Using Mobile Applications to Manage Your DVR

A screenshot of Time Warner's mobile web application.

How many times have you been at work or visiting family when the topic of TV comes up? Someone is usually sharing their favorite shows or talking about something new they recently saw. You've promised yourself that you'll remember to program your DVR when you get home so you can see if it's something you like, and of course, you forget by the time you get there.

Luckily, if you're a smartphone user, content providers such as cable and satellite companies are hard at work to ensure that you don't have to be home in order to make sure you don't miss that show. The larger companies are now providing remote access to your DVR via apps on your preferred device. While they don't cover every device, there's a wide selection and it's growing at a significant rate.



If you're a Comcast subscriber, the company is working hard to provide you with remote access as quickly as possible. Available for both the iPhone and Android platforms, the Xfinity TV app allows you to browse your guide, on demand content and other TV listings. You can also schedule new recordings remotely using either application.

As well, the iPhone app will allow you to remotely control your DVR by changing channels or starting on demand content directly. This feature isn't yet available on the Android application but Comcast has said that it should be soon.

As Comcast isn't available in my area, I asked several app users who do have the service what they thought. Richard Lawler, Associate Editor for Engadget HD and Android user said that while the app is quite functional, Comcast could make better use of the screen space and that there could be more information caching while scrolling through the guide. He also said that there are times when the search function won't find HD content which requires you to use the guide to manually find the HD version of a show.

Currently, the Android version of Comcast's app is one or two versions behind the iOS version. Hopefully it will catch up soon so Android users can take full advantage of all the features.

It should be noted that the Xfinity TV app also works on the Apple iPad.


Time Warner Cable

As of this writing, Time Warner is the one company lagging behind in the remote access race. While their offering will work with any phone that has access to the web, it comes off as a hampered service. Granted, it is still in beta but I was hoping for more.​

Just as with the Comcast app, you get access to your program guide, you can schedule recordings as well as search your listings. Unfortunately when I scanned the the guide through the mobile browser, my channel listing stopped at 99. This isn't helpful for digital cable subscribers with a DVR waiting for new content. Hopefully Time Warner will continue work on the app to fill out the missing parts.

You can expect a full review in the coming weeks.



Satellite subscribers, you're in luck as well. Both major providers have developed applications for multiple platforms. DirecTV seems to have pushed the broadest supports. They currently have apps available for:

  • iPhone/iPod Touch
  • Android
  • Palm
  • Blackberry
  • Windows Phone 7

Other than Time Warner's browser based application, no other service provider covers as many devices. They also provide a mobile version of a website where you can remotely manage your DVR. You don't get as many features as the individual apps provide, but it's a nice addition for those without smartphones.

Just as with the other apps we've discussed, DirecTV's offering allows you to search your guide, schedule single episodes or full seasons and order pay-per-view content.

As well, if you're an NFL Sunday Ticket subscriber, you'll be able to watch the games directly on your device. This is great if you're a sports fan but have somewhere to be on Sunday afternoons!


Dish Network

Of all the remote apps listed here today, Dish Network probably offers the most. With the right set-top box, not only can you view your guide and schedule new recordings, but you can actually stream your recorded shows directly to your mobile device.

Like DirecTV, Dish Network supports several devices including the PC, iPhone, iPad, Android and Blackberry. You'll want to check to make sure that your set-top box is supported as only certain devices allow you to remotely schedule shows and series.

As well, in order to stream, you'll need a ViP 922 "Slingloaded" DVR or a Sling Adapter for the ViP 722 or 722k set-top boxes. You'll also need to have your DVR connected to your network. If you do however, you'll be able to enjoy all of your recorded content on the go. This is great for people who travel extensively or simply want to be able to catch up on their favorite programming while on the go.



We live in a fast-paced, technology focused world. While it doesn't always happen, watching two fast growing technologies come together is exciting. Not every service provider offers mobile access to your content yet but as both DVR and smartphone technology continue to advance, you can bet that both services will become more integrated.

Stay tuned here for more information as content providers update their offerings.