Faced with competition from video streaming services, StarHub yesterday unveiled its own Android TV box to let users watch its TV programmes much like how they would enjoy Netflix or Amazon Prime.
Instead of renting a cable TV set-top box from StarHub, users can plug in the smaller Android TV box to their TVs and watch up to 50 channels on the StarHub Go streaming service that is delivered over the Internet.
Previously, the service was accessed by users mostly on their phones, tablets and PCs. While some users have bought their own Android boxes to stream these videos, StarHub’s version uses Google’s latest Android TV operating system that promises a seamless experience on the big screen.
Out on September 5, the StarHub Go Streaming Box is available for S$14.90 a month for folks who buy its 1Gbps fibre broadband service at S$39.90 a month, with a two-year contract.
The deal comes with a Go Family subscription that includes channels like Cartoon Network, BBC Earth and Bloomberg TV. Subscribers also get a free Linksys EA8100 router that usually costs S$329.
If you don’t want to go with StarHub broadband, the box goes for S$199, with a free six-month subscription of the streaming service.
By relying on the flexibility that video streaming offers, StarHub wants to win over subscribers who have abandoned cable TV for more interactive options from Netflix and Amazon Prime in the past two years.
It is not the first in Singapore to tap on the Internet to deliver programmes. Singtel has been creating apps to run on Samsung’s smart TVs so that its content can be streamed right on the new TVs, much like how Netflix and Amazon have done.
StarHub executives were coy yesterday when asked if it would consider developing an app for a smart TV. It would take things one step at a time, said Justin Ang, head of product at StarHub, who acknowledged that streaming was the way forward to capture a wider audience.
The Android box is another step away from the traditional cable TV service that has bogged down Singapore’s number two telecom operator in recent years, as rivals sped ahead with competitive offerings on fibre broadband.
Earlier this year, it said it would stop cabling up new homes with the hybrid fibre co-axial network that had been used to deliver cable TV to homes for more than 20 years.
Now, besides using the fibre broadband network to deliver cable TV, StarHub looks to be removing one of the last holdouts of the old cable TV industry – a walled garden interface where users can only pick from a selection of approved content sources.
Four years ago, when the cable operator launched yet another cable set-top box, users were already beginning to cut the cord with services that were quickly looking outdated in a world of interactive streaming services.
The new StarHub Android TV box will allow users to download their own apps such as YouTube, as any plain vanilla version of the hardware will allow. Yes, you can even download a Singtel video streaming app on it. Unfortunately, the app store here is limited and you do not get Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.
CORRECTION at 07/09/2018 10:47pm: The story originally said that users could install Netflix on the StarHub box. This is incorrect. The number of apps on the Android TV box is limited. We are sorry for the error.
UPDATE at 31/08/2018 1:50pm: The story has been updated to reflect that the Android TV box package deal with a StarHub broadband service also comes with a 24-month subscription to the video streaming service.
1. How is the box UI experience? Like if you decided to stop subscribing to Starhub plan, is it possible to turn on the box with Android TV homescreen instead of Starhub homescreen?
2. The slowness in displaying titles, is that only for the Go plan or the Family live channels plan too and will they improve it?
3. Is it confirmed the live channels are in 720p resolution? Heard from a user it’s 1080p but can’t confirm. If it’s truly 720p, then it’s worst than Mediacorp Digital TV resolution of 1080i. Pretty disppointing.
Hi Miya, I hope I can answer your questions:
1. The Android TV UI itself is fine but no, you have to use StarHub’s interface mostly. You can have other apps like YouTube, but the box is customised to StarHub’s interface.
2. Both are a little slow, but I notice from my experience that some of the Go titles take quite a while to load.
3. StarHub has told us the live channels are 720p.
Are you able to sideload apps using APK or apps can only be installed on Playstore?
The live channels HD resolution is 720p or 1080p?
Hi Zhou, I asked StarHub the questions you posed. The resolution is 720p for live channels. For sideloading, yes, you should be able to. However, you have to make sure you get the right APK.
