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Friday, May 24, 2013

Hands On with Hopper Transfers for iPad

Here's the scenario: you have to leave for work tomorrow morning. As usual, you'll be taking the train and you'll have an hour to kill before it's time to make the donuts. You're itching to catch up on "The Americans," but the last three episodes are sitting on your DVR - cut off from the world.  Ah, but you have the sweet, new Dish Hopper with Sling, you say. You can just use the DISH Anywhere app and watch those episodes remotely on your iPad, right?

Yes, you could do that. But what if your iPad is a Wi-Fi only model and the train has a crappy signal - or worse yet, no Wi-Fi at all? And what if you're not commuting? What if you're leaving for vacation in the morning and the kids want to binge watch "How It's Made" while you're driving through Oklahoma? You've got plenty of them sitting on the DVR, but how are you going to watch them from the car with no internet connection? Enter the Hopper Transfers app for iPad.

A free download from Apple's App Store, Hopper Transfers for iPad is a simple app with a very specific purpose: provide a means to watch your saved Hopper recordings on your iPad. This welcome feature of the new Hopper with Sling involves a 2-step process in which recordings are first "prepared for mobile" viewing (step 1) before being transferred to the iPad over your home's Wi-Fi network (step 2). Thiat may sound complicated, but it's actually quite easy. Moreover, once a recording is successfully transferred to the iPad for mobile viewing, your iPad doesn't need an active Wi-Fi connection to play the recordings.

After installing the app, the first thing you'll need to do is pair the app with your Hopper.  Once detected, the Hopper will display a code on your television which you'll need to enter on the app. This pairing takes but a minute and before you know it, you'll be able to see a complete list of your Hopper's recordings on the app's "My Recordings" page. "My Transfers" shows you both the recordings that are being prepped for transfer as well those that are actively transferring to your iPad.

Before you can transfer a recording to your iPad, you first need to prepare the recording for mobile viewing. Whenever you view "More Info" on a Hopper recording, you'll see a button labeled "Prepare for Mobile."  Selecting this button essentially creates a lower resolution copy of the recording, perfect for viewing on the iPad. Once the recording has been prepped for transfer - a process that typically takes just a few minutes - it can then be transferred to the iPad. This step must be initiated from the iPad app and the transfer takes another several minutes to complete. Transferring the Hopper recordings to your iPad uses your home's Wi-Fi connection, so depending on your network hardware, transfer times can vary.

Before you go crazy transferring all of your recordings to the iPad, it's worth pointing out that these aren't small files. A one-hour recording will typically generate a 1.0GB file; figure on half of that for a 30-minute program. If your iPad is already cluttered with apps, videos, and music, this means that you may only have room for a handful of recordings.

Once you've transferred videos to your iPad for offline viewing, those recordings will appear on the "My Videos" page within the app. It's worth noting that some programs may not be viewable on the Hopper while they are in use on the iPad. According to Dish, this is because programmers have the ability to designate a program as "move only once"- a flag which disables the recording on the Hopper while in use on the iPad.  The good news here is that according to Dish, most programs do not currently have this restriction. One can only hope that continues to be the case.

Hopper Transfers for iPad is an easy app to use and it's an excellent complement to Dish Anywhere and Dish Explorer - the other iPad apps currently offered by Dish.  Although it would certainly be handy if Dish could combine these three apps into one larger and all-encompassing mobile app, there's always hope that'll happen some day. And it likely won't happen before Hopper Transfers becomes available for Android tablets - "coming soon" is all we know on the Android front. That said, Dish Anywhere and Dish Explorer are available for Android, so Hopper Transfers for Android is undoubtedly in the works.

On a final note, Dish announced just last week that new subscribers can opt to receive an iPad 2 in lieu of Dish's typical first year programming discounts. This Hopper with Sling and iPad offer begins May 22, 2013 and runs through September 18, 2013. Visit for details.

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