Sky Glass shows a lot of promise, but there’s a few things we’d love to see fixed this year
Sky Glass is unlike anything we’ve seen from Sky before. While the satellite company pioneered the ability to pause and rewind live television with the launch of Sky+ back in 2001 and spearheaded Ultra HD and HDR shows, movies and live sport fixtures with the launch of Sky Q in 2016, Sky Glass is a very different proposition. For starters, it ditches the satellite dish on the outside of your home in favour of a Wi-Fi connection – with every terrestrial channel, boxset, football match and movie streamed over the internet instead. It also packs everything you’d usually find in a Sky box inside the television itself. Glass is a custom-designed 4K TV that includes the smarts needed to watch exclusive Sky channels and shows as well as a soundbar and hands-free voice controls.
Express.co.uk had a chance to test Sky Glass last year and was impressed with the redesigned user interface, but wasn’t blown away by the quality of the display. However, Sky has already hinted that new versions of the hardware are in the works (with existing customers able to trade-in their old Sky Glass for a new model, starting a new 48-month lease period, but usually keeping monthly bills unchanged), so here are five things we’d love to see changed in 2022.
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Despite a number of futuristic features, Sky Glass still relies on AAA batteries to power its remote
1/ Rechargeable Remote
Sky Glass has a number of futuristic features – it turns itself on automatically when it senses a presence in the room and it can be controlled using only voice commands from the sofa. However, one thing that’s definitely stuck in the past is the remote control, which requires AAA batteries …just like the first Sky+ box when it launched 20 years ago. Yikes.
We’re all accustomed to recharging our smartphones, smartwatches, games controllers, wireless earbuds, and more. It would be much easier to plug-in a USB charging cable to the Sky Glass remote every few months to top-up the battery, rather than heading out to the shops to buy new batteries. The remote that ships with the Apple TV uses this exact same approach and charges via the same Lightning cable used to charge iPhone and AirPods.
But we’d hope that Sky would go even further and follow pioneers like Samsung, which has offered a solar-powered remote control that never needs new batteries or has to be plugged into the wall for over a year. It recently introduced a new twist on the same concept – a remote that recharges using the Wi-Fi network beamed around your home. It would be brilliant to see the same concept brought to Sky Glass.
There is an extra charge coming to all Sky Glass subscribers later this year
2/ Don’t Charge Extra To Skip The Adverts
With the launch of Sky+, the advert breaks were no longer compulsory viewing. Since then, we’ve all become accustomed to racing through the ads to get back to our movie or television show as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, that could soon be a thing of the past for Sky Glass viewers who don’t want to increase their monthly bills. Yes, subscribing to Sky Glass alone isn’t enough to guarantee that you’ll always be able to skip through the commercial breaks.
Unlike Sky+ and its successors, Sky Glass doesn’t come preloaded with gigabytes of storage, so you won’t be able to record your favourite episodes and movies in the same way. Instead, the Record button on the redesigned remote has been ditched in favour of a new + symbol. Tapping this button will add a show to your Playlist.
This is a supercharged version of Series Link on Sky Q, which automatically schedules a recording for every upcoming episode. With Playlist, the software will also scour Sky boxsets as well as the libraries from any synced streaming services – like Disney+ and Prime Video – to bring together previous series and episodes too. Jumping into your Playlist, you’ll be able to catch-up on old episodes from across a range of streaming services and tune-in each week as new episodes air on Sky channels.
When you add a show that’s airing on BBC One to your Playlist, nothing is recorded. Instead, Sky Glass makes a note of the episode you’ve highlighted and brings a shortcut to the show on BBC iPlayer (as soon as it’s available) into the Playlist menu – as well as the rest of the series.
Sky hopes its new Playlist system will prevent you from having to jump between the main Sky Glass menu and the dizzying number of streaming apps and catch-up services on its platform to find the right episode. One advantage of this approach is that you’ll never have to worry about running out of space. You also don’t need to worry about power cuts or signal problems interrupting the recording because, you know, you’re not actually recording anything to your box.
However, since everything found in your Playlist is streamed to Sky Glass, recordings work in the same way as streaming an episode on All4 or ITV Hub. And exactly like the latter, which offers customers an optional monthly fee to eliminate the ad breaks, Sky Glass will charge viewers to remove all advertisements from the episodes that are streamed from its servers. Dubbed the Ad Skipping Add On, this feature will be included at no extra cost to all Sky Glass customers for the first year. After 12 months, those who want to continue to be able to skip through the adverts in old recordings of the Great British Bake Off, I’m A Celebrity …Get Me Out Of Here, GoggleBox, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, Succession, and more, will have to pay an extra £5 a month.
Sky Glass is a brilliant option for those who want to upgrade their telly, but what if you don’t?
3/ We’re Already Happy With Our Telly, Thanks
As we noted in our review, Sky Glass has a stunning and modern new user interface that makes Sky Q look pretty outdated.
Not only that, but its ability to bring together exclusive US dramas like Succession, Little Big Lies and Mare Of Easttown, alongside the latest must-binge boxsets from Netflix, like Squid Game and Bridgerton, Amazon’s Prime Video, such as Clarkson’s Farm and The Boys, and Disney+ with its new Star Wars spin-off series The Book Of Boba Fett and The Rescue into a single menu is unparalleled.
