Your TV Tech Fix: Sling Your Home TV to Android Devices… Finally.

It’s almost hard to believe that the very first Android device in the US more than 20 months ago. Whether you feel that was just yesterday or eons ago really depends on your frame of mind, but one thing’s for sure – if you have an Android device and a Slingbox, the wait for SlingPlayer Mobile has been unbearable.

Finally, the train has pulled into the station. SlingPlayer Mobile for Android is here. With a supported Slingbox (that’s the SOLO, PRO, and PRO-HD models, but the older boxes should also still work), you can watch and control your home television sources over the Internet on the major Android phones, like the Nexus One, EVO, Droid, and more. Even those clinging to their original G1 can join the fun.

So what took so long?

First, back when I was community manger for the former SlingCommunity website (ah, the good ‘ol days), I would often put up a good fight on Sling’s behalf when the G1 stagnated for 9 months the only Android device in the market. In reality, the Android movement didn’t really take off until late last year, with phones like the HTC Hero and Motorola’s Droid leading the way with newer, more capable versions of Android OS than what the G1 started with. It made little sense to make a major investment in a platform that was (at the time) not gaining any steam. I’ll cut the slack there, though. By early fall of 09, it was pretty clear Android was going to explode. A Q1 release would have been perfect timed for the influx of holiday buyers to get acquainted to their new device, and realistic for Sling to produce.

Second, it’s Sling. They’ve been notoriously slow to officially support new platforms (Blackberry, iPhone, Android, WebOS, etc.)  and even new devices on currently supported platforms (like the iPad) pretty much since the beginning. You do have to give them credit where it’s due, however. When they do release a final build of software for a mobile device,  it’s usually solid. A good thing considering the $30 price tag, but not so good if you’re on the cutting edge of technology, something Slingbox owners generally are (or were), and on a 2-year contract

So what’s new in SlingPlayer Mobile for Android?

Long time users of SlingPlayer Mobile won’t be generally surprised by the Android player, but it will look different than the iPhone, WinMo, and Blackberry clients. For starters, gone is the huge transparent overlay for the controls that covered the screen on the iPhone build in favor of black ribbons around the screen edge that let you perform commands while still watching your show.

The app also appears to launches faster than those before it, but it’s hard to tell given the major improvements in mobile phone hardware over the past few years.

Early reports from users indicate that the Android app is polished, although the video quality could use a little bit of work – a typical phrase from any Slingbox user (after all, the video quality from a Slingbox could ALWAYS be just a little better).  Of course, with a broad range of devices and OS versions, your mileage may vary depending on your specific configuration.

All in all, it seems like a pretty solid release from the Sling folks, even if it does feel a little late to the party. Let’s just hope Sling won’t be two years behind on the next smartphone platform, Windows Phone 7.

Have you tried out the new Android SlingPlayer? Tell me what you think of it below.

Satisfy your inner geek while fueling your TV addiction… TV Tech Fix is a column by Matt Whitlock, editor of the Consumer Electronics Community (plus several other gadget-focused community websites), and lover of both technology and TV. In this column, he’ll cover a wide variety of tech topics aimed squarely at the TV addicts of the world – from tips and tricks to help you better your TV experience, to gear recommendations, to the impact technology is having on the TV shows we love.

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