PBS just released its “PBS for iPad” application. So what does it do? It’s pretty much a specialized PBS video player. If you head to the PBS site on the Safari app, you’ll see the much dreaded message that Adobe Flash Player is required. Since Flash on iOS is a nonstarter, apps are a great workaround and that is what this PBS app is.
The application has an easy to understand interface. On to the top pane you’ll see a carousel of featured videos and on the bottom you’ll see icons for specific programs. The left side has four simple icons – one for featured videos, a program listing guide to tell you what’s on your local PBS station, a search button, and a favorites button.
Picking a program to watch is simple; tap a program’s icon and then choose a particular video. The videos are sorted by full length, shorts, and previews. I’m a big fan of this sorting so you’re not just wading through video clips trying to find full length programming.
The selection of video on the PBS app is not as great as the PBS site. For example, the show “Frontline” had 6 full length episodes. The web site had over 50. Video quality on the PBS app varied. Some video looked pixelated like the scene above. Other video looked very clear. PBS has stated that it will be re-encoding video for higher quality video in the future.
You’ll get the standard interface for a video player. There’s a scrubber up top, playback controls on the bottom, and the controls fade out after using. Additionally, if you stopped a video in the middle of watching, the app will pick up where you left off the next time you come back. If you really like a video, you can favorite it or share it via Twitter, Facebook, or email.
This app pulls video from the web, so if you don’t have an internet connection, you can forget about watching videos. After a flawless first testing of the PBS app, repeated attempts to access the PBS app were stymied and I saw an error message a lot of times.
A quick Twitter-poll showed that I wasn’t the only one becoming familiar with the “Communication with PBS failed” error message. Several others experienced the same outage at the same time. The PBS site was reachable at time of testing, but the app repeatedly displayed the failure message, so I am unsure what the problem was.
Assuming the communication problems are solved by the time you read this, the free PBS app is a great way to get some high quality content (when it works). The app is currently only available for iPad, but an iPhone version is slated for November.