For the past few months I’ve been using DIRECTV NOW pretty much exclusively as my TV platform. Using AT&T’s Sponsored Data, you can avoid data charges (or deprioritization on an Unlimited plan) by using DIRECTV services on your phone to stream.
Mostly because most HDMI-enabled Android devices can’t run the app – and the free data doesn’t work with Windows 10, Fire OS, or Apple TV currently… I’ve resorted to using an iPhone SE. It is tethered to an AT&T 4G LTE hotspot over Wi-Fi.
See, Sponsored Data only works with the somewhat lower-quality stream that Android phones, tablets, and iOS devices use. The Chrome, Apple TV and Fire TV streams from DIRECTV NOW use a higher quality stream that is excluded from Sponsored Data, and thus use data whenever launched.
AirPlay works adequately (from an iPhone/iPad to an Apple TV, which since it is emanating from the iOS device, does still net you free data – albeit not at the “Highest” quality stream rate). Not so bright on the Google side of the aisle… Google Cast crashed when tested between a Nexus 6 and Nexus Player – despite the latest stock Nougat builds, and a recent Google Cast update. The problem seems to be on the client side, the Oreo update to my Nexus Player didn’t fix it.
HDMI clearly, is what worked best. There is minimal overscan, even on my worst-offending Sanyo HDTV in the office. A Lightning to HDMI adapter did the trick, and… typically… it just works.
Sadly, the only device that I have with HDMI on the Android side is the Nexus 5 and Sony Xperia Z3, both of which have major overscan, like most early Snapdragon 800 devices. Google needs to bake overscan controls into their Android display manager system.
After several app updates, DIRECTV NOW is stable, particularly on iOS. You do have to relaunch the app, I would say an average of one to two times a day. DVR is not available yet… but a small beta with Android and Chrome users has begun.
Bottom line, even if you aren’t an Apple guy, using AT&T Sponsored Data with an old iPad and/or iPhone with HDMI adapter, is the best way to cut the cord… literally.