TVibes review: Choose the audience for your personal mobile TV station

Social media services have come up with a lot of clever ways to share photos, but the process of uploading, tagging, and posting videos has been a bit more daunting. Whether it's lack of storage capacity, no budget for cloud storage, or limited bandwidth, there's a lot of room for improvement in this space.

Now imagine an app that could turn your iPhone into a mobile broadcasting center, containing a lifetime's worth of video on the modern equivalent of a TV station, completely under your control and shared only with specific groups of friends or family members. That's the premise behind TVibes (iTunes Store link (pronounced "tee-vibes"), although the limitations far exceed convenience in this case.

Changing channels

TVibes treats each user as a "channel" on its app-based network. Videos shot with the app or uploaded from Camera Roll must be assigned a specific target audience before they can be shared: Soulmates (you or a spouse/partner), Family (which includes Soulmates), Friends (including Family and Soulmates), or Everyone (the equivalent of a public broadcast).

I wasn't particularly interested in sharing videos of my kid or a recent surprise party for my father's 70th birthday with total strangers, so I chose from the first three options. The problem is, there's no way to share content outside the app, so unless you can coerce loved ones into signing up, chances are you'll be the only one watching.

TVibes takes an equally simplistic approach to tagging videos, which can include an optional hashtag (#cats or #dogs, for example) or location for easier discoverability. The app does a good job of presenting a list of nearby businesses or landmarks, but isn't at all useful for labelling videos shot at a residence or other private location.

Hashtags and locations are displayed in tabs at the bottom of the home screen, along with a third for viewing channels; users can swipe up to scroll through content, or swipe down to refresh the page. As you view a channel, TVibes plays a 10-second loop of the latest clip--a nice idea, but since most of us correctly shoot video in landscape mode, it makes for odd formatting.

Broadcast blues

The first sign of trouble comes during setup with the omnipresent "Login with Facebook" prompt. Although more convenient and secure than maintaining separate logins for every service, this choice completely eliminates Facebook detractors from using the app, since there's no other method for signing up.

Oddly, Facebook isn't even used to tap into a list of existing friends who might already use TVibes. Instead, new users are encouraged to select other "broadcasters" to follow you've never heard of and don't know, including company founders and employees. (The How-to channel has decent tips for getting started, however.)

One feature with potential is the ability to shoot videos directly inside the app without taking up space in your Camera Roll (there's a setting to enable this option, should you want it). Unfortunately, recording is done at a resolution of 480 by 360 pixels-- a far cry from high definition. Uploaded videos are given equally poor treatment, which explains how the app seems to bend the laws of space and time while adding new content.

There are no storage limitations, although I wouldn't recommend the app for archival purposes. The developers call it "VOD (video-on-demand) for your life," but limited to low-quality playback for iPhone or Android smartphone owners with a Facebook account, your potential audience is smaller than you might think.

Bottom line

TVibes has the right idea when it comes to streamlining how we share mobile video, but hamstrings the process nearly every step of the way.


J.R. Bookwalter

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