through 2o years of TV history, and no way I’ve found to tell the app that I’ve seen them. Suffice it to say I’ve not bothered with the episode tracking feature because of this, as marking 4200 episodes manually is a bit excessive.
As for show discovery, the app has a very neat feature for doing just that. The so-called Genius feature (named after Apple’s Genius feature, no doubt) is essentially like having an iTunes-like interface with suggested TV shows, with shows sorted into a featured slider on top, as well as sections for recommended shows for you personally and a top shows section. It looks great, and is an awesome way of discovering new shows. Perhaps more importantly, it relies on accuracy rather than the spamming method of recommending a hundred titles that Fayve uses.
All in all, iTV Shows is a great app. Despite some issues with Engrish settings, it’s generally very well thought out, and it looks good. For $3 for a universal app, it’s well worth it.