Cord-cutters will love having a television that does it all, even if the overall picture quality is just so-so
Philo Streaming Review
For only $25 per month, there’s a live streaming app that purports to have it all. Well, almost. Philo TV is a budget-minded service for people who probably won’t bother signing up for Netflix or Amazon Prime Video or mess with an HD antenna. It’s for cord-cutters who skipped cable or satellite television service years ago. We’re talking about folks who like to watch the occasional reality show, catch up on the news, and are okay with older movies they find on a channel like VH1 on occasion. Read on to find out how the app checks out!
|Unlimited storage with a 12 month limit for a single show
How much does Philo TV cost?
Philo TV is intended for cable and satellite television cord-cutters. No need for a set-top box or DVR! No need to run optical cable in your home! No technician visits! Those are all good things if you don’t want to deal with any hardware.
In terms of saving money, Philo's options could cut your bill pretty significantly. If you happen to live in an area where there is Cox TV available, the Starter package costs $56 per month for over 75 channels, many of them about the same as Philo TV.
Did we mention no technician visit? Of course, with Philo TV you can also watch on an Apple iPad or your phone. The app is widely available on most smart televisions and streaming devices as well.
You can also add the MGM+ or STARZ premium movie channels to Philo TV, but then the cost per month goes much higher than basic cable and also Netflix.
What are the specs?
Looking for the absolute latest hot television shows? This is definitely not your app. Philo TV caters to the cord-cutter crowd who like cable television channels like VH1, BBC America, and AMC, but don’t want to pay for subscriber fees anymore. No Disney+ streaming here, or Max, or Netflix. It’s just the ultra-basics.
|720p live, 1080p VOD
|Total shows and movies
|Only live and VOD
Here's some info to help you decide on price: Not everyone needs every newfangled streaming app under the sun, and some of us are content with BBC America news channel and can skip cable news altogether. I’m not in that category myself—in fact, I like to watch the very latest shows like The Mandalorian on Disney+, Stranger Things on Netflix, Bloomberg, or the political thriller Tehran on Apple TV+ as soon as they debut.
I understand the budget cord-cutter mindset. If you don’t want to pay for every streaming app, from Max to Amazon Prime Video, maybe it’s a better strategy to pay for none of them at all. Philo TV means you are limiting what you watch on purpose, or at least augmenting one or two streaming apps and skipping cable.
I’m also a sports fan, and Philo TV has extremely limited options. There might be a show or movie to watch in the genre once in a while, but no live sports. Is it all worth it? That's a question that we'll explore.
What are Philo TV's most unique features?
It’s worth noting that Philo TV is essentially recording all of those 63 channels all day long no matter what, even if you don’t like the channels or the shows. This is dramatically different from a cable or satellite television provider, which loans you a DVR you can use to record shows as they air. DISH TV, for example, can record every show on major networks using the Primetime Anytime feature. The Hopper 3 DVR has 16 tuners and 2 TB of storage!
That’s amazing, but Philo as a company sort of shrugs and says, okay—so what? We record everything all the time no matter what. All day.
|Download for later
|Free trial length
What this means for you is that you can go back in time. We mean that quite literally. If you find a channel you like, you can look back up to 72 hours and decide to watch that show even though it “aired” already. (We put that in quotes because we think the idea of “airing” a show or movie is antiquated in the age of Netflix on-demand access anyway.)
Known as a “look back,” this feature is what separates Philo TV from other live television apps. Note that not all channels support this feature due to content licensing restrictions.
Also worth mentioning that you can record shows without any restrictions. (Again, Philo is recording everything anyway.) That’s one reason Philo uses the term “save” instead of record. The catch here is that the shows and movies are only available for 30 days. You have unlimited recording, but the content all expires eventually.
When a show or movie is saved, you can then quickly skip the commercials as though you are using a cable or television DVR. This is not quite the same as the Kangaroo feature on DISH for Primetime Anytime show, which automatically removes commercials for you when you watch. With Philo TV, you can skip commercials manually.
What about the Philo TV content?
Bruce Springsteen once wrote a song called "57 Channels (And Nothin' On)" in 1992 but he might have been predicting what Philo TV is like. There is always a show or movie, a newscast, and even a sporting event to watch. The app makes it easy to save these shows, watch them later, and even go back in time (up to 72 hours). If you are watching MTV and realize you missed a reality show earlier, you can still watch it.
Yes but limited
|Total shows and movies
Only live and VOD
That’s the good news. The quality of the content is another question. In searching for several popular shows like Cobra, Death in Paradise and The Mallorca Files (thinking these BBC dramas might be available), none of them came up. It’s because Philo TV only has BBC America, which doesn’t air the most recent shows. While the show Doctor Who came up in a search, you can only save episodes from two seasons.
It’s even worse with movies. I searched for about 20 movies that are listed as "Certified Fresh" in Rotten Tomatoes from 2018 (meaning, they have had plenty of time to filter down to the basic cable channels), and not a single one popped up. A Philo TV representative said they do often have highly ranked movies in the app.
If you add MGM+ or STARZ your movie viewing options suddenly become more robust. Both of those channels tend to debut some fantastic films like a personal favorite of mine called The Peanut Butter Falcon. You will also suddenly pay more than Netflix per month.
How does Philo TV quality compare?
The budget-minded focus on Philo TV is a bit of a problem when it comes to the quality. In my tests, watching several movies and shows, it was obvious that the overall quality can’t compare to something like Disney+, which has ultra-crisp 4K movies. Netflix also caters to the discerning viewer with many shows and movies in 4K.
|Minimum internet speed to use it
3 Mbps for SD, 7 Mbps for one HD, and 13 Mbps for multiple HD
720p live, 1080p VOD
In terms of cord-cutters who want to ditch their cable or sat plan, it’s even more confusing. Basic cable usually provides local channels in 1080p HD these days. The quality of some shows and movies looked a bit dark and muddy at times, even on a very fast 400 Mbps connection and a high-end Wi-Fi router.
At least the VOD content is in 1080p. I watched a few episodes of AMC shows like The Walking Dead and noticed an uptick in quality. A Philo TV rep said the quality will adjust on the fly depending on your connection speed. Once again, for $25 and no hassles with a set-top box, wiring, or installation (not to mention contracts), it’s still acceptable. I like the low price and the flexibility even if the quality is a bit below average.
Recap: Is Philo TV worth it?
Which is all to say: you get what you pay for with Philo TV. It runs fast on smart televisions and devices like the iPad or a smartphone. It’s cool to look back at shows that aired the previous day or two and still be able to watch them. (That feels like you have a time machine, frankly.)
The content is slim at least for the BBC shows I like the most and the recent highly rated movies on Rotten Tomatoes. I won’t complain too much, especially since I don’t need to bother arranging to have anyone do a cable installation.