Sky has added a number of features, but there are still a few crucial omissions
This month marks the one-year anniversary of Sky's latest flagship satellite box going on sale in the UK.
Dubbed Sky Q, the next-generation set-top box was completely redesigned from the ground-up, with sleek new hardware, a bluetooth remote that swapped buttons for a circular touchpad, and wireless multi-room.
Sky Q was almost unrecognisable from its predecessor, Sky+ HD.
And with the new hardware and software came a slew of new features – recorded shows could be paused and resumed on different devices throughout the house, and customers could download content from the set-top box to a smartphone or tablet to take with them ahead of a long journey.
In the year since it launched, Sky has pushed-out a number of software updates for Sky Q, including Auto Download Next Episode last summer, which automatically begins to download the next episode of the series you are currently watching, so you can binge without interruption.
Sky Q: Everything you need to know about Sky's revolutionary TV service Fri, January 29, 2016
Sky Q brings TV fans a new way to watch their favourite shows
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Sky says their new Q service will set your TV free
The UK broadcaster also rolled-out a new way to fast-forward, leveraging the circular touchpad instead of the designated capacitive buttons above it.
And there is plenty more to come. Sky has already teased what it has planned next its next software update to the Sky Q system.
The UK broadcaster has promised a swathe of new software features in "early 2017", including a more personalised My Q interface, and voice search capabilities.
Here are some more details, as well as some of the other features that we'd love to see hit the Sky Q platform ahead of its second-year anniversary.
Sky Q launched with a handful of preinstalled apps that customers can use while watching television. The lightweight widgets slide-in from the side of the screen with bite-size information.
It's a brilliant feature, and allows viewers to quickly scan the latest headlines or check the weather without interrupting the show.
At launch, Sky Q only had a small selection of apps, including Sky News and Sky Sports. Unfortunately, one year on, that number hasn’t increased.
Apps, including Sky News and Sky Sports, slide-in from the side of the screen
It appears third-party developers haven’t exactly leapt at the opportunity to create a custom Sky Q application. And that’s a real shame.
We would love to see social media websites launch apps for Sky Q, allowing viewers to quickly check what’s trending on Facebook, or being said on Twitter. about whatever show is on – something that would bring a new level of interactivity to live events, like the BRITs or Super Bowl, for example.
These apps would also be useful for takeaway food vendors, like Just Eat or Domino’s, giving viewers the chance to launch the app during a movie to order a pizza with the Sky Q remote.
Record Upcoming Series
Sky Q boasts a number of beautiful, curated homepages, that collate shows from different networks, live and on-demand, that it thinks you might enjoy.
It’s a great way to surface hidden gems – or hit series that everyone is talking about – without having to hunt through the traditional TV Guide.
However, Sky Q could make some improvements for viewers who already have a show in mind that they want to record.
The next-generation satellite box has a pretty comprehensive search, that shows customers all upcoming air dates, on-demand episodes available to download to your set-top box, and relevant items in the Sky Store.
This works really well, but only when the show you’re looking for is on air.
Sky Q includes a comprehensive new search, but there’s a missing feature
Searching for a show that does not have an air-date (or any on-demand episodes available from Sky) does not bring-up any results. So, you’re unable to tell Sky Q to automatically start a Series Link on your chosen show whenever it next appears in the EPG, or Electronic Programme Guide.
Sky Q will already do this – but only if you recorded the previous series when it was on air. So, for example, if you put a Series Link on Game of Thrones season five last year, Sky Q will assume you want to watch season six, when that premieres the following year.
Unfortunately, Sky Q viewers can’t tell the box to do the same thing, if you missed out on the last season, when that aired the previous year.
It’s a small tweak, but one that would ensure forgetful viewers got the chance to see their favourite series the second it aired.
Sky has been teasing customers with the Sky Q’s voice search capabilities when it was first unveiled, back in November 2015.
The UK broadcaster has told Express.co.uk voice search will launch as part of a blockbuster software update due to roll-out in “early 2017”.
However, when the vast majority of rival smart boxes, like Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV and Roku, already ship with voice search, it’s a little disappointing that Sky has not managed to ship the feature during its first year on-sale.
There’s even a dedicated button on the Bluetooth touchpad remote, which currently only serves to act as a persistent reminder that there is a missing feature on your set-top box.
Sky has been teasing customers with the Sky Q’s voice search capabilities since its launch
Sky have been pretty tight-lipped about how voice search would be implemented, but there is staggering potential here.
“Play BBC One," would be a nice addition.
But hopefully Sky will take its voice implementation even further and include some intelligent software features – like the Amazon Fire TV – allowing Sky Q viewers to ask questions like "what time does The Apprentice start?" only to get a response – as well as a prompt to set a Series Link for the next episode.
There’s also potential to extend the voice capabilities with Amazon Echo.
The smart speaker has enjoyed enormous success since it launched in UK last year, and the ability to ask Alexa (the cloud-powered assistant that powers the Echo) to play or pause your programme, or set a recording, from another room, would be a brilliant addition.
Record Six Shows, Watch A Seventh
Sky first announced it was going to increase the number of shows customers could record at the same time late last year.
The ability to record six shows while watching a seventh, which will only be available to those with the 2TB Sky Q model, is also set to launch as part of a software update in “early 2017”.
Previously, the 2TB Sky Q box was only capable of recording five shows and while watching a sixth live or on-demand.
Sky+HD boxes were only ever able to record two programmes simultaneously.
However, since Sky made its initial announcement about the software update, Virgin Media unveiled its latest set-top box, the TV V6, which boasts the ability to record six shows simultaneously out-of-the-box.
Virgin TV V6 box – In Pictures Tue, November 29, 2016
Virgin has launched a new set-top box with support for 4K Ultra HD – as well as a bumper 1TB hard drive, the ability to record up to six shows simultaneously
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Virgin Media has launched a brand-new box with 4K Netflix support, Series Link+, 1TB hard drive
More Video Apps – Netflix, Amazon Prime
When Sky Q went on-sale on February 9, it shipped with a number of apps from other video providers, including YouTube and Vevo.
And for a moment, it looked as if Sky Q box could become a one-stop shop for all your TV viewing – whether you wanted to watch the latest short from a favourite YouTube channel, or a music video on Vevo, or binge-through the latest Amazon Prime series monopolising the watercooler conversation at work.
However, that hasn’t happened.
In our initial Sky Q review, we wrote “If only the service had a dedicated Netflix app then it really would be the one-stop-shop we've been looking for – finally letting you ditch the Chromecast, Apple TV or Roku next to your Sky box.”
Hopefully, with the phenomenal speed of Sky Q adoption, developers will embrace the new platform, bringing new options to viewers.