On Tuesday, 10/27/2020, T-Mobile announced their streaming television platform, TVision as well as their Android TV-based streaming device, the TVision Hub with remote. T-Mobile sent us both the TVision Hub and the service to try. If you don’t feel like reading the full review, I was pleasantly surprised by both the service and device. At launch, the TVision service already has a level of smoothness and simplicity held by other streaming services like Hulu Live and the device, TVision Hub, make using the service that much easier while still allowing quick and easy access to other services you probably already use, like Netflix. You can read my full review below, but this is a service to watch out for in 2021.
What is TVision?
TVision is T-Mobile’s Live (and On-Demand) streaming TV service that focuses on an a-la-carte approach to streaming, similar to what Sling TV has tried to do (and failed). TVision has broken out its service into smaller packages so that you can truly add or remove the pieces you need to cut the cord.
The “holy grail” in cord cutting, the 3 main pieces you need to figure out, are how are you going to get live local channels for news (ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX), how are you going to watch your favorite sports teams, and how are you going to get your favorite entertainment/ “basic cable” channels. Some services, like Hulu Live and YouTube TV, incorporate all three pieces into one package, but it is expensive. Some services like Philo, focus just on the entertainment and traditional cable channel piece, and is relatively less expensive. Currently, TVision is the only service we have seen so far, that lets you add or remove each of the 3 pieces, to build the package that works for you, when you want – with a few exceptions. We’ll cover all your options below.
When will TVision Be Available?
It appears that T-Mobile is taking a slow and steady approach to rolling out TVision. They want to ramp up service availability, eventually, to everyone but are doing so in three phases starting with current T-Mobile post-pay wireless customers.
For Current T-Mobile Wireless Customers
Both the TVision streaming TV service and TVision Hub device is available starting today, 11/1/2020, for all current T-Mobile “post-pay” wireless customers. This does not included T-Mobile prepaid wireless or customers who are on the legacy Sprint service, that is coming next. Existing T-Mobile customers will be able to purchase the service and the TVision Hub device online via their MyTMobile account access.
For Legacy Sprint Customers
For customers who were with Sprint wireless service, but who are now T-Mobile customers through the recent T-Mobile/Sprint merger, the TVision service will not be available to you until sometime “later in November” although no exact date was given.
For Everyone Else
We don’t know exactly. A general timeline of “next year” was given, so we’ll be looking at 2021 before you can get your hands on this service. I am sure that T-Mobile wants to use this service as enticement to bring in new customers into the growing T-Mobile 5G wireless service. Also, the pricing given below may not apply to non T-Mobile Wireless customers. We’ll have to wait and see what happens and if current pricing is discounted for its existing customers.
TVision isn’t just one service or package, like a YouTube TV or a Hulu Live. TVision is the core app, that combines and manages three different TVision options; TVision Vibe, TVision Live (3 plans), and TVision Channels (premium add-ons). You can purchase one or combine any of the 3 TVision services to get the number and type of channels you are looking for. Lets break down each TVision package option, starting with TVision Vibe.
Vibe is one package, with one pricing option, that contains a lot of your most popular core entertainment, reality and drama channels. The Vibe package is perfect for those looking for family and entertainment channels, but don’t necessarily need live news or sports networks. There are 30 channels included in the Vibe package like AMC, HGTV, Discovery and more.
Vibe Package Price
TVision Vibe is only $10/month for 30+ channels. A pretty good deal considering the channels included in this line-up. This package will be a core driver for the success of the TVision streaming service and the $10 price tag puts this package in direct competition with other streaming services like Philo and Sling.
Vibe Channel Line-Up
The TVision Vibe package includes the following 30+ channels:
|AMC||Animal Planet||BBC America|
|BBC World News||BET||BET Her|
|Hallmark||Hallmark Movies and Mystery||Hallmark Drama|
|Teen Nick||TLC||Travel Channel|
TVision Live Packages
TVision Live TV has 3 different package options, all contain some of your local TV stations (No CBS – local and regional sports channels will vary by your location), as well as national cable news, major sports networks and some other traditionally “basic cable” channels. TVision Live packages are broken out into 3 levels; Live TV ($40/month), Live TV+ ($50/month) and Live TV Zone ($60/month). Each level includes all the channels of the levels below it and adds additional channels not included in the levels below.
Live TV Package
The core Live TV offering for TVision is the entry point into live streaming television for TVision customers for $40/month. This package will get you your live local affiliates like NBC, ABC, and FOX (No CBS and will also vary by your location). You also get access to core sports networks like ESPN, NBC Sports in addition to national news like CNN and Fox News. To see which local affiliates and regional sports networks are available in each of the Live plans listed, visit the TVision channel line-up page and enter your zip code before signing up.
Live TV+ Package
With TVision Live TV+, you get all channels included in the core Live TV package but also get some additional entertainment channels like FX Movies, many more sports channels like NFL Network, Big 10 Network, ACC Network, ESPN U, NBC Regional sports, the Golf Channel and more. The Live Plus package is $10 more per month ($50) than the core package and is really geared towards professional and college sports fans.
