The Wi-Fi Smart Screen part of the iOS app works well. The app successfully hooks up with the TV to receive whatever channel is currently being shown and reproduces it with fair picture and sound quality. It’s a shame, however, that the system only works with the digital tuner, and won’t let you screen share stuff from other inputs.
It would also be nice if the app let you watch a programme from the digital tuner without the TV actually having to be switched to the digital tuner. In other words, it would be great if you could have one member of the family watching a broadcast on their smart device, while someone else watches a Blu-ray on the main TV.
Still, any sort of second screen viewing support is a pretty decent result, we guess. Though we’re struggling to think of an excuse for why Philips is currently penalising Android users by not giving them the second screen option.
The remote control emulation part of the app is pretty self-explanatory, though it deserves commending for the clarity of its layout, and for supporting both swipe and ‘button’ tapping navigation options.
While Android device users are left out in the cold at the moment when it comes to streaming video from the TV to their smart device, the TV does have an Android-only feature too: Miracast. This lets you exactly mirror the screen of your smart device on the TV screen. Thanks to Philips’ support of the Wi-Fi Direct standard you don't even need a router to do this.
The last area we need to look at in this analysis of Philips’ new online system is content. And don’t worry - this won’t take very long...
Basically, Philips is miles behind its main rivals when it comes to the number of apps and video streaming services its smart TV online platform supports.
The full list looks like this: Twitter, Facebook, a web browser, the BBC iPlayer, YouTube, BlinkBox, various adult apps, Picasa, Absolute Radio, AceTrax, Aupeo, the Foreca weather site, Euronews, Viewster, CNBC Real Time, iConcerts, MeteoNews (weather again), Screendreams, Funspot, CineTrailer, and tunin.fm, Films and Stars (offering movie reports, star interviews, award shows, plus festival and red carpet reports), ebay, MyAlbum, TED Talks, TomTom HD Traffic, a National Rail app, plus Capital FM, Heart FM, Classic FM, Gold, Choice FM, XFM and LBC radio channels.
Philips online TVs also support Skype (the PFL7008 and PFL8008 have built-in cameras), but you can only access it via the main source menu, not the Smart Hub. We can just about understand Philips thinking with this arrangement, we guess, but for us Skype is much more a social media app than a source worthy of the same menu status/position as the TV tuner and HDMI inputs. Which means we feel it more logically belongs in the Smart Hub menu.
The online list above might have seemed quite long as you read through it, but believe us: it’s actually puny compared to the content lists of most rival online platforms. The lack of Netflix, Lovefilm, and the key ITV Player, 4OD and Demand 5 catch-up TV’ apps is particularly troubling - not to mention ironic given how much effort Philips has put into securing adult video content!
One bit of good news is that some of the apps are pretty decent in their level of sophistication. The Twitter app is a good example - rather handily it can be made to share screen space with what you’re watching, and can even use metadata to automatically track down hashtag threads connected with the programme you’re watching. In other words, it’s a social media-using X-Factor fans’ dream come true.
Philips is slowly heading in the right direction with its smart TV platform, and some aspects of its interface – well, the remote control and the iOS app – are excellent. However, the onscreen menus were sluggish on our test system, and the content levels are poor at the moment. If smart TV is an important feature for you, we'd pass on Philips sets until more content is available.