4oD 3.0 for iPad, iPhone review - Channel 4 catch-up TV now available offline

Channel 4 has updated its iOS app to allow users to download TV shows onto their iPad or iPhone to watch offline later. However, it's not as great as it sounds

BBC updated its iPlayer app in September last year to provide the ability to download shows, and we've been eagerly awaiting a similar update from Channel 4 ever since. The ability to watch shows offline is perfect for commuters, and also for watching shows while you're on holiday, or on a plane, for example.

So, we got quite excited about the 4oD update, only to be somewhat disappointed when it came to actually using the service.

For a start, we struggled to find a TV show we wanted to watch that actually gave us the option to download it to watch offline. For example, out of the 19 TV shows in the Catch Up selection from Tuesday 30 July, only seven are available to download and watch offline later.

It would be good if Channel 4 could add a way to see all of the shows that are available to download, so you don't have to go hunting through the app to find enough to keep you entertained for the duration of your flight, for example.

When you do find a show you want to download, you'll be forced to register with Channel 4 and provide your address, and other details that the broadcaster says helps inform programme decisions and helps attract advertisers. Channel 4 may also use your email address to tell you about Channel 4 events in your area too.

Once you've done this, you'll be signed in on the app and will be able to download shows. It's pretty straightforward to download a show. You just need to tap the little download icon, and then press Download. Depending on the speed of your internet connection, you should be able to download an 45 minute long show, which will probably be around 530MB in size, within minutes.

Your shows will then appear in your Downloads tab, and you'll have seven days to watch them. If you're going on a two-week long holiday, you'll have to watch all of your shows within the first seven days, and you won't be able to download more outside of the UK or Ireland.

Another niggle is the amount of adverts. You'll find that there are lots, and you have to sit through them in order to watch your show. However, it's thanks to those adverts that we're able to access this content for free, so we're happy to put up with them.

In addition to the downloads feature, Channel 4 has now also added Collections to the 4oD app, adding a new way to find shows to watch. Tapping the Collections tab presents you with several themed collections of TV shows. For example, 'Appearances Can Deceive' collection contains seven programmes including 'Meet the Parents' and 'Secret Millionaire'.

The rest of the 4oD app has remained the same, with an attractive layout that presents the user with 4oD Recommends, Catch Up, Categories and A-Z tabs to help you find what you're looking for. You can also search by tapping the magnifying glass.

There's still no ability to stream TV shows over 3G, though.

It's worth noting that, while we haven't had any problems running the app on our iPads, including our older iPad 2, reviews of the 3.0 update on iTunes haven't been great. In fact, at time of writing, the app has an average rating of one and a half stars.

Most of the negative reviews are referring to Channel 4's decision to prevent jailbroken iOS devices from being able to run the app. Several other reviews mention consistent crashing, but we aren't sure whether this is also due to the jailbreak restrictions.

OUR VERDICT

The addition of offline functionality to 4oD is a step in the right direction, but Channel 4 still needs to make some improvements if it wants to please the masses. We'd like to see more shows with the download option, a way to see all downloadable shows in one place, and the ability to stream shows via 3G/4G connection.

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