A quick review of HBO Now on iPad

{ 17 comments }

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Yesterday we took a quick look at the new HBO Now streaming service on the Apple TV.  With HBO Now, you can access all of HBO’s original programming plus a variety of movies without needing an HBO subscription through your cable company.  You only need a broadband connection, and you’ll need the iPad connected to the internet via WiFi, of course.  It worked very well with my Apple TV, so today we’ll give it a look on the iPad.  I am able to access the programming on both devices from the same user account, but I currently have two Apple TVs and three iPads that I’d like to use to access the programming, so I investigated the help information at HBO Now to see if that was allowed.  They said:  “There is no limit to the number of supported devices you can use with your HBO NOW subscription. However, the number of videos you can watch simultaneously across all your devices is limited for security reasons.”  They don’t say what that limit is, but I don’t think we’d ever be watching more than two shows simultaneously.

Let’s see if the HBO Now service works as well on the iPad as on the Apple TV.  

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After I downloaded the HBO Now app to my iPad Air 2, I was able to just sign in with my current account.  The top image in this review shows the home screen for the HBO Now app.  It looks different than the home screen on the Apple TV, as you’d expect.  Touch the list icon, seen under the WiFi signal strength icon on the top left, to open up the list of app options.

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The same options are available in the iOS version of HBO Now as in the Apple TV option.

Again, the Watchlist contains lists of programs you’ve marked as something you want to watch in the future and a list of programs you’ve already watched.  If you stopped a program before it finished, you can come to the Watchlist to quickly find and restart the program when you’re ready to finish watching it.

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Just like on the Apple TV, the iOS app separates programs into categories.  Series shows the library of HBO original series, including True Detective, The Sopranos, True Blood, etc.  Both the Apple TV and the iOS lists show exactly the same offerings in the “All”, “Latino”, and “Family” subsets.

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Movies shows the old and new movies that are currently available to watch through HBO Now.  There’s a lot of movies in this list, but it’s by no means every movie HBO has shown over the years.  I hope this list will periodically be updated with fresh offerings.  These may be the same movies that HBO has available in their standard cable offerings. If so, they should change monthly.

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The iOS app doesn’t have a More category, like the Apple TV does.  Those sub-categories are in the main list in the iOS app.  Comedy lists the same set of comedy specials that the Apple TV had.  I’m sure it’s not a complete list of all of HBO’s comedy specials, because I don’t see Sinbad’s Afros and Bellbottoms, and there’s nothing by Robin Williams.  Again, I hope they’ll refresh the offerings in this category periodically.

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Sports has the same list of dozens of boxing matches and some sports documentaries we saw on the Apple TV.

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Documentaries has non-sports offerings, including HBO’s new Going Clear documentary about the Church of Scientology.

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Collections is a location where you can find featured new offerings, a list of “The Essentials” that someone at HBO thinks everyone needs to see, family-friendly offerings, etc.

There’s also a Late Night category in the iOS app, but I decided a screen capture here might be offensive to some readers.  Late Night is HBO’s adult-oriented programming, like their Taxicab Confessions.

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Search is much easier in the iOS app than on the Apple TV.  You don’t have to navigate around an alphanumeric matrix using the remote in this app.  Here, you just touch the magnifying glass icon at the top right of all the screens to open up the search function and the on-screen keyboard.  It starts populating a list of possible matches as you type.

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Settings lets you set parental controls to keep your kids from being exposed to programming that you don’t want them to watch.

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I watched a variety of programs on my iPad Air 2.  Because I never tire of Peter Gabriel’s music, I watched part of the 2014 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductions again.  I grabbed a screen shot, so you can see that the video is letterboxed on the iPad.  The video is very sharp, clear, and high resolution.  I also watched some of a True Detective episode and snippets of other programs, and the video never glitched, paused, buffered, or pixelated.

