Back in February I began a series of posts about “cutting the cord” – my experiments with abandoning the traditional sources for video entertainment. In that time there have been a few things that have gone exactly as intended and there have been some tremendous failures, which I’ve documented to the best of my abilities along the way. This post, however, is something different. This isn’t about the things that went wrong where I expected right or went right where I expected wrong – it’s about the things that went right when I never expected anything at all – the sudden realization that I’d actually gotten more than I paid for or found an amazing feature I never knew existed.
One of the biggest surprises is how much I’m actually using my newfound ability to watch my content anywhere. As I’m writing this I’m watching Battlestar Galactica on another monitor. At work I watch movies and TV shows in the background when concentration isn’t that important and switch over to music on my Google play account when it is. I start watching something on my laptop and pick it up later on my desktop or on my TV using a set-top box. Should I add another TV to my household this functionality automatically extends to resemble a multi-room DVR. The portability wasn’t even a consideration to me when I began this experiment but it’s become something that I honestly can’t imagine life without.
Another improvement over regular TV that I’m honestly surprised to actually like is the ability to control my advertisement experience. While it’s not an available option on set-top boxes, watching Hulu feeds on a PC provides the opportunity to vote for commercials I do and don’t like, and selections made on PC carry over to set-top playback. While ads are always an unwanted inconvenience to me, especially for a paid service, I understand their necessity. What I don’t understand is why, in this day and age, I can’t simply say “I will never buy this product and frankly I dislike this commercial, never show it to me again.” It makes no sense for the advertiser to keep showing me a commercial for something I’ll never buy, especially if the commercial annoys me. Thanks to this one simple feature, I never have to deal with such annoying commercials again and the advertisers get to target me with ads for things I’m likely to buy – a win/win scenario if ever I’ve seen one – but really I’m just stoked I never have to hear a certain annoying singing advertisement ever again.
Finally, getting rid of cable has taught me one more lesson that I never expected to come from this: remote controls suck. Seriously, remote controls all just completely suck. They’re single-use devices that can’t control anything else besides the one device they were bundled with. Even if you get a universal remote control, the “rubber buttons on plastic” interface severely remotes what they’re capable of. Text entry on a standard remote is just awful which makes it pretty much impossible to search for anything. The major benefit I’m seeing from consuming video via my Roku, AppleTV have remote apps for iOS and Android, and surprisingly my basic-model Samsung TV is network enabled and has its own remote app as well. I can control everything over my wireless network using one of the multitude of Android devices or my iPod Touch as a universal remote and since all my Android devices are using the truly excellent SwitfKey keyboard replacement app, text entry is amazingly smooth, especially compared to the traditional “arrows and OK button” method most boxes force upon you.
In short, I have to say I’m startled at how many amazing benefits my cable-cutting experiment has provided me with in addition to the ones I already expected. There is a flip side, though: stay tuned for my next installment chronicling the unforeseen problems I’ve encountered in the very same span of time.
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