There has never been a better time to cut the cord. These days, more than ever, people are looking to save money on streaming, and the selection of robust, affordable live TV streaming services make cable TV unnecessary. Earlier this month, T-Mobile launched two new Live TV Streaming Services, TVision VIBE and TVision Live, that aims to disrupt not just cable plans but also the current live streaming service out there that have increased in size and price. Unlike Hulu Live TV, Sling TV, YouTube TV, and FuboTV, which bundle entertainment and sports in a single package, T-Mobile has essentially split out entertainment channels in TVision VIBE, with sports and news going in TVision Live. So, what does this new service offer? What platforms does it support? And when can you get it? I am going to go over all of that and more. I spent a few days trying out TVision on both an iPad and T-Mobile’s branded Android TV dongle, the TVision Hub. Here comes TVision with its low-cost approach. Let’s dive in.
What is TVision?
TVision is a T-Mobile brand new live streaming service meant to compete with traditional cable providers and established streaming options like Sling TV, Hulu Live TV, YouTube TV, and FuboTV. But do not get confused with the T-Mobile at-Home service. They are not the same thing that the company offered last year with their acquisition of Layer3 to help build the service, catapulting the relatively small cable company into the national spotlight, where that version with limited to a handful of markets around the country for $100/month. Around this time in 2017, T-Mobile announced its acquisition with the small cable TV company Layer3. At the time, the carrier said it would use the technology developed by Layer3 as the basis for disruptive cable TV service that would challenge competitors like Comcast and Verizon.
What makes Layer3 special? Layer3 is not using the type of internet that you use when you pay Comcast or Verizon. It runs its private IP network to serve users’ content directly. What that means is that Layer3 can manage your bandwidth and content without having to worry about a medium network causing congestion to slow down your speed or throttle your data with the ability to send HD video at a bandwidth of fewer than four megabits per second or at least that is what their CEO Jeff Binder has claimed.
Taking on the challenge and modern approach to putting together a TV service in this day and age, especially with the year we have been having, of Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, YouTube TV, and more, Layer3 integrates content from those services alongside DVR recordings to learn what you watch over time to offer better suggestions alongside a more personalized on-demand content. One might consider that T-Mobile is buying an experienced and internet-focused company that encodes live video from streaming over a privately managed network certainly bears some parallels in execution and strategy. I would even say that the self-dubbed “uncarrier” might have something interesting up their sleeve as of now.
T-Mobile TVision pricing, channels & DVR
A big selling point that T-Mobile is leading heavily on is its value proposition. The fact of the matter is that T-Mobiles pitch is that traditional packages are too inflated or too pricey. They cost too much, as they pile on too many channels and a combination of channels that you do not want or use. While live TV streaming services have certainly disrupted that pattern, T-Mobile says, “some of those bigger players in the streaming space are also guilty and are getting too bloated and expensive over time.” So, here comes TVision with its low-cost approach. Below you will see a total of four plans to choose from what the company has to offer right now.
- TVision Vibe: ($10 a month for two simultaneous streams, 30 channels)
- TVision Live: ($40 a month for three simultaneous streams, 30 plus channels)
- TVision Live Plus: ($50 a month for three simultaneous streams, 40 plus channels)
- TVision Live Zone: ($60 per month for three simultaneous streams, 50 plus channels)
The company is splitting its offerings into a few different services. The service has two primary plans to choose from TVision Vibe for $10.00 and TVision Live for $40.00 plus, which can be upgraded to TVision Live+, TVision Vibe for $50.00. TVision Vibe can be upgraded to TVision Live Zone for a total of $60.00. With TVision, T-Mobile has essentially split up the entertainment channels in TVision Vibe, with sports and news in TVision Live. TVision Vibe is $10.00, including Food Network, BBC America, Comedy Central, BET, Nickelodeon, Hallmark, none of the premium and more expensive Live plans do. So, to get those channels, you will need both TVision Live and TVision Vibe. One might be more of a decent fit if you have a substantial selection of over the air options and you are looking to supplement that with a few more channels. Up next is TVision channels, which are essentially the premium channels you can also tackle your live or Vibe packages like CNBC, NBC News Now, Fox News, ESPN2, and more. The TVision Live package includes a mix of sports, news, local TV channels, and entertainment.