Because this and yesterday’s post are a review of the same service on two different devices, I thought I’d just reiterate my conclusions from the quick review of HBO Now on Apple TV.  The streaming service works very well on both my Apple TV and on my iPad.  It’s easy and enjoyable to watch on my giant HDTV, and it’s just as easy and enjoyable to use the app on my iPad Air 2.  My only consideration will be to determine if I like the series and movies offered on HBO Now enough that I’ll want to continue the service for $15 per month after my free trial is over.  I would like to know how many programs can be streamed simultaneously from a single account.  Hopefully they’ll allow two, so my husband and I can watch something in our living room while our daughter watches something different on either her Apple TV at home or on her computer in her dorm room.  HBO Now does warn that watching multiple programs on the same internet connection could result in reduced video quality.

You can also use the HBO Now app on iPhones and iPod touches, but I’ll assume the app will function the same as it does on the iPad, with the only difference being the size of the screen.  You can watch HBO Now programming from a browser on PCs or Mac computers.  You’ll need to use IE 10, Chrome 37, Firefox 31, or Safari 7.  You just go to the HBO Now website, log into your account, and you can access all these same features and watch programs on your computer.

At $15 a month, it’s a good deal for the cord-cutter who is a big fan of HBO programming.  It won’t replace Netflix, which has a bigger selection of movies, TV shows, and other non-HBO programming.  If you’ve got the money to burn, both HBO Now and Netflix together for less than $30/month could give you access to more programming than you could watch in a month without giving up work and sleep.

Source:  I’m using a free trial for this review.  Anyone with an Apple device or Optimum broadband can also receive the free trial at HBO Now.

 

Product Information

Price:$14.99 a month after a 1-month free trial
Manufacturer:HBO Now
Pros:
  • Works well with the Apple TV
  • Video was clear, sharp, and high resolution
  • Playback was smooth
  • Access to the entire library of HBO original series and a variety of movies, documentaries, sporting events, etc
  • Doesn't require an HBO subscription through a cable provider
  • You only need broadband to receive the service
Cons:
  • None
Posted in: Audio, Video, TV, iOS, Reviews
{ 17 comments… add one }
  • Will April 10, 2015, 10:06 am

    Great write up. Any idea if the Apple Remote works with the iPhone/iPad version of HBO Now? I signed up for the free version using my iPhone yesterday. I don’t have an Apple TV but I was able to connect it to my TV using the HDMI dongle for my phone. It worked great but since it was wired to my TV it had to get up every time I wanted to pause a show.

    • Traci Bunkers April 11, 2015, 12:09 am

      I am surprised it worked for you by hooking up your iphone to your TV– when I do it, I only get audio. Well, I get video for about 2 seconds, then it goes blank on both my iphone or ipad and the TV. And I know it’s not my HDMI-Ipad/iphone cable because my other movie/video apps work fine hooked up to my TV. So HBO has made the app to control what it’s watched on, blocking video when it’s hooked up to a TV. 🙁

      • Janet Cloninger April 12, 2015, 3:48 am

        Since it did work for Will, I don’t see that it follows that “HBO has made the app to control what it’s watched on, blocking video when it’s hooked up to a TV.”

        • Traci Bunkers April 12, 2015, 11:59 am

          You were able to hook your ipad or iphone up to a wii and watch something using the HBO now app on your TV that way?

          • Janet Cloninger April 12, 2015, 12:53 pm

            No, to use the HBO Now on my TV, I used the app for my Apple TV. I did a review of using it on my Apple TV the day before this review was posted. I watched on my iPad with the iPad app. Will said he was to connect his TV with an HDMI cable and an Apple adapter and had no trouble watching.

          • Traci Bunkers April 13, 2015, 9:14 am

            I can’t reply to your comment Janet, so I’m replying to mine:

            I see now that when you mentioned Will, I saw it as Wii . . . sorry!

      • Joe Mueller April 12, 2015, 7:43 pm

        Traci, I have the same issue with HBO Now. When I hook up my iPad to HDMI connector, I get about 5 seconds of video and sound and then the video cuts out and all I have is sound. I checked the HDMI and the connector and they both worked with other apps.

