Turn your tablet into a Sky+ remote control
I’m going to propose something that I know will be a bit contentious: when trying to decide whether you really want a tablet device, one consideration is whether you’re a Sky TV subscriber, and in particular whether you have a Sky+ HD box.
Why? Because Sky has produced a wonderful Sky+ app that complements your Sky subscription. There are versions available on both Android and iOS, although until recently, the Android version was a poor relation. Luckily, it’s recently been updated and improved.
Find the best apps of 2013 – for iPad, iPhone, Android and Windows 8 – here
The app lets you see a grid display of upcoming TV programmes, and send remote record requests to your Sky box – great if you’re sitting in the pub and realise you’ve forgotten to record an episode of your favourite soap. It also allows you to do a text-based search, so typing in “Home” will give you all of the episodes of Home & Away available across the various channels in the following week.
When you’re connected to your home Wi-Fi, however, the app goes further, connecting directly to your Sky+ HD box and providing full access to the planner, where you can see what’s already recorded and what you have scheduled. The app also detects recording clashes and offers intelligent rescheduling options – something the Sky box fails to do. Plus, you can use the app as a remote control for your Sky box.
And there’s more – the iOS version of the app offers access to Sky’s on-demand library, including catch-up services from most major broadcasters (although not the BBC at present). This on-demand feature is currently missing in the Android version, but Sky has promised it will be available later this year.
This demonstrates well where intelligent remote controls should be going in future: forget all those plastic-fantastic Harmony devices (some of which cost more than £200) and just spend a few quid more on an iPad mini. The base model is fine, and you’ll have something that’s far easier to use and far more productive.
I expect some people will trot out the usual moans about Sky – the Murdoch tax and so on – but this app is free, and for me it’s become essential. It’s nice that the Android version is finally catching up.