How Comcast’s Xfinity TV App Stacks Up Against HBO Go, Netflix

Comcast now joins the ranks of Netflix and HBO, two content providers making waves in the mobile space, and more importantly, enters the increasingly fragmented world of mobile entertainment. We take Xfinity and its competitors for a test drive to see which comes out on top.

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Today, Comcast finally upgraded its mobile app, Xfinity TV, and now offers roughly 6,000 hours of On Demand content to subscribers who own the iPod Touch, iPhone, or iPad. The top players are all present–HBO, Showtime, Starz–making streaming premium content on your mobile device a cinch.

With the upgrade, Comcast now joins the ranks of Netflix and HBO, two content providers making waves in the mobile space, and more importantly, joins the increasingly fragmented world of mobile entertainment. How does Xfinity TV stack up against its competitors?

Apart from the slow-loading and clunky UI, the app’s most noticeable flaw (overlooking its unnecessary attempt to double as a TV guide and universal remote) is that it’s not mobile. The app only works over Wi-Fi, so if you’re outside in the park or traveling for work, don’t expect to stream “Game of Thrones” via your iPhone. Xfinity TV is not 3G friendly–quite a serious oversight, no?

In order to watch “Game of Thrones,” you’ll have to hit up the series on HBO’s app HBO Go, which has significant 3G problems of its own. I’ve been playing with the app for a while now, and if your experience is anything like mine, you’ll know that it’s not uncommon to face the following interruption message at least a half-dozen times during an hour-length show: “This is an audio-only stream. For the video stream, please connect to a stronger mobile signal or Wi-Fi network.”

Yes, an audio-only stream. Seriously. Midbroadcast, the screen simply goes black (for no apparent reason–you’ll notice I have full bars), and you’re stuck pointlessly listening to content that a transistor radio could transmit. Do you have any idea what it’s like to watch an audio-only version of “Game of Thrones,” HBO? You can hardly understand the characters’ accents in the first place, and most viewers are only watching for the fight scenes and excessive nudity.


To truly have the best mobile experience, you’ll still need Netflix, which remains the dominant player in the space. Only issue? Netflix does not have “Game of Thrones,” nor much of the other premium and new content that Xfinity and HBO can offer. While Netflix’s library of streaming content continues to grow at an impressive pace (see deals with Miramax, Relativity Media, and Epix), it’s the original and fresher content that gives Comcast and HBO a leg-up, even as Netflix tries to dive into the game with its own series, “House of Cards.”

If only HBO and Comcast could streamline their apps for the mobile experience, the companies could give Netflix a run for its money.

[Image: Flickr user KatKamin]


About the author

Austin Carr writes about design and technology for Fast Company magazine.