There’s also the clever voice controls – so you can search for a show, director or actor without needing to know the spelling (or take the type to slowly tap it out on the alphanumeric keypad), the ability to pause and rewind live telly, and the fact that you won’t need an unsightly dish on the outside of your home. While for some people the satellite dish was just an eyesore, for those in high-rise apartments without a communal dish system or rented properties with a landlord who isn’t too keen on drilling holes into the walls or roof…
What we’re saying is there are plenty of reasons you’d want to get your hands on Sky Glass. But as it stands, you can only enjoy the experience that Sky Glass offers if you’re willing to buy (either in a one-off lump sum, or as a monthly reoccurring payment) the custom-designed QLED TV.
That’s a shame because Sky has already designed and built the solution. The Sky Stream Puck is a small set-top box that brings the complete Sky Glass experience to any television in your home. Unfortunately, it’s only available to those who already own a Sky Glass QLED TV and pay extra for a multi-room experience. However, it would be great if Sky unbundled the Stream Puck from the multi-room add-on and sold it separately for those who have splashed out on a superior 4K OLED TV to Sky Glass, but still want that phenomenal software experience. It could also be useful for those who want to lower their monthly bills… even the cheapest Sky Glass model adds an extra £13 a month to your direct debit to Sky, something that you wouldn’t need to pay if you bought the Stream Puck in the same way that customers can buy Sky Q.
For most shows and movies, the cloud recording works flawlessly… but there are some exceptions
4/ Local Recordings For Some Shows
If Sky is preparing a second-generation Sky Glass telly to launch later this year, we’d love to see the company include a small SSD hard-drive inside. For most boxsets and movies, customers won’t notice the difference between streaming from Sky’s servers and the spinning hard-drive found inside their old Sky Q box. Sky, Disney+, BBC iPlayer, Netflix and others share a vast library of content that can be accessed in the blink of an eye, with no need to worry about whirring a hard-drive, waiting for a recording to finish, or losing half of the footage during a power cut or due to poor signal.
However, there are some exceptions. Due to its licensing agreement to use football from the Premier League, BBC’s Match Of The Day is only available on iPlayer for a week. If you own a Sky Q box and have a Series Link set to Match Of The Day, you’re able to keep episodes indefinitely. But if you head away on a two-week holiday with Sky Glass, you’ll only be able to catch-up on one of the episodes that you’ve missed while you’ve been away.
Sky introduce their brand new streaming TV ‘Sky Glass’
As BBC iPlayer, Netflix, Disney+, Prime Video and Sky itself refreshes its catalogue of on-demand content, boxsets and movies that you’ve been saving for a rainy day on your Playlist will vanish and no longer become available. Or, if a show switches from iPlayer to Netflix, or from Netflix to Prime Video (as these in-demand back catalogues often do) you could find yourself faced with the prospect of signing up to another £8.99 or so subscription service to watch something that you thought you’d saved to your Playlist to watch at a later date.
Like Sky Q, which has the ability to mark certain recordings with a Keep label – so these will never be recorded over, it would be great to see a second-generation Sky Glass with a small hard-drive built into the back of the telly for those few exceptional recordings. If viewers mark something with the same Keep label as Sky Q, the recording will be transferred from BBC iPlayer, Netflix, or Prime Video to the good old fashioned hard-drive.
Sky’s new Playlist feels like the future of telly… but there are a few tweaks needed
5/ Improve The Playlist
As we’ve mentioned above, the Playlist is an ingenious evolution to the old Your Recordings tab. Rather than simply being a place for your recorded shows, films and matches, Playlist also brings together previous episodes in a series from the sprawling sea of streaming services – so, you can watch the first couple of seasons from Netflix, the next few from Prime Video, and the latest episodes as they air on a paid-for channel available only via Sky. It should save you having to Google where shows can be streamed in the UK.
However, there are some issues. Bringing together every episode every aired in chronological order is brilliant if you want to catch-up on a show like Succession before the new season starts on Sky Atlantic. However, if you’ve recorded an episode of Gogglebox, First Dates or Have I Got News For You… the idea behind the Playlist starts to fall apart. After all, why would you want to start rewatching from the first episode that ever aired to catch-up on topical jokes from a few decades ago, or television that aired in a previous decade?
With the most recent update to Sky Glass, the satellite firm has ensured that the latest episode of a show is always the first shortcut that appears. But it would be great to have a toggle in the Settings to remove the back catalogue for select shows.
Likewise, while the aggregation aspect of the Playlist is brilliant for those who have subscriptions to every streaming service around… it can be a terrible reminder of what you’re missing out on if you don’t. As such, it would be nice if Sky Glass had an option to remove suggestions from Prime Video, Apple TV+ and others if you haven’t signed in with an existing subscription. Sky Glass is already a pricey option without endless reminders of must-watch shows that you’ll need to spend £7.99 extra a month to be able to watch.
Published at Sun, 09 Jan 2022 08:41:00 +0000