Live Zone Package
The TVision Live Zone package, for $60/mo. includes all channels on both the core Live TV and Live TV+ packages but also has some additional Spanish programming sports channels like ESPN Deportes and Fox Deportes and more importantly, this is the package that also includes NFL Red Zone.
Compare TVision Live Package Levels
|Live TV - $40/mo||LiveTV+ - $50/mo||Live Zone - $60/mo|
|Locals (ABC, NBC, FOX)*||Yes*||Yes*||Yes*|
|Cartoon Network/Adult Swim||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|NBC News Now||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|BIG 10 Network||No||Yes||Yes|
|NBC Regional Networks*||No||Yes*||Yes*|
*local channels, regional and other misc sports channels may only be available in certain markets. You can view full channel line-ups for your zip code here.
Another “vessel” under the TVision app is called TVision Channels (not a big fan of the name here, its a little confusing to talk about). TVision Channels allows you to subscribe to and incorporate other streaming services like Starz, Showtime and EPIX seamlessly within the TVision app. Movies and shows from these subscribed “channels” are incorporated right into the main TVision channel guide and search functionality so you don’t need to manually launch the service to watch content from that service.
Currently, 3 premium movie channels (Showtime, Starz and EPIX) are the only options for adding additional content to your TVision account but more may be coming. The TVision Channels feature is very interesting and could be one of the most important, stand-out features of the TVision service.
Here is why. All major entertainment and telecom companies are starting their own streaming services or apps to showcase and sell their content. The fragmentation of entertainment is getting out of hand. In addition to the main original content providers like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Hulu, you have an abundance of other content owners and producers hording their content for their own service or overcharging for it to the other streaming services. CBS now has All Access, NBC has Peacock, and more are coming….The problem with this fragmented model is that you are stuck subscribing to, switching between and searching between multiple apps just to find and watch all the content you are paying for or want to watch. Right now, the consolidation of these services has been left up to the device manufacturers like Roku. But even with Roku, you still need to sign-up for, download and login to different apps for every service you want to add on the device. Amazon and other services are trying to fix this by offering services through one platform but it is still cumbersome.
T-Mobile may be cracking that nut with TVision Channels. I will give you an example that may or may not actually come true (just a guess that it will). Currently, TVision Live TV packages do not feature any CBS local affiliate channels or CBS programming. CBS has its own live streaming service called CBS All Access and I imagine doesn’t want to give up its content for cheap. So what if instead of over-paying CBS for its content (and in turn, pass along that cost to TVision Live customers) it offered to sell CBS All Access via its TVision Channels feature. TVision customers can purchase CBS All Access via TVision and have all their shows import seamlessly into the TVision Channel Guide and search features. CBS All Access gets a new, paying subscriber. TVision’s customers are happy because they now have CBS All Access content and they only need to go to one place to watch it. Everyone wins! It’s simple and it fits with the a-la-carte model TVision seems to be using.
The TVision App
The TVision App runs smooth, looks good and overall works well. I tested it on both the TVision HUB device as well as on an iPad Pro (Full disclosure, both provided by T-Mobile). The TVision app interface seems to be a hybrid between a streaming service and a cable box. This was done, in part, to help make the transition to a streaming service as painless as possible for new cord cutters. The design and operation is still familiar enough for seasoned cord cutters, or even cord-nevers to easily navigate.
From the home screen, there is quick access to the guide, which we will discuss next, a search page, and two browse sections, one for shows and one for movies. The shows and movie pages need some work, especially on the HUB. These pages basically just flop a bunch of generic show and movie images in front of you and force you to randomly navigate down through it to find something “interesting”. There is no “recommended for you” feature, no way to sort by alphabetically, genre or category and no way to search unless you activate the voice search feature from these pages.
Finding “stuff to watch” is one of the biggest areas the TVision service can and probably will improve on. Coming from other streaming platforms, it is a noticeable weak area in an overall clean app.
The Channel Guide
One of the biggest differences between TVision and other streaming services is the channel guide. While the channel guide is not “new” or unique from other streaming services, there are a few differences that make this one stand out. The TVision guide keeps the cable box familiar channel numbers alongside each channel so those used to just typing a number on the remote will still be able to do that.
It also incorporates any channels from services purchased from the TVision Channels feature. On the demo we used, all three movie services were included. So all channels included from Showtime, EPIX and Starz all appeared in the guide and all had specific channel numbers.
One of the only drawbacks I found with the channel guide was the inability to save my “favorite” channels. So much like old cable boxes, you need to either do a search for a channel or scroll through hundreds of options to find the channel you want, when in reality, I just want to save my top 10-20 favorite channels and have the option to only see those 80% of the time. The guide does have a few preset channel categories for sports, news, movies and kids so you can narrow down your channel list by using one of those, but further customization or filtering would be nice.
