I’ve been an AT&T cable TV customer for about ten years. When we moved to our current community, we gladly dumped Comcast’s cable TV service that we had at the time. It’s been so long ago now that I don’t even remember the specific issues that we had. But we were pleased overall that U-verse was arguably the best cable service that we’ve had. (Though, as I wrote in 2013, I accurately predicted its end and its future.)
The merits of U-verse were many: it included a DVR that was easy to use. The channel line-up was easy to understand: all common channels like news or sports were all grouped together. The remote control was logically designed. Pausing, rewinding and skipping forward were obvious and useful in the amount of time that it went forward or back. (I remember having to “hack” the Comcast remote to enable a skip-forward function. What nonsense.)
However, U-verse did also have it’s issues. For example, the highest signal output that their cable box would produce was 720P. I have an Ultra HD SmartTV. Honestly, most of the time the U-verse picture looked crappy. I wasn’t very satisfied by that. Furthermore, the channel line-up seemed to become – over time – overrun with throw-away informercial channels. It seemed like there were a hundred to wade through. So my wife and I would sit down to watch TV, and despite there being hundreds of channels available, it felt like we had nothing to watch!
Then, in the last few months, we started to see U-verse become less reliable. Our shows would freeze or we’d lose the signal. I was starting to look at my options when I learned that AT&T was promoting a new service: AT&T TV. Basically, it’s a streaming service. If your SmartTV doesn’t have the AT&T TV app for it, you buy a small Android-based streaming box to connect to your TV via HDMI. The box itself comes with pre-installed apps for HBOmax, Netflix and YouTube. And to incentivize viewers, they sunsetted U-verse by declaring that they would no longer sell it.
So I read the writing on the wall and decided to take the plunge. By signing up, I would be saving over $100 per month over U-verse. That was one of my big complaints with U-verse. It had become ridiculously expensive. I could easily install the new networking gear myself, which was good, as I always hate the sloppy jobs the company installers do. And there’s COVID-19 to deal with too.
I called AT&T and placed my order. I had done a considerable amount of reading in advance so I knew what I wanted and how it would work. Apparently the service was so new they weren’t quite prepared for existing customers calling in to switch over. A sales representative had to call me back three hours later and go through the order. However, once they had me on the phone the process was easy. I was happy to receive the new customer perks without having to threaten or haggle.
The new equipment showed up the following Monday, late in the day. Wanting to have a quiet evening, I took a look inside the box but decided to wait until the next morning to do the install. The process was simple. Connect their streaming box to my TV and power it on. There was a minor hassle entering my network password and my account login info followed by waiting for a software update to load. But the process went smoothly and I had TV!
I’m writing this entry now about forty-eight hours after first turning it on. My experience so far has been both up and down. The positives? The picture quality is great! Finally content in true HD. The DVR is a “cloud” version, so they keep a copy of everything broadcast on some servers someplace for ninety days. So not only can I record as many shows as I like at once; but I can reach back in time to grab anything that I missed that was broadcast in the last ninety days. We’ve already taken advantage of that.
On the downside, the system is not set up for casual browsing. The guide isn’t particularly easy to read. The channels are tossed together in random sequence. Some things are grouped together, such as the premium movie channels. But sports, news and the like are tossed all over the place. AT&T TV also relies too much on the voice-activation gimmick. It’s helpful if I want to jump to a show that I know is on. But if I want to surf, it just gets in the way. There’s also some advanced features that are just missing, such as extending the recording time of a show. What basketball game has ever finished on time? The only work-around at this time is to record the following show. That’s minor league at best.
Another thing that has me pissed off is that some of my local channels are missing. I carefully reviewed the channel listing provided on the website. But there were no specifics regarding the local channels. Now I have to live without PBS or KQCA, which was available via U-verse. I’ve already complained but nobody knows when or if I’ll ever get them back. So while the service is cheaper, it’s clearly not quite as good as the old one, which is disappointing. If they fix the missing local channels, that would help quite a bit. I suppose we’ll get used to the rest of it. I just filled out a customer survey where I roasted them for the channel issue and usability. We’ll see if it makes a difference.