AirShare Tries to Make Sharing to Your TV Easy

ChromeCasts let you share video and audio from your phone to your TV, but what about everything else? Websites and apps and other types of content? That’s something that is being considered in a new app called AirShare. However, despite its lofty promises, I personally found the experience to be frustrating and not very useful. It’s poor user interface didn’t help either.

Initial Thoughts

First, you’re supposed to install the app on your TV and phone. That’s simple enough. Then you open both apps and go to the connection page. Make these devices discoverable and then pair the two. Now you should be ready to share content in a really seamless way. When you normally go to share content, you can select AirShare as the target and then pick a particular device. This can work from the phone to TV and vice-versa. In the example below, I can play a YouTube video on my phone.

Air-Share_20160606_002801

However, after this successful demo, I lost connection. I was no longer able to see my phone or TV on the other device even after force quits and reboots. The app simply refused to connect and let me try out more of its features. At this point I was stymied. Your results may differ. This may be a challenging thing to get right from a technological point of view, but getting it right is crucial if it’s going to succeed.

AirShare-003110

Other Features

So let’s say this app did work. What else can I do with it? One cool feature that I would’ve liked to try out is support for Live Channels. For every piece of media you share to your TV, it collects that media and later lets you stream all of them through channels: one for photos, one for music, and one for videos.

Live Channels_20160606_003640

If you have HLS streams and share them through AirShare, it will also automatically create channels for each and let you watch them as well.

Air-Share_20160606_003619

There’s a few other small features.

  • Copying to clipboard adds quick share notification
  • Transfer an APK and install it from your phone

Other Issues

The interface was a pretty frustrating experience, both on the phone and the TV. On the TV, you still had a phone UI. There was an toolbar with items at the top, but also a navigation drawer that was really difficult to hide. Pressing the back button would cause the app itself to go back to the previous activity. The navigation was really confusing to understand, with items placed in different menus with poor category names and interfaces that were not meant for a TV.

Air-Share_20160606_003521

The phone experience wasn’t better. It looked the same, even with the weird padding around the side that created far too much whitespace. However, the problem was even worse. Instead of the back button just being co-opted, the swipe gesture to open and close the navigation drawer was taken to add a sliding effect, as if each category was a tab. Sliding in, usually to open the drawer, would land me instead in a different section, creating cognitive dissonance. The small touch space made it really hard to use.

Screenshot_20160606-003923

Conclusion

I like the idea. I think it’d be great to throw not just media but any content I want onto my TV. Yet the app developers seem to have made some notable errors in development. Maybe I’m the exception. The app has over 10K installs, but I feel like there’s still a lot of unfulfilled potential.

If you want to give it a shot, it’s free to install on Google Play.

Nick Felker

Nick Felker

Nick Felker is a student Electrical & Computer Engineering student at Rowan University (C/O 2017) and the student IEEE webmaster. When he's not studying, he is a software developer for the web and Android (Felker Tech). He has several open source projects on GitHub (http://github.com/fleker)Devices: Moto G-2013 Moto G-2015, Moto 360, Google ADT-1, Nexus 7-2013 (x2), Lenovo Laptop, Custom Desktop.Although he was an intern at Google, the content of this blog is entirely independent and his own thoughts.

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  • Black Spruce

    Nick,
    Sorry that you could not get Air-Share to work. Were you running a VPN app on your Android TV at the time? That is the number one connectivity issue I see. If you have time I can show you how to trigger a trace file that will help me solve this issue.

    As for your critique of the UI/UX, I will agree that there is much room to improve.

    BlackSpruce