OrbLive in Review – Live TV on your iPhone/iPod Touch

orblive1We’re always looking for more cool and fun things to do with our iPhone. I think I’ve found my latest fix for my iPhone addiction – live streaming TV. That is what OrbLive 2.0 for iPhone does. The makers of the popular streaming software have brought the experience to the most popular mobile device on the market.

App Description:

OrbLive is a breakthrough application that provides a new way to enjoy your media on the iPhone or touch.

The traditional iPod approach is to download and store (sync) a limited part of your media collection to your iPod so that you can carry it around in your pocket for playback while you are mobile.

OrbLive changes the paradigm transforming the iPhone and touch into far more powerful media players by utilizing their intrinsic networking capabilities. Instead of being limited to what is stored on the device, OrbLive allows you to stream all your media experiences from your home PC to your iPhone/touch whenever you are network connected. Don’t carry it with you. Connect.

Orb has some benefits to its main competitor – SlingBox. For one, the Orb service is free (the iPhone app is available at a nominal cost). Orb will also work with your TV tuner on your computer, whereas SlingBox is a stand-alone box. This can be beneficial if you use your computer regularly to watch TV, otherwise with the SlingBox you will need to split your TV connection.


Besides streaming live TV, arguably its most popular feature, Orb also allows you to share all your music, pictures, documents online. It can be retrieved by logging onto your Orb account on any computer, or via the iPhone application. The stream can be optimized for Edge, 3G or Wifi depending on your coverage. I noticed very little interruptions and the video quality was very smooth.

Orb can be relatively easy to set up. If you run into problems, that’s another story – more on that later. First of all you will need to have a TV tuner set up and running on your PC (Mac users have to run Orb on Fusion or VirtualBox). If you receive cable through a set top box or have a satellite, you will need an IR blaster to change the channels on your set top box. Unfortunately, while Orb is very useful and fun, its support and compatibility issues leave more to be desired. Not all IR blasters are compatible. My Hauppauge WinTV 1600HD IR blaster was not, and I had to purchase USB-IRT to control my cable box.

orblive3Unfortunately once I installed the USB-IRT device, Orb stopped streaming TV to my iPhone. I got a message saying “Orb could not find a suitable codec…”. I knew this wasn’t true as it had worked fine before. Orb has discontinued all technical support and instead asks users to help each other via their online forum. After much troubleshooting, I discovered the problem was solved once I downloaded TV guide listings properly. Why this would trigger a codec error is beyond me. Orb seemed to be made to be “too simple” to allow proper troubleshooting of issues.

My other problem was with TV listing guides. Without the TV guide, Orb will not work and will trigger a codec error message. Canadian listings would not come up. Instead a work-around hack had to be employed in order to download the Canadian listings. This solution was discovered after hours of sifting through the online support forum. Once the listings worked, the codec error went away.

orblive4Overall, I would say the pain of setting up Orb was worth the benefits. I can now watch TV anywhere I have 3G or WiFi coverage. On my international travels, its nice to keep up with news back home, and documents on my home PC can be retrieved easily. Orb comes in a free limited function version (which doesn’t let you change as many channels) and a full featured version for $9.99. If Orb had better technical support, or compatibility it would get a better rating. Unfortunately the problems which I and others have experienced are difficult to ignore. Nonetheless this shouldn’t discourage you from experiencing this very nifty product.


App Summary
Title:OrbLive (v2.0.9.18)Developer:Orb Networks
Price:$9.99App Size:3.5 MB
  • Cheaper than SlingBox
  • Live TV will put your data plan to good use
  • Retrieve music, videos anywhere in the world
  • Free version to try out
  • I got to learn a lot through all my troubles
  • Non-existent technical support
  • Compatibility issues with IR blasters
  • Canadian TV listings require a hack
  • Error messages displayed are not accurate making troubleshooting difficult


  • MOBILL23


  • Super Duper-site! I like this! Back again

  • doris grocer

    I see this is a case of a great idea that is limited by performance issues. Most people will opt for iphone apps that deliver online video vs streaming TV, such as Hulu or YouTube.

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