Developed by: The Nice Agency
Other partners: Ooyala
Tested on: iPad 2
So, the 4oD app is finally here and we have to say that it looks
very nice. And that's not just because almost everything looks nice
on the iPad. The design is clean, uncluttered and easy on the eye.
Almost everything you'd expect to see on a video app is in plain
sight including an A-Z of programmes, suggested viewing, 'Catch-up'
in case you've missed your favourite shows and category listings.
Help and programme information is also very easy to spot and whilst
the default player itself isn't much bigger than a regular iPhone
screen the extra couple of centimetres definitely enhances the
overall watching experience. A full screen mode is also available.
Multiple menus in a smallish space can confuse and detract from
an app's usefulness but Channel 4 seems to have got this just about
right. On startup, the app is split horizontally down the middle:
the top half contains the branding, a big window for a recommended
show - which doubles as the player area - and, of course, the
sponsor; the bottom the various menu options. Navigating your way
through these feels comfortable and intuitive whether you want to
watch the suggested programmes or browse through the categories /
full index. Toggle between available shows and show
Parental controls are a breeze to set up - simply enter a
4-digit PIN code - but C4 assumes that it's a parent who installs
the app in the first place and then hands it over to a young person
to use. If parental controls aren't set up you simply get the usual
"Please confirm you're over 16" message which reminds us of that
story in 'The Onion' years ago - "I Am Under 18 Button Clicked For
First Time in History of Internet". It's a minor quibble.
Finally, monetization. The app, which was released on 28 April,
was a free download although Channel 4's press release was careful
to stress that this may only be an initial offer. Perhaps then
there'd be more adverts to pay for the service? Luckily not. We
watched Episode 1 of "The IT Crowd" and it was prefaced only by a
one-minute pre-roll ad. There was no mid-roll ad and at the end of
the programme the player simply reverted to a placeholder graphic.
We suspect that C4 debated playing more ads but decided not to
which is laudable.
Just when things were going so well, the app is let down a
little by its content. It's not that there's a lack of programmes
(we counted 81 different shows available on the app many with
multiple episodes) it's the haphazardness of what is and isn't
there. For example, clicking on "The IT Crowd" suggests that the
first 2 seasons are ready and waiting to be watched. Closer
inspection reveals however that only Episodes 1 - 3 of Series 1 and
only Episode 6 of Series 2 can be viewed. Seems a bit random, no?
Is there a rights issue? If there is it applies to the iPad only
because the web version of 4oD has all episodes of both seasons
Similarly, some of our favourites are missing (mildly ironic
when the app's tagline is "Catch up on all your Channel 4
favourites here"). Where is Grand Designs or Jamie Oliver's
food-related work or Derren Brown's earliest TV appearances?
They're on the web. Maybe they're coming soon. We'll ask Channel 4
and get back to you.
Overall, a job well done. 4 thumbs up out of 5. Download it now
while it's still free. What do you think? Leave us some