PBS for iPhone streams public-TV shows for free

No longer just for iPad users, the PBS app brings free full-length episodes of shows like "Nova" and "Nature" to iPhones and iPods. But it needs a little fine-tuning.

PBS for iPhone lets you watch full-length episodes free of charge--assuming you can find them in a sea of previews and clips.
PBS for iPhone lets you watch full-length episodes free of charge--assuming you can find them in a sea of previews and clips. Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

Last October, PBS took the wraps off an eponymous iPad app , allowing tablet users to stream full episodes of public-television favorites like "American Masters," "Nova," and "MotorWeek." iPhone and iPod users were promised their own version in November, but it never materialized.

Thankfully, PBS for iPhone is finally here. It's missing a few key elements, but it's still a great way to watch great shows on the go--free of charge.

The app is divided into four sections: Previews, Spotlight, Schedules, and Programs. Most of these are self-explanatory; as with the iPad version, the Schedules section provides you with a calendar of current and upcoming programming from your local PBS station.

However, unlike the iPad version, this one lacks both search and bookmark features, which is puzzling.

What's more, according to a PBS rep, the app contains more than 300 hours' worth of full episodes from various shows, including those mentioned up top. The problem is finding them: although it's easy enough to browse the Programs listings, you'll find dozens of previews and short clips mixed in with the handful of full-length episodes.

The iPad version has buttons for toggling between previews, shorts, and full episodes, but here you have to troll each list in search of runtimes longer than, say, 30 seconds or three minutes.

It's hard to complain about free streaming TV shows, especially those of the caliber produced by PBS, but I do think this app needs a few tweaks to fully realize its potential. Meanwhile, PBS Kids programming remains MIA, though I'm told a dedicated app for that is in the works. Yay!

 

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