TiVo iOS App can be convinced to stream live TV over cellular in 2013, here's how

Posted by Paul Braren on Oct 29 2013 (updated on Oct 30 2013) in
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  • You may have seen headlines about the new TiVo app update, such as this article from last week:

    TiVo iOS apps now let you stream and download shows from Roamio DVRs anywhere there's Wi-Fi

    The Roamio starts to live up to its name, by Nilay Patel on Oct 24 2013, The Verge:

    The TiVo Roamio Pro and Plus received glowing reviews when they launched, but they were missing their namesake feature: the ability to stream shows to phones and tablets outside your house. That's all changed now: a new version of the TiVo iOS app lets you stream shows from your DVR anywhere there's Wi-Fi — and you can download shows over both LTE and Wi-Fi as well. (Streaming over LTE will arrive early next year, says TiVo.)

    I have a footnote to report, and it's good news. Just a little something I figured out yesterday, admittedly quite by accident. You see, shortly after checking into a hotel in Boston's Prudential Center last night, I noticed that I had 2 bars of LTE signal up on the 11th floor. So I did my usual travel routine, keeping my Verizon iPhone 5 off hotel WiFi:

    1. in iOS 7 'Settings', I made sure I had WiFi off
    2. also made sure I had Bluetooth off
    3. went to 'Settings' 'Cellular' then turned 'Personal Hotspot' on, and when prompted, I chose 'USB only'
    4. connected my iPhone 5 to my Lenovo W520 laptop, using the apple Lightning to USB cable

    Tada! I was online with my "Apple Ethernet" device. This laptop runs Windows 8.1 Pro 64 bit, along with iTunes, really just because it provides the needed "Apple Mobile Device Ethernet" device driver.

    Given this was my first time away from my family's upgraded Roamio Plus, it seemed as good a time as any to fire up the new TiVo app, just to see if would work. It did. Yes, it let me watch a live program from my home's TiVo Roamio, streamed right over LTE. Why? Not sure! Apparently being in tethered mode somehow tricked the app into letting it happen. The quality wasn't amazing, a bit blurry with some blockiness, but it wasn't bad either.

    Tried again tonight back at home, with 4 dots of LTE signal, worked fine, with better quality. Tried again with LTE turned off, forcing 3G, and it worked again. See for yourself, it's pictured above, or watch a full demonstration video below.

    Note, you have to start the TiVo app after you set up Personal Hotspot. If you forget, just force quit the TiVo app, start the Personal Hotspot, then fire up the TiVo app again, demonstrated in the demonstration video below.

    Just thought you might want to know about this workaround. Oh yeah, you might want to keep a very close eye on your data usage!

    See also:

    iOS: Troubleshooting Personal Hotspot, Apple Support.
    Firsthand experience with TiVo Roamio Plus that I easily upgraded to 3TB by Paul Braren on Oct 14 2013.
    Safer way to charge Apple Lightning devices quickly, even at a longer distance from your wall outlet by Paul Braren on Jun 07 2013.

    Update Oct 30 2013:

    After publishing this article, this alternative technique was brought to my attention. It involves starting a download of something already recorded using the TiVo app, no tethering required. It'll apparently let you start watching before the download completes, so this could be good for non-live stuff, as discussed over on tivocommunity.com here:

    Cellular stream work around by bradleys on Oct 24 2013.

    I've also made a related post on the same forum here, with helpful additional information already given:

    ...doesn't appear it'd work for users on grandfathered unlimited plans.

    I did the same thing with a friends MI-FI system. Actually, once you get it started you can walk away and your LTE connection will continue to work. All you need to do is borrow a WIFI signal to initiate the stream.