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TV planning for Christmas on your phone: Catch up apps and TV guides

Hands up if you plan out your Christmas TV viewing with a kind of military precision that would make Patton blush? Yep, us too. We’ve already had Elf and Scrooged! on our screens this weekend just gone. Our foray into festive viewing has well and truly begun.

But we’ve got eleven more days to get through yet. And then there’s the big day itself, not counting Boxing Day and assorted post-Christmas Day programming. Channel 4 is showing Big on Chrimbo Day (classic Tom Hanks) which slightly overlaps with Doctor Who over on BBC1. Oh, what to do?

Even if you’re not fussed about Christmas telly, it’s worth knowing what’s coming up. This way you’ll know when to be somewhere else when people want to sit down for the inevitable Great Escape re-run.

So, here’s where your phone comes in. As well as being able to download TV planning apps from the various app stores, you can go old school and manually set up reminders with your phone’s calendar.

If you’ve not yet planned out your Christmas TV viewing (for whatever reason) then have a quick glance at our round up.


TV Guide is head and shoulders one of the best TV guides out there on the web. So it’s good to know that there’s some apps out there that replicate the best features of this useful resource.

TV (iOS, Android, Windows Phone) basically gives you a condensed view of the full website on your phone’s screen, allowing you to check ahead for the next seven day’s worth of viewing and to set reminders.

The apps have listings for TV stations and subscriptions for Freeview, Virgin Media, Sky and other services like Freesat and TalkTalk (nee Tiscali TV). Sky owners can also sign in with their Sky Remote Record password to set recordings for programmes from the same app as well.

Sky+ (iOS, Android) and Sky Go (iOS)

Linking in directly with your Sky TV subscription are the Sky+ apps for iOS and Android devices. Giving you a heads up on the next seven days of programmes across your Sky subscription package, you can also set up Sky Remote Record.

Working over 3G and Wi-Fi, you can basically turn your phone or tablet into a remote EPG for your Sky+/Sky+ HD box.

Recordings ideally should be set up 30 minutes before they begin broadcasting, so keep this in mind, making use of the +1 catch-up channels where available.

iPhone and iPad owners can also make use of Sky Go to stream programmes to your device. Perfect surreptitious underneath the table watching of movies at the dinner table.

Virgin Media TiVo iPhone app (iPhone, Android)

If you’ve got Virgin Media’s next-gen TiVo set top box, then you can make use of the iPhone and Android apps to see what’s coming up and set recordings as well.

This applies to all channels in your Virgin package including any premium subscription services (Sky Movies, Sky Atlantic HD etc). The apps work over 3G and Wi-Fi, so you can make last-minute changes on the way back home or whenever you’re in the vicinity of a hotspot.

BBC iPlayer (iOS, Android, misc. others)

For use in emergencies when you’re nowhere near a computer and you realise you’ve missed the Queen’s Speech. The BBC iPlayer apps allow you to catch up from the last seven days of programming on the Beeb as well as watch and listen to TV and radio broadcasts live.

While the iOS edition of the BBC iPlayer app works over 3G or Wi-Fi, the Android equivalent only works over Wi-Fi at the moment, though 3G streaming is coming imminently.

You’ll need to have Flash Player 10.3 or later installed as well. So if your Android device doesn’t support Flash then no dice we’re afraid.

The iOS edition has also recently updated so that it’s now properly supported on the iPhone and iPod Touches – AirPlay is also supported, so if you don’t have an iPlayer channel on your digital TV package, you can stream on-demand catch-up content to your TV this way.

Alternatively, you can access the BBC iPlayer on a range of other non-Apple and Android phones including the BlackBerry Bold 9700, Nokia N8 and the Samsung Wave.

In most cases, you’ll only be able to access the iPlayer this way over Wi-Fi; 3G streaming is limited to phones on Three and Vodafone. For a full list of phones and streaming options, head over to the BBC’s page here.

ITV Player (iOS, Android – phones only)

ITV’s ITV Player apps work much in the same way as the BBC iPlayer ones, in that you get the opportunity to catch up on missed programmes.

iPhone and iPad owners clearly have the better deal here though, as the ITV Player allows you to watch programmes from the last 30 days – the Android equivalent only lets you watch from the last 7.

The iOS version of the app lets you watch programmes shown on ITV1, ITV2, ITV3 and ITV4 as well as CITV, whereas the Android counterpart doesn’t come with access to the children’s channel.

Android 3.0 Honeycomb tablets aren’t yet supported either, so it’s just phones or older 7-inch Android 2.0 tablets.

4oD and Demand 5 (iOS)

As with the ITV Player app, 4oD Catch Up gives you a whopping 30 day window to watch programmes broadcast on Channel 4, E4 and More 4 on your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch.

There’s also a healthy library of classic Channel 4 programmes available to watch if you find yourself in need of a quick fix of Glee or The IT Crowd over Christmas.

Similarly, the Demand 5 app for iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad gives you the last 30 days worth of programmes on the go. Will Big Brother still be going on by the time Christmas rolls around?

The 4oD Catch Up app supports 3G and Wi-Fi streaming, whereas the Demand 5 app currently only supports streaming over Wi-Fi.

The low-tech solution (for those of us without apps)

Even if you’ve not got a cooler-than-thou cutting edge Android phone with access to apps and whatnot, there’s a low-tech solution for everyone.

1) Buy a TV paper.

2) Open up the calendar on your phone and get busy setting up reminders.

If your phone is so old that it doesn’t come with a calendar, well, then perhaps its time to buy a new one.


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