        • Denis April 14, 2015, 4:52 pm

          I’ve also had the same results, i.e., hook up ipad to tv through dongle, a few seconds play fine, then no picture. I know that the hardware is okay because I watch Aussie Football through their app the same way and it works like a charm. Gotta be the HBO Now app. BTW, specs are, ipad2, apple official dongle, HDMI cable from Amazon, and a samsung 45″ lcd tv.

    • Matt April 12, 2015, 7:24 pm

      Will, are you using Apple’s own HDMI dongle? Or a third-party HDMI dongle? Is it the old 30-pin or is it the new lightning connector? I’m using an iPhone 4S which is able to play content on HBO|NOW perfectly, until I connect the HDMI dongle… then it will only play on both my TV and on my iPhone for a few seconds before cutting out.

  • Janet Cloninger April 10, 2015, 2:04 pm

    Thanks, Will!

    The little silver Apple Remote uses IR, and the iPad doesn’t have an IR receiver, so it’s not going to work. Maybe you could get a longer HDMI cable or HDMI extension cable that will let you keep the iPad beside you. Or see if you can find a Bluetooth remote for iOS devices.

  • Anne Marie April 11, 2015, 3:25 pm

    I installed yesterday on my I-Pad. Have only been able to watch one movie successfully. Nothing has worked since then…. seems buggy. Haven’t had any problems with either Netflix or Hulu on streaming. Not Happy.

  • Matt April 14, 2015, 6:01 pm

    I’ve been chatting over twitter with HBO’s official tech help, @HBONowHelp, and they seem to have no idea about the issue. They’ve asked me to “consult the manufacturer of the product you are using for more information.”, but since that’s Apple for the iPhone and the HDMI dongle, and it works perfectly with Netflix, that’s not going to go anywhere. So either it’s a feature block they put in on purpose, or there’s a bug they’re not acknowledging.

  • Wulvers April 20, 2015, 1:23 am

    I have my degree in Sound Engineering, and have been working as an A/V engineer for over 6 years now. Therefore I know cables, adapters, and connections on an intimate level. I am also having the same problem, and it is definitely the HBO App. Extremely upset, the lack of tech support and customer service is appalling. Why they don’t just own up to their faults is beyond me. I have tried running the ipad 2 and an iphone 4s with the official apple 30pin-hmdi adapter, same issues as everyone else. ipad 2 up to 20 secs of video then audio only. Iphone 4s nada. Ran the usual trouble shooting, updates for the app, and the devices, trying alternate HDMI cables. The ap works fine when watching on the devices screens, expect for the occasional video lag/buffer….. Thought the HBO Now service was going to be something great, but it looks like I will be canceling ASAP.

  • MrCraigar May 1, 2015, 7:54 pm

    My iPhone 5 works perfectly with a HDMI connecter to my TV. I was able to watch HBO Now with no problems. Then I bought a connecter for my iPad 3 and my wife’s iPhone 4. Nether works. I read somewhere and I’m trying to find it again about the version of the OS on the apple devises is not compatible with the HBO app.

  • Garland May 4, 2015, 9:05 pm

    Hey same issue here, the app will not work on the I-phone 4s with the HDMI adapter hooked up to the TV.

    I have no issues with any other apps including Netflix.

    This is one of the first chats I have found regarding the issue, but I’m assuming that the problem will grow as more people get frustrated.

  • Greg May 16, 2015, 8:05 pm

    I am seeing the same- netflix and other apps using a combination of the apple lightning to hdmi adapter work great even picking up dolby digital signal. HBNow app displays on the HDMI display, but never streams any content except the first few frames of the movie. That stops the app from going further. I did see one error message that looked like an assert() : “The device connected to the blah is not supported”. So that could just be the code needs to mature… or they plan not to support it.

  • josh July 21, 2015, 4:33 pm

    same problem here recieved answer back from hbo.

    Dear josh,

    The HBO NOW service does not allow you to connect your device to a TV or external display using HDMI cables or other connectors. For the best viewing experience see, “What devices is HBO NOW compatible with?”.

    Thank you,
    HBO NOW Customer Support

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