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i.TV for iPhone: Cluttered but promising entertainment guide

If you're into entertainment, the newly updated i.TV for iPhone (iTunes link) offers more content than ever before. Now in its sixth release, i.TV aims to keep you on top of listings, DVD rentals, and more.

If there's a single word that describes this iPhone application, it's "cluttered." i.TV offers more choices, more features, more everything than you'd ever expect. It's a lot like walking into Aunt Marge's trinket-strewn living room with her 27 cats-complete with the chaos you'd expect from a large-scale multi-cat household.

And yet, despite this clutter, there's a lot of usable content on-offer. If you're willing to put up with too-many-kitties syndrome, i.TV provides some information gems.

As a standout feature, i.TV offers a very nice TV listings browser. It automatically detects your location and shows you what's playing on the services in your area. The interface for the show browser is well designed and it's easy to pick a date and time to examine.

When you find a show you want to watch, you can request an e-mail alert or invite a friend to watch with you. You can also use the TiVo scheduling API to create a recording schedule direct from your iPhone. The application even offers a Wi-Fi based TiVo remote.

i.TV doesn't stop with TV. It offers movie listings and reviews as well. You can scan your local theaters, find show times, or if the movie is older, add a request to your Netflix queue. If a movie is available via iTunes, you can tap a link to connect you to the iTunes Store.

As you can tell, there's an awful lot to love about i.TV. Yet, at the same time, there's an awful lot that needs work. In many ways, i.TV feels rushed. Its user interface design needs some serious re-thinking, especially given how many features and options are packed into this hand-held application.

As an example, when you sign up for an i.TV account, you must confirm that you're over 13 years old. The control that's offered for that option is a standard "On/Off" switch. With just a little more thought and programming, the i.TV developers could have created a standard button (rather than a switch) that toggles from No to Yes and back.

In the same sign up sheet, you must use the iPhone keyboard to laboriously enter your e-mail address. Twice. A simple register-by-email form could have let you use your current iPhone's mail settings with a pre-filled note to do the same work with far less typing burden.

Sometimes the application misses obvious usability elements. For example, if you want to record a show to your TiVo, you must work through the "Link to your TiVo account page," but there's no "Back" button offered on that page or any other hint as to how to return to where you were. You can move forward (enter your account data and tap Link My Account) but not back. Yes, you only encounter this page until you set up your account but it's just a basic development principle that you should provide a way to cancel out of an action.

Missteps like these are surprising on an app that does offer some very nice user interface features like the pop-down menu that appears when you tap on the Watch button. I'm enamored with that particularly clever UI element presentation. Unfortunately other UI choices fall short. I haven't played with earlier i.TV releases, so it's hard to tell which elements have been added on for the new update and which are original. But i.TV really needs to hire a usability engineer and work on the overall application flow and feature choices to integrate these million-odd possibilities into a better whole.

So even with these interface issues, do I recommend trying out i.TV? Why yes, I do. Its TV and Movie information retrieval is both useful and on-point. Despite the clutter of its million other features, i.TV puts you right on top of now-playing information. And if you can sort your way through to a few of the features you'll use in addition to that core functionality, you'll find it a handy tool to keep on your iPhone.

i.TV is a free download and well worth giving a spin.

Source: http://i.tv/

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