The search page is basically a direct link to voice search. Not a big fan. While there are times when I use voice search, I am mostly watching TV at night and actually prefer to type in what I am searching for instead of saying it out loud. Having this option or the option to set a default search type of keyboard or voice would be nice. That being said, the voice search does works great. I just generally feel weird talking into the remote control.
TVision Cloud DVR
Included with all TVision Live packages is 100 hours of Cloud DVR storage so you can record your favorite live programming for watching later. The DVR has a quick access button from the TVision HUB remote and from a direct link the home screen of the TVision app. Recording a show is pretty easy, just hit the record button from your TVision HUB remote or on any other device from the channel guide.
The TVision app will be available across most streaming devices and app stores, including its own TVision Hub device, at launch, with one huge exception, Roku. There has been no ETA given or even confirmation of a Roku app in the works so we’ll have to see how this plays out into 2021.
As I type this article I realized that not being on Roku devices at launch may have been intentional and possibly be an indicator of what T-Mobile/TVision wants to accomplish in the future, both as a streaming service provider and streaming device provider. It is a possible indicator that it sees Roku as a main competitor in the streaming device / streaming TV service aggregation business, and not a vessel for launching its streaming service, which is interesting. Or they just couldn’t get the app done in time for launch and it will come out at a later time, which is probably more likely but who knows.
With the exception of Roku devices, the TVision app will be available on all other major platforms including Google Play store (Android TV / Google TV) devices, Apple Store, Amazon Fire TV and because of that, most tablets and mobile devices.
TVision HUB Device
That brings us to the TVision Hub device, also available at launch (11/1/2020) for $50 and available for purchase at any T-Mobile wireless store and online. TVision HUB is an Android TV based device that plugs directly into your HDMI port on your TV and incorporates not only the TVision app but other streaming service apps available through the Google Play store into your device. Because it is built on the Android TV platform, TVision also has Chromecast like “casting” abilities so you can stream other “Chromecast” enabled videos to your TV from your phone or computer.
I am not going to go into a ton of detail on the TVision HUB device in this article as it deserves its own overview but I will say that in my limited testing, it is smooth, powerful and flexible enough to be your primary streaming device, especially if you are using a TVision Vibe or Live package as your primary streaming service as the HUB device is meant to put focus and priority to TVision services.
TVision HUB Remote
Again, I will go into this in A LOT more detail in a full, separate review, but the HUB remote control is what really sets it apart from other streaming devices. The remote has quick launch buttons for the TVision TV guide, TVision home page and DVR as well as to Netflix and YouTube. It also has a full number pad for entering channel numbers vs scrolling or searching (see below). It has a Google Assistant button for voice search and voice control functionality (say “change the channel to ESPN”), which is pretty sweet and works great.
The remote set-up is quick and fairly painless with buttons for controlling both the input and power functions of your TV, so you won’t need a second remote control for your TV. It also has volume control buttons, although, I could not get that working with my TV (which I will test and troubleshoot more in the TVision HUB review article).
Other Bonus Considerations
Current T-Mobile customers who qualify for the Binge On program with their data plan and primarily stream TV via their mobile device will have the added benefit of not being charged against their data caps when using TVision. T-Mobile is adding TVision to its list of streaming services that it won’t eat up your monthly data plan.
In-Person Customer Support
One of the biggest challenges that cord cutters have, especially new ones, is that they have no where to go to with questions, problems or issues with the service. Most streaming services have no in-person customer support, no phone support – just online FAQ, email or maybe online chat if you are lucky. TVision will be supported from all T-Mobile wireless locations, so if you have questions or problems with your plan, the TVision service, the app, etc… just go to your local T-Mobile location and ask. A pretty nice bonus, especially if you are just getting started in cord-cutting and have a lot of questions.
Overall, T-Mobile is on the right track with TVision. As more people every year are realizing, streaming TV will almost always be cheaper than traditional cable due to the savings of equipment rental and other miscellaneous fees. But even the most popular streaming TV services are getting more expensive and raising rates over the past year or two.
By breaking channels into smaller packages, a-la-carte style, it’s a great way to keep costs low and give the consumers the option to add only the channels they want, when they want them. If TVision can continue to do this with their live TV packages, as well as continue partnering with and incorporating other streaming services into their TVision app and channel guide, they will have a great shot in fixing the issue of fragmented services and truly compete with Hulu Live, YouTube TV and Fubo TV for piece of the live streaming TV market.
Dominating the hardware side of streaming with their TVision HUB may be a little more difficult. They have a lot of stiff competition out there from Roku, Google, Amazon, Apple and even Sling. Leveraging their current wireless customer base is a great start. Bundling TVision with the expanding 5G wireless and home internet market will be a game changer as wireless companies continue to expand and own the next generation of connectivity products including TV, Internet and wireless.
T-Mobile wireless customers can sign-up for T-Mobile TVision service here.