After TVision Live, the packages become more specialized and customizable. The TVision Live Plus adds many sports channels, but few entertainment channels I found ideal given that NFL Sunday Ticket and other channels are not in the streaming service. Finally, TVision Live Zone adds a mix of news, more sports channels, and Spanish language stations like Telemundo and the NFL Network. If you upgraded to the TVision Live Zone, the most massive addition is the Longhorn Network, NFL RedZone, MAVTV, Universal Kids, and Outside Television. Channels like the Dodgers, which is owned by Spectrum, or NFL Sunday Ticket, which is owned by AT&T, will not be included, and other teams owed by other cable providers.
A significant exception was the lack of CBS local channel support, so T-Mobile customers will need to register and sign-up for CBS All Access Additionally, in some cities, FOX affiliates may not be available on TVision Live, but the national channel will feed on those networks. A&E Networks are missing across all tiers in the entertainment channels, with TVision Live including 17 of the top cable channels and TVision Vibe only includes 15. You can also purchase a few add-on movie channels as extra packages like most other streaming services, like Epix, available for $5.99, Starz for $8.99, and Showtime can be purchased for $10.99 a month. Unfortunately, HBO is not included as an add-on. To receive that content, you would need to pay for HBO Max. Additionally, if you do not find a channel that you like, T-Mobile offers individual channels on which pricing may defer.
If pricing and plans are the most crucial detail when a new service launches, device, and platform support are probably not far behind on that list, and for TVision, that support is solid with one exception. Below is a list of platforms that will support the T-Vision application at launch. You can see the mobile site is well taken care of with Android and iOS support. Meanwhile, the ‘At-Home’ streaming can gain access to the new service from the list you see below. What I find disappointing is that there is no Roku support. I am sure it will be just a matter of time before the company will bring Roku into the lineup or continue evaluating future platforms, including next-gen game consoles like the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5.
- Android (Version 5.1 and Up)
- iOS/iPADS (Version 11 and up)
- Apple tv
- Fire TV
- Android TV
- Google TV
Platforms Unsupported at Launch:
- Samsung TV
- LG TV
- All models of Microsoft Xbox, Sony PlayStation, and Nintendo Gaming Systems
- Web Browser
Beyond all that, if you are on the TVision Live or channel plans, you can view a maximum of 3 simultaneous streams. For VIBE users at a $10/month plan, that is limited to two concurrent streams and includes a 100-hour Cloud DVR option for all three levels of the TVision Live packages, but it is an additional $4.99 add-on for the TVision Vibe Package. It is important to note that all the package prices are available for subscribers to T-Mobile postpaid accounts. It will be made available for legacy Sprint subscribers later this month in November. As for prepaid T-Mobile customers and non-T-Mobile customers, they will access TVision in 2021, but as for an exact date, I am not sure when that will be next year. T-Mobile customers who signed up for TVision Live Plus or Live Zone before December 31, 2020, could have secured a discounted Apple TV 4K set-top box for $99 and Apple TV Plus for free for a year. If all goes well during those phases, the company expects a full nationwide rollout to everyone, including those who aren’t currently customers of T-Mobile in the future; when that will be, again, I am not exactly sure, but T-Mobile has a sign-up page if you want to be notified when those stages begin.
If you were to subscribe to both TVision VIBE and LIVE, you would get more than any other Live TV Streaming Service out there. If you would like to check out the TVisions channel list on its website, click here or compare the TVision channel line-up against other streaming services – here from CNET. Recently, FuboTV made a switch where you can stream on connected devices from two locations simultaneously, while Hulu Live TV has yet to make that change, which I highly suggest that it does. As for AT&T TV Now, YouTube TV, and Philo, they allow you to stream in different locations. On either the VIBE or LIVE plan, you can stream on a connected TV device from a single location at a time. However, if someone is streaming on a connected TV device at home, you can use a tablet or mobile device while away.
It is straightforward to record shows from the guide. As for TVisions cloud-based DVR, it does work rather well. Although it records the movie or TV show’s actual live airing instead of flipping to an on-demand version, you are limited to only 100 hours of content across all profiles on your account. Like most DVRs, TVision’s does not differ too much; it supports the ability to record single episodes, all episodes, or just new ones. Your recorded content will remain for nine months and then will be automatically deleted. As of now, I am unable to see if you can purchase additional cloud storage, but if two or three individuals are on your account and record at least one show per week, that storage will fill up in just a week or less, so I hope this gets upgraded. It has three unique features that I have not seen on other Live TV Streaming Services before. You can request it only to record recurring episodes on specific channels and give an additional time when recording shows or sports games (5, 10, 30, and 60 minutes), so you can make sure you don’t miss anything. Like its streaming competitors, unlike cable, TVision doesn’t require a contract and doesn’t need special equipment to watch on, just an application. The hub is just extra but not required.
