4oD Catch Up is Channel 4’s answer to the ever-popular BBC iPlayer which already launched its iPad app earlier this year.
Unlike the BBC, Channel 4 isn’t sitting in a pool of public cash so the 4oD iPad app is sponsored by Heineken meaning all videos are preceded by a 60 second advert for the lager followed by a credit for whoever sponsors a particular show or genre – Fosters in the case of comedy.
On its home screen the app offers a ‘4oD Recommends’ selection of shows plus a ‘Catch Up’ listing of shows defaulting with the current day which can be separated into just the shows from Channel 4, E4 or More 4 as well as the default ‘All Channels’ listing. A dateline under the videos allows you to quickly select content up to a month old.
There’s also an A-Z listing which allows you to track down your favourite programmes by name but, oddly, no way to search the catalogue by typing in a title.
The content available is currently limited to shows broadcast in the last 30 days but Channel 4 say they’re working on adding archive content. Bought in shows from the US are also not available, presumably for rights issues.
Videos play either in a small window occupying the top right of the screen or fullscreen – the iPad’s non-widescreen nature means show play with a black bar top and bottom. The smaller ‘corner’ video looks roughly the same width as the iPad’s screen width in portrait mode so it’s a bit of a puzzle that the app only works in horizontal mode.
We found video playback smooth though this is ultimately going to depend on your broadband speed and quality and it’s important to note that the app doesn’t support 3G data connections even if you have a WiFi + 3G iPad.
According to its listing in the iTunes store, the app is free “for a limited time” but there’s no word on how much it’ll eventually cost or how long the “limited time” lasts.
It would have been nice to see support for AirPlay so the video could be pushed to TVs via the Apple TV set to box and the ability to cache content for offline viewing would greatly enhance the app.
Our wish list of enhancements and extras aside, this is a great first version for an app which brings some great and free British-originated content to the iPad.