Can a smartphone or tablet REALLY replace my TV?

For Christmas my son managed to upgrade his old Nintendo Wii to a new Nintendo Wii U. Thanks Santa, very good of you. He’s been enjoying the new higher-resolution games and is a big Mario fan. Somehow I’ve lost quite a few races against him on Mario Kart 8 because he seems to have got scarily good at the game. We’ve also downloaded a few other games including New Super Mario Bros. U, which again he seems better at than me.

So last night, after he was filled was sugary goodness from several of my finest pancakes, I challenged him to one of the older Wii games that I was more familiar with. These games are compatible even on the newer Wii U, and good old Wii Sports seemed like the ideal thing – especially as it would mean a bit of extra exercise to burn off all the jam and sugar in those pancakes.

Things were going well, and I was doing really well at the bowling and baseball games until, well, this happened…
Can a smartphone or tablet REALLY replace my TV?

Yeah. The TV is broken. A white flash, a cracking noise and the picture slowly but surely began to break up. I can’t believe it. Even worse, I’ve only just paid off this particular TV and I switched the house insurance recently and REMOVED the “accidental damage” option. A few swear words were said and yes, it was all my fault.

It didn’t really become clear at how badly missed my TV would be until later in the evening. I’m a big fan of streaming TV and have a Chromecast plugged into the back of the – now badly smashed – TV. However, I’ve not tried watching TV on the smaller screen of my phone or a tablet. Not for any length of time anyway. Yes, sure, I’ve watched YouTube videos on my phone but not an entire film or TV show.

As we’ve just paying for a holiday, finances are tight, so the TV is going to the bottom of the priority pile and we’re using the smaller screen in the kitchen instead. However, I’ve got a lot of options and alternatives at my fingertips which I am now trying. The TVCatchup app, available for pretty much every mobile platform, is a great starter and lets you watch most of the digital TV channels on your phone or tablet. Everything is live, so for scheduled TV this is fine. Likewise, my subscription TV provider (Sky) give me the Sky Go app so that I can carry my TV channels around with me. I’ve also got iPlayer, ITV Player, 4OD and the Demand 5 apps available to me. I wish there was just one app you could use for all scheduled and on-demand content, but sadly we’re not quite there at the moment.
Can a smartphone or tablet REALLY replace my TV?

It’s all good in a way. The TV you want, when you want, where you want. Sadly, though, nothing can quite resolve the loss of a big-screen. Sitting down in the evening with a cheeky wine isn’t quite the same when you’re huddled around an iPad is it? Worse still, and something we do every year, I’ve invited some people round to watch the Cheltenham festival. If I don’t get some money together for a new TV we’ll be betting on the Cheltenham festival and then jumping to another app to actually watch it on my smartphone. A load of people sat in a room watching it on their respective smartphones? With a slight delay as the streaming goes out of sync? It’s not quite the same as watching one big screen, all together, is it?

During my swearing last night I had the idea of using the Google Cardboard headset to give me a big-screen experience. Sure, it might work, but even if you could get 4OD or iPlayer split into 3D and mounted to your face, would you really want that? Sitting on your sofa as you knock the wine off the table or dribble it down your face? It’s not exactly relaxing.

So, as it looks now, I’ll either have to save for a cheap not-quite-as-good big TV or we’ll have to continue to be huddled around a smaller screen. Oh, and don’t get me started on the rush-hour throttling of any media-related streaming in the evenings, when you’re trying to use the internet for all this.