But there is a time delay when you do record a live event. You cannot immediately watch it. I tried turning on the Dallas Cowboys game this past weekend, and I had to wait roughly 15 minutes before I could start playing back the recorded channel. Additionally, there were a few instances, like when watching an episode of ‘Ninja Warrior’ on NBC where the program did not allow me the fast forward a pre-recorded video that wasn’t on my cloud DVR with an error that read ‘fast-forwarding is disabled for this program.’ I hope that changes because I have never run into an issue when watching an episode on any streaming service where I could not do fast-forward unless it was LIVE, which it was not.
The DVR is split out into two tabs, “Recorded” and “Scheduled.” It shows how many hours of your 100-hour DVR have been used on the top of the page. Along with the recorded tab, you can see all the shows, movies, and individual episodes that have been recorded. The ‘scheduled’ tab will show you’re showing that are to be recorded. From there, you can cancel or add padding. I have not had any issues with recording a single show so far. But, speaking of limited on-demand. I tried to check out “Fear the Walking Dead,” and the service only had season six with episodes three through seven, while Hulu Live TV had all seasons. So, since TVision has only been out less than a month, I am assuming it will gradually bring the rest of the seasons of countless shows up to date. If not, then TVision can look for a drop in subscribers just as quickly as they are signing up.
TVision Hub & UI
The TVision Hub resembles the TiVo Stream 4K. Powered by Android TV, you can access the Google Play Store, including a ton of other applications as well. TVision hub cost $49.99, just like the TiVo Stream 4K and Chromecast, which is surprising since T-Mobile has been making a lot of noise for less buck for their product. I will only assume that Google is making them charge each company that sets a dongle price. Honestly, the hub is not anything special anyway. Its primary function is for those that use T-Mobile as their primary carrier. The dongle comes with TVision pre-installed from Android TV with an HDMI dongle on one side. Alongside a remote control that integrates TVision-specific functions like the three new buttons: guide, DVR, and TVision, along with a number pad. It is practically a regular remote, just with a few more ‘smart button’ bells and whistles for the hub. You technically don’t even need a TVision account if all you want is a streaming device even though I am sure T-Mobile would prefer if you subscribed, but it’s worth pointing out even with the T-Mobile branding on the side, this is still a relatively an affordable streaming device for $49.99.
T-Mobile gave me an iPad Pro 2nd Generation tablet to check out the was able to check out the application’s iOS version. The home page offers up a general look at the movies of the day and trending shows. As you scroll down, you are shown categories like drama, documentaries, and more and channels given which tier package you have purchased. Watching on the Apple iPad Pro 11″ 2nd generation should not have problems with the quality. Over the past few years, one of the main changes for Live Streaming Services has been the upgradability of 60 fps (frames per second) for its streams. At 60 fps, the higher frame rate will smooth the video quality and make each show, especially for sports games and movies to look better or any performance that requires much motion. This is where TVision falls short and will most likely lose out on some significant sports fans from purchasing this product. YouTube TV, Sling TV, FuboTV, and Hulu Live TV all offer 60fps with their sports channels, but TVision only offers 30 fps, and it shows. TVision does a great job with practically not having any buffering time, and the quality is more than fair when it comes to entertainment. This is just not the right choice as of now until T-Mobile upgrades the fps. So, if you are a massive movie buff and sports fan, you might want to wait. As for the audio, I did not have any issues with it. It was crisp and learned without any delays. I am sure it will depend on which channel and device you stream with.
If you don’t own a smart TV, then this Android hub is undoubtedly dependable, and when you decide to buy that 4K TV, the device even supports up to 4K resolution and 60 fps. Unfortunately, the TVision app doesn’t have any content in that format, yet not counting the TVision In-Home service. This is a significant disadvantage compared to other streaming services that allow you to watch movies and sports games how they are meant to be watched. How much storage is inside the device? There’s 8GB of storage along 2GB of RAM with an ARM-based processor with a 1.8GHz clock speed. Additionally, you don’t need to have a wall charge available. If your TV has a USB available, it can just charge through that to be given power. Like most company’s marketing approach, T-Mobile customers get services like HBO and CBS that is not included in its channel packages. As for pricing, I do not know if they are freebies or just the applications themselves. The TVision home screen has a carousel of featured content. Below the icons for the services you are subscribed to, you will find content organized in various ways.
