Now that internet-enabled smartphones are rapidly expanding their market share, we’re increasingly turning to our phones to pass the time while we’re on the bus, sitting in a waiting room or even when we should really be keeping our eyes on the road. People have been watching videos on their phones for some time now, but due to recent developments you can now legally stream major television channels as well. Here are three cheap ways to watch your favorite channels on your smartphone.
Through your television provider
This year many cable and satellite television providers have released their own TV viewing apps, often for both iOS and Android. They have been subject to controversy because some TV channels weren’t happy about this move, so your experience may vary depending on your location.
Apps are available for some, but not all, of the major television distributors:
Cost: free with your subscription
No cable subscription?
In the United Kingdom, you don’t even need to have a cable subscription to stream live television. All major Freeview broadcasters (BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5) are available from the ad-supported TVCatchup app.
The worst thing about this service is the 30-second preroll when you tune in to a channel but other than that it is really easy to use. Paid ad-free accounts are not available at this point. I suspect this has more to do with complex legal rules than an unwillingness to offer paid alternatives. Also, keep in mind that you still have to pay TV Licensing if you watch live television online!
If you live in Germany, Spain or Denmark you can watch a selection of the big networks in your area through Zattoo. Depending on your country’s regulations, you may have to pay for a TV license to legally access these streams.
Cost: free, ad-supported
The do-it-yourself solution
If some of the channels that matter to you aren’t available through these apps, there’s a DIY route. You will need some form of TV reception (terrestrial, cable or satellite) and the appropriate software to redistribute these channels for personal use. Orb and SlingPlayer are some of your options.
Orb: streaming from your computer
Among other things, Orb can be used to stream live television from your computer to your mobile devices. You’ll need to install a free piece of software on a Windows/Mac computer and connect an Orb-supported TV tuner to your computer. Their mobile apps for iOS and Android will run you about 10 dollar. If you’re not sure that this is what you need, you can try the lite version of their app for free.
SlingPlayer: streaming from your television
If you have a Slingbox at home, you can buy the SlingPlayer app for iOS and Android to stream live video from your television. Their app will cost you 30 dollar in addition to the price of your Slingbox. Two more caveats: not all of their models are supported and you can only stream one channel simultaneously.
Cost: one-time fee