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Periscope for iOS review: Streaming live video couldn't be easier

Broadcast your vacation, a trip to the ballpark, or any activity you can think of with Twitter's new live streaming app for iPhone.

Jason_Parker.jpg
Jason Parker
Jason_Parker.jpg

Jason Parker

Senior Editor / Reviews - Software

Jason Parker has been at CNET for nearly 15 years. He is the senior editor in charge of iOS software and has become an expert reviewer of the software that runs on each new Apple device. He now spends most of his time covering Apple iOS releases and third-party apps.

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4 min read

Editors' note: This review has been updated to include the release of the Android version, May 26, 2015.

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7.5

Periscope for iOS

The Good

Periscope makes streaming video a snap with only a couple of taps. There are tons of live streams to watch at any given moment. You can broadcast both public and private videos.

The Bad

New streams are organized poorly, making it easy to miss things you might like. There is no Android version.

The Bottom Line

Though it has some minor rough edges to smooth out, Periscope is currently the best way to shoot and view live streaming video.

Twitter's Periscope (iOS|Android) lets you watch or shoot live streaming video and has a constantly updated list of live streams to browse. It has an easy-to-understand interface, and the excitement of seeing what's happening right now in other parts of the world is surprisingly compelling.

Periscope came out hot on the heels of Meerkat, a live video-streaming app that released in mid-February and immediately skyrocketed up the most-popular-app lists. I compared the two apps side by side, but it quickly became clear Periscope had more features, more ways to discover content, and might be the app that makes this new way of viewing live video an everyday thing.

Periscope has a clean and intuitive interface (pictures)

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What does Periscope do?

Periscope lets you set up a live video shoot by adding a title and deciding whether you want to share your location so people can see where you're shooting from. When you start your broadcast, notifications go out to your followers that have Periscope so they can touch the link to watch the live stream instantly.

During your live video, audience members can type in comments that you and other audience members will see at the bottom of the screen. Audience members can "like" your video live, by touching anywhere on the screen to make a heart icon float up that everyone can see. In this way, your live shoot becomes a conversation where you can interact with the audience watching your show.

When your broadcast is over, you can save your video to your camera roll or choose to make your video available for replay so people who missed it still have a chance to watch. Unfortunately, the replays stay up for only 24 hours after you post them. Ideally, you could go to a person's profile and watch every Periscope they ever made. Obviously, that would be an enormous amount of information in the cloud, but even if you could go back just a month, it would be better.

Still, Periscope makes live streaming easy and accessible on your smartphone so shooting live from the game, concert, party or political rally can be done by anyone. Not only that, but the excitement of seeing something happening in your friends' life right now is what makes apps like Periscope special.

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Browse through the current live streams to see how Periscope works. Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

More to explore

Even when you're not shooting videos or watching what your friends post, there's plenty to do on Periscope. The app displays three featured live streams at the top, then a long list of live streams being shot by others in that moment.

With the app's current popularity, there is no shortage of new videos being posted and -- at the moment -- it's not an ideal experience. While there's always something to watch, the videos are coming in so fast that a pull-down refresh will replace almost the whole list. It's a problem because there's no way to catch it all, and sometimes you'll see a stream that looks interesting only to accidentally refresh, pushing it off the list.

One way that this section might be improved is to separate live streams into categories so people could browse just the travel streams, sports, music, or other categories. This would lighten the load to each list making sure you get a chance to catch what interests you.

Social video

You can choose to post your Periscopes to all your Twitter followers by selecting the Twitter icon right before you broadcast. If you don't, the only people that will see your broadcast are those looking at the list of live streams in the app.

Periscope will also suggest people for you to follow in the People section of the app, based on your Twitter network. But if you find a person that talks about things that interest you regularly, you can follow them on Periscope so you always know when their broadcasts go live.

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Set up a broadcast, then interact with your audience during the show. Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

Private streams

Periscope also lets you just send video to the people you want. For example, if you have a group of friends that want to see live video of your trip to Hawaii, you can pick and choose which followers will get the notification for your live show, and it will only be broadcast for them.

It's a neat feature, because you can send quick video hits to friends or family when you're away from home, and the live video aspect makes it seem much more personal than a photo or even a prerecorded video.

Conclusion

Periscope brings live streaming video to both iPhone and Android, and it has great features for discovering new video. Periscope isn't the first streaming-video app to the App Store, but its ease of use, GPS locations, and the ability to browse current streams puts it in front of the rest of its kind.

With its early popularity, it's easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer number of videos coming in -- even the app isn't fast enough to catch it all. But hopefully new categories and other ways to break up the continuous stream of new content will come in future updates to the app.

Still, while Meerkat may have put streaming video from your smartphone on the map, Periscope is set to take over, with more features, more ways to get connected, and the power of Twitter behind it all.

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7.5

Periscope for iOS

Score Breakdown

Setup 8Features 7Interface 7Performance 8
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