It has been a little over three weeks since Aereo was activated in the Atlanta area. The service was supposed to be widely available in late June, but that date was pushed back until July. As of now, Everyone in or around the Atlanta area can access Aereo for at least $8 a month. I’ve been using Aereo since it was in closed beta, and can finally share my experience with the service with you. Long story short, it’s good.
First off, let me tell you what Aereo is in case you haven’t heard of it. Aereo streams local over-the-air television broadcasts over the internet. Aereo set up antennas around major metropolitan areas to facilitate this. Once you have access to Aereo, you can watch live television on your computer, iOS device, Apple TV or Roku. PlayOn also serves up Aereo on even more platforms such as Android and game consoles. Aereo also gives users cloud DVR service. Those who pay $8 a month get 20 hours of storage, and those who pay $12 a month get 60 hours of storage. Now that you know the technical details, let’s move on to the overall experience.
The user interface for Aereo is very clean and simple to understand and navigate. The main menu showcases some of the most popular programs available on broadcast television. From here, you’ll be able to see when featured programs air, and are given the option to set up a recording. If you want to see what’s on television at any given moment, you can check out the guide.
The guide is also very easy to understand. You can scroll vertically to see all the channels that are available to you, or horizontally to see what’s coming on in the hours and days ahead. Clicking on a show will bring up a window that tells you when it originally aired and a brief synopsis of the episode. You can also choose to watch, record or share the program on Facebook or Twitter from that window. It usually takes less than 10 seconds for the show to start playing after you click the “watch” button.
The video player is fairly wide. I’d say it takes up about 70% of the horizontal space on the page. There’s also an option to make the video full screen. Whether or not you can view the show in widescreen format depends on what you’re looking at. The video player has standard controls such as stop, record, replay and skip. One interesting thing Aereo does is record whatever you’re looking at in case you ever want to replay a moment. The recording doesn’t go against your DVR storage because it vanishes as soon as you stop watching something. When you are looking at something that does take up your DVR storage, you can click the skip button to fly through commercials.
The video quality is very good when viewed on “high.” It doesn’t look like full HD, but there are no visual imperfections such as artifacting either. There are also options to lower the resolution to medium and low. I never had to lower the video quality. I’d imagine this is due to both the speed of my internet connection and my connection strength to Aereo’s antennas.
Although it hasn’t happened often, I have experienced some buffering moments with Aereo. The thing is, when things are smooth, they’re really smooth. When the connection is wonky, it’s very wonky. In the three weeks I’ve been using Aereo on a daily basis, I don’t have any problems 90% of the time.
My experience on mobile was virtually identical. Aereo ran great on my iPhone over a Wi-Fi and LTE connection. Due to the smaller screen size, most programs look even better. The guide and other options are presented in a slide-out menu on the left side of the screen. My biggest issue with mobile experience is the fact that it all takes place inside a web browser. I want Aereo to release a dedicated app so the mobile experience can feel as smooth as the desktop.
Overall, I really like Aereo. I love having an easy way to watch live television without jumping through a bunch of hoops or paying a ton a money a month. Services like Aereo are the future of television.