You can access and download familiar applications and subscription streaming services like Netflix. A nice perk is the Google Assistant for using voice commands for finding a streaming service, channel, show, or movie through the remote. T-Mobile’s attempt at a cable interface lacks pizazz but makes up for it with great functionality. The interface is clean, refreshed, and the navigation is responsive. Additionally, no matter what you are doing that time, if you press any of the maroon TVision buttons at the top, they will take you directly to the application.
When you turn on the TVision hub, the UI will show you what you have recently watched and customized your streaming application to give you recommendations, like Netflix. The UI is very responsive when using the remote control, so latency should not be an issue. The TVision viewing experience has been one of the closest to Cable TV compared to other live streaming services I have used. It is notable how fast the channels switch when changing them. The onscreen guide is quick, intuitive, and responsive and navigates as quickly as you press the button.
I am sure there will be plenty of individuals out there who will not care about the pricing and will be glad to have a TV to watch in the first place, which is fine. However, one other thing that might bother them or at least for sports fans is the lack of CBS affiliates associated with NFL and college football games that air on that channel. I am sure in no time that will change and will the rest of the TVision channel lineup. It will be in your best interest if you fall in this category to pay for CBS All Access instead.
If you happen to be a current T-Mobile customer and want to cut the cord on your cable or satellite TV system, then TVision packages are a very affordable way to get LIVE and on-demand cable TV channels. Sure, you will not have as many channels, but no one needs to watch over 300 channels. I prefer the minimalistic way of life. As I would have liked the various CBS channels to be included in the packages, the web browser access is non-existent at this point, and Roku is not being supported; this should not be a huge problem overall. Applications like Netflix, Youtube TV, and Hulu are innovative with their UI and known for it, but TVision lacks personalization, but I am sure finding various user-friendly UIs and AIs for streaming can be difficult. Streaming services UI is always changing, so it is a work in progress. Additionally, there was an issue with creating a page dedicated to ‘children friendly’ shows. Luckily, these parents will be glad to know that they can create a PIN that will lock out any adult-rated programs in the application. The bottom line is, the TVision app UI and its features are fresh but nothing spectacular.
When it comes to streaming services, one of the biggest questions revolves around price. T-Mobiles most significant selling points at launch are price and choice. It is good plans that are “half the price of cable TV,” and there are no annual service contracts to speak of either. It is even adequate protection from plan blow or, as it describes on the T-Mobile site, “No Exploding Plans.”. It is essentially offering low-cost service plans in configurations that are more attractive to consumers while promising no commitment or price hikes down the road. T-Mobile’s new streaming bundles are competitively priced while other streaming services offer more networks at the same price point, but TVision’s plans include fewer “waste” channels that will most likely not be used, ranging on preference for each person. It is still early days for TVision as it will undoubtedly continue to build out its service as time goes on, especially within the next few months. TVision is a service that is a bridge between cord-cutting and your applications. You can get some of the best of traditional cable but with a little bit of application thrown in that will suit your needs.
For now, if you are looking for a cable replacement, T-Mobile’s offering will do just that. But do not expect much more for some time. T-Mobile’s movement to give it a shot into the TV market is an exciting move by the mobile carrier, even if it is not anything to jump for joy about but as of now. An ideal consumer would be someone who already uses another source for streaming and wants to surf through various channels for background noise or when they are plain bored. That $10/month Vibe package is going to be very tempting. But a lack of CBS affiliates and streaming quality that lags the competition holds it back from being an industry kingpin. Finally, strategically, I would have loved there to have been a 5G option versus WiFi, but we’ll have to wait a bit for that.
Will T-Mobile suffer the same fate as some of their competitors and give in to increasing their streaming price, or are they onto something here by offering lower-cost streaming packages? Either way, we have another streaming option to consider. Of course, I will be keeping a close eye on T-visions pricing and plans moving forward. After all, it is one thing to say you have better prices and choices at launch, but it is another thing entirely to keep that promise over the longterm. The bottom line is that T-Mobile is jumping into the cable streaming alternative ring with a service that works as intended, but there are still a couple of big bumps that need to be smoothed out.
Note: Moor Insights & Strategy writers and editors may have contributed to this article.