If you have HBO and a mobile device, you should have HBO GO–the app that serves up everything HBO is cooking. But is this a full course meal or just another take-out dinner?
HBO GO is available on a number of platforms, including apps for desktop browsers, set-top boxes, and game consoles. We’ll focus on the mobile apps for iOS and Android, but there aren’t many differences in features and video quality from one platform to the next and no differences in the program lineup.
Once you’ve downloaded and installed the app, the first thing you’ll need to do is verify that you subscribe to HBO already via your cable or satellite provider. Currently, there’s no other way to get HBO GO. Some users have reported issues during this part of the process, but for me and many others, authorization was quick and painless.
Getting around the app is easy, thanks to a clean and intuitive design. You’re never more than a few taps away from watching any specific episode or movie, whether you use the “Categories” menu to narrow down your choices or go right to “Search” to pinpoint a favorite. Speaking of favorites, the “Watchlist” allows you to set up shows that you’d like to get to eventually with the added usefulness of reminding you when a new episode becomes available.
You’ll find everything from the current season of Girls and Game of Thrones to iconic classics such as The Sopranos and Oz. Unlike “a la carte” services like Netflix and HuluPlus, HBO GO offers every episode from every season, including first-run episodes—sometimes even before the episode airs on television. Keep in mind that the selections on HBO GO favor the more popular and recent series; I was glad to find Curb Your Enthusiasm and Flight of the Conchords but disappointed at the omission of Mr. Show and Larry Sanders.
The series overview page provides a description and details about the show as a whole, even providing previews in case you’re curious but uncommitted. Likewise, the individual episode pages give a brief synopsis and pertinent details, including the ratings. HBO GO provides a family filter just in case you need to keep young ‘uns away from the racier stuff. You know, like the entire Late Night category.
Playback works smoothly over Wi-Fi, and even looks out for your data plan by letting you block, or at least be notified, when you start streaming over 3G or 4G instead. I had some issues when stopping playback and resuming later; don’t expect the app to remember where you left off, especially if you lock your phone and do something else for a while.
To access HBO GO you have to be an HBO subscriber. Granted, that does cover about 30 million U.S. households, but television’s future is increasingly about mobile and “on demand” solutions. There are plenty of people who can’t or won’t subscribe just to get HBO—and at least 150,0001 who are willing to pay for an a la carte option that HBO (which is owned by Time Warner, a major cable provider) refuses to deliver for now2. However, with the way HBO GO is set up, users can and are sharing password. This activity has become so prevalent College Humor even made a sketch about it. View below:
HBO GO is really quite impressive. As stated, if you have a smartphone or tablet and an existing HBO subscription, you’d be silly not to have HBO GO. It’s not simply a “second screen” home-only app; unlike cable provider apps, you can take HBO GO with you anywhere. Anyone who is familiar with HBO’s programming quality and variety will testify that it’s also got far more to offer than any other single-network app—you could easily satisfy all of your drama, action, and comedy needs without leaving the HBO environment.
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