A week with the DStv mobile Android application, the good and the bad

Posted on September 15, 2011

I gave now spent just over a week with the DStv mobile application, had some time to play with it and get my thoughts together around it.

Firstly, I am very grateful to have the application. After more than 5 months of waiting (impatiently) I was starting to lose hope. On reflection, it is sad that I am grateful to an organisation for providing me with a service which I paid for, and was paying for while it wasn’t being delivered. Still, I do like to be able to watch the sports channels while on the move.

There are some good and bad points. Let me start with the bad.

  1. The application is huge. The largest application I have installed on my phone at almost 20 Meg. My phone (HTC Desire) has limited memory, so in order to install the DStv mobile application I had to uninstall Google Plus, the Google Maps updates, Facebook updates and the 360 Panorama tool. That really burns, I have now lost a whole lot of functionality on my phone to have this application. After some poking around I discovered that the entire Drifta update ROM/BIOS is stored in the application, and this takes up more than half of the space. Whoever came up with that idea was clearly not thinking straight. It is a one-off upgrade  I would happily have done via my PC now I have to give up so much Android space and functionality (10 Meg).
  2. The application doesn’t allow itself to be move to the SD card, or for any part of it to be moved (as App2SD and similar tools do).  I am not sure what changes need to be made to the app to let it move to SD, but do it guys. Either that or remove the Drifta BIOS from the application. If 15 Meg of that 20 Meg could be stored on the SD card I would be smiling.
  3. It works on very limited devices still. I include this one because of all of the complaints I receive daily, not because it affects me anymore.
  4. The application authenticates to the server EVERY TIME you load it. What a pain. Sometimes I have perfect DVB-H (Drifta) signal but lose Cell phone signal (one client I work at has really really bad Cell C signal) and then I can’t watch the mobile TV. Throw the device over the desk divider to a mate with an iPhone and he seems to be able to use it just fine, no authentication. Why the discrimination against Android users? I don’t know. This again seems to be a badly thought out ploy. Let the thing authenticate weekly or monthly if need be, but please for the sake of all things good cut out this nonsense of having to start from scratch every time. Not only that, but when I bought the device it was made clear that NO internet connection was needed to use it. To introduce these unnecessary additional steps at this late stage of the game is really unacceptable. It would probably fall foul of the Consumer Protection Act if I hadn’t bought it in December last year.
  5. The application is unstable! How unstable? Well during the USA vs Russia game this morning it crashed twice and on a third occasion rebooted my phone. That really isn’t good enough. The game was tight so I didn’t miss any key scoring moments, but still. It could have been a minute or two downtime at a crucial moment.
  6. Ok this is a repeat (in a way) of point 4. Every time I load the application I have to first make sure wi-fi is off (otherwise it automatically connects to the Drifta) or the Drifta is off (so it can’t connect). Then load the application, let it authenticate to the internet (if available) and then go into system settings to turn wi-fi back on again, then click re-scan, then let it connect. When the application is quit, it switches wi-fi off regardless of whether wi-fi was on or off before the application was started. I find this whole process cumbersome and painful, needing to switch backward and forward between the system settings and the application just to get it to work.
  7. The picture isn’t full screen, it puts some bars down the sides. Sure this keeps the aspect ratio correct, but there could have been an optional zoom to fill the screen.
  8. There is conflicting information as to whether the anonymous authentication is really anonymous or not depending on who I speak to (this is still to be cleared up). My view, collecting / sending unique information back to the server while displaying a message saying it is an anonymous authentication is dishonest, bad business practice and potentially will be illegal when the Protection of Personal Information Bill is promulgated, and is probably also falling foul of the Consumer Protection Act.  (I am not a lawyer, so I cannot give anything but an informed lay man’s view on that).

Enough griping, now for the good.

  1. The application works (mostly)
  2. I get to watch mobile tv on the move as I should have been able to since the start (when I have Cell phone signal)
  3. The interface is easy to use and the picture quality is nice on the small screen
  4. I am getting to see some of the Rugby World Cup I wouldn’t have otherwise
  5. Coverage is fairly good and stable. This morning I drove from home (Dawncliffe, Westville) to the office (La Lucia Ridge past gateway) and there was no signal drop on the entire trip. I was listening rather than watching so can’t be sure picture didn’t freeze but audio was stable. The application crashed when I drove into the parking lot, but otherwise was all good. (Added 16/9/2011 based on a Twitter question posed by @Mateewis)
  6. The subscription is relatively cheap (R36/month)

In conclusion, I am very happy to have the application and be able to watch some of the Rugby World Cup, but the size of it, the lack of stability and the ridiculous authentication system is significantly dampening my enthusiasm for it. 

Please share your thoughts and experiences, I am particularly interested in hearing the views of people who have used both the iPhone and Android applications.

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