TheChanner Android app turns device into TV station

by Tim McLain

TheChanner is a groundbreaking app for newer DROID handsets (30-plus in all), offering you a global, ‘social’ Internet TV station tuner and music player. Discover and enjoy the best content programmed by Internet TV channels around the globe, and share discoveries with your social networks, all through your smartphone.

That’s a mouthful -- and be sure you’re not searching the app Market for Channeler – it’s TheChanner, no space, no “L.” How well does the app cache and stream online content, and how does it sound? The short answer: It’s a mixed bag, so buyer beware.

However, don’t let the initial release of this interesting app dissuade you from giving the free version a try. Opening the app for the first time, you may find the default channel feed to be dark (read: non-functional.) No worries. Click the menu and select “TopTV.” More than a dozen of the most popular channels likely to have active streams are a click away.

Selecting “TVList” will give you a complete listing of channels; note that many streams are available in languages other than English. This is truly a global tuner.

My first experiments watching Bloomberg TV, BBC London, and Fox 11 LA yielded good results. After a 15 to 30 second wait for buffering (let’s hope that improves), I was initially fed video that looked to be about 15 to 20 frames per second, with commentators’ lips 2 to 5 seconds off from what I was hearing.

After watching a feed for a minute or so, the lip/sound timing got progressively better and was nearly perfect. The image itself was slightly less than analog broadcast TV quality, with very few visible blocks or stutters.

I only experienced a few re-buffering moments/freezes while on both Wi-Fi and 3G in my Raleigh, N.C. neighborhood. Patience pays off when things re-buffer; sometimes a full moment will go by before things reappear. That said, no doubt you’ll want to stay close to a solid broadband Internet connection or four-bar 3G signal when doing any serious watching or listening.

I experienced trouble getting some channels to stream. Some didn’t even try to connect, while others were left hanging with “Connecting to the broadcaster now…” messages for several minutes before I gave up. Clearly, individual feeds can be hit or miss.

Once you do get a feed to work, you’ll find live scrolling comments from other viewers (most had comments that were weeks or months old), along with links to Facebook and Twitter to tell your friends and followers about the app and the specific channel you’re watching.

Important tip: Rotate your phone to landscape mode and the app fills your DROID’s screen with the active stream. While it isn’t exactly like watching live TV, it is a huge step in the right direction, and certainly a harbringer of things to come for TV on phones in the future.

Where TheChanner really shines is its ability to broaden your musical horizons.  You can sample pop, rock, hip-hop, rap, reggae, techno, rockabilly or ethnic music from all over our wonderful little planet: e-Music Television (UK), Worm TV (Germany), NRJ Hits (France), TVU Live (US), Hip Hop TV (Bulgaria), Music Box (Slovakia), MAD (Greece), Bamboch TV (Haiti), and DeeJay TV (Italy), to name a few.

If you want to go beyond the music channels, the full $1.99 app gives you access to all news, sports, and entertainment feeds from around the globe.