Here’s what a StarHub spokesperson told me, when I asked:
“Side-loading of Android applications are part of the android devices’ capability. However, we do not encourage or support this as it will mean going outside the Android ecosystem.”
I signed up for the 24 month contract at Comex on 7 Sept and the experience has been frustrating.
(1) Activation of Family Go package – We were told by the promoters and cashier that activation would be immediate. I.e. we could go home, plug in the Android box, do the necessary Hub ID and Google sign-ins, and start streaming from our Family Go package. As of today (9 Sept) the Family Go package still does not seem to have been activated on Starhub’s side yet. We cannot stream anything that we signed up for, and can only use the play store.
(2) Android box has trouble detecting internet connection – When first starting up, there will be a pop up saying “internet connection not detected”. I am on Starhub fibre broadband (1gbps) and using a wired connection (access point by Starhub) and a good Cat 6 cable. The box needs to be rebooted; only upon second start up will the internet connection be detected.
(3) Android box is buggy – After pairing the remote, we tried to pair a bluetooth keyboard. The whole Android box has hung. The remote is now not able to work, the keyboard doesn’t work too. The box is now stuck at the pairing screen.
(4) Customer service – Starhub has been extremely polite, but for each of the calls I have made, the CSR invariably says “this is new, I don’t know, can I arrange a callback”. I understand the difficulty but it is very frustrating to (a) have been given a lemon, and (b) Starhub needs to sort out activation at their end and (c) Starhub needs some product specialists on standby.
Given all the problems for this new product maybe Starhub should just taking this device off the market until everything is fixed. For those who want to sign up – don’t. Please wait until the numerous kinks are ironed out.
Hi CY, thanks for sharing your experience. I’m testing the box now and I share some of your frustrations as well. I am often told I don’t have an Internet connection on startup though this resolves itself quickly. Fortunately, I’m able to log in with my Hub ID quickly – I believe I had to log off from a session on the PC first.
What frustrates me more is the slowness in displaying a list of titles (e.g. TV series under HBO). I am working on an article soon on this so it is great hearing from another user.
Hi , I want to ask question. Is there any lagging on the tv programs like discovery channel, Korea channels?? Thank you.
Hi Sebastian, the streaming seems fine once you manage to select the shows. However, my main concern is that it takes too long to show a menu of shows (e.g. list of HBO TV series).
I visited the Starhub booth at Comex today. The salesperson said that Netflix and Amazon Prime Video cannot be installed on the box.
He did a search of “Amazon Prime Video” in the Google Play Store and nothing came up.
Hi Starhub, you are right. We had wrongly assumed that the Google Play store had the Netflix app. It does not appear so. We checked again today. We are sorry for the error and have updated the story. Thank you for clarifying this.
Ubox still stays stronger den this crap….
Honestly whatever plan you choose with Starhub one is just paying thru the nose without any entertaining benefits. I choose a bundle tat cost me $50 a month. All I get on channel 855 866 and 867 are nothing but repeats movies. Some are repeated as long as 2 months or more.
$14.90 per month with broadband sign-up. $199 without broadband sign-up. Does this even make sense? I sign-up broadband and I have to pay $357 for 2 years for the box, compared to only $199 without broadband. Shouldn’t I be paying lesser fpr the box if I sign-up with broadband?
$199 gives u the box and 6 months of subscription.
$14.90 per month is for the the box and 24 months of subscription.
Thanks Donut for pointing this out and Butterfly for clarifying. We have updated the story to reflect this as well.
I think starhub main core business is renting equipment. For starhub Go to be attractive, they need a app for android TV. This is what the consumer wants. Not renting android box.
the box once sold is for u to own. There is no rental after the bundle expires.
$199 with 6 months free subscription makes sense for someone without a Android TV box. But for someone with Android TV box it doesn’t make sense to invest in another box again. It will be great if starhub can follow singtel by launching their CAST app in Google Play Store.
I am enjoying for FREE!! Why pay for m3u8 playlist?