Korean Drama Streaming APP review: DRAMOT+

Hello. This is AKIA Talking now talking from Korea. Today, I’ll be doing something new for this blog. Sometime ago, I was contacted by a company, “Chocolabs”, to review their Korean Drama Streaming APP “DRAMOT+” which they have been updating recently. I had pushed it aside with the whole getting settled in to Korea thing. So, now I am finally getting to it.

Oh and I am getting no incentives for doing this review. I am always saying what I want to say.
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The download links are as follows:

My experience with Korean drama Apps are limited to “DramaFever”, “Viki”, “Dramania” and a few other ones that I cannot recall at this moment. I mostly use “Dramania” since, unlike the other named 2 apps, it is a “middle man” app and its organization features are decent. Both “DramaFever”, “Viki” stream their own content via their own servers. “Dramania”, on the other hand, just provides a convenient dashboard interface to tap into shady Korean drama sources that are 3rd world servers which include China’s. “DRAMOT+”, the App I am reviewing here, is also a “middle man” app.

Let’s see how it runs.

This review is done based on the Android version of the “DRAMOT+” app using a Samsung Galaxy S5, a Samsung Galaxy S3, and a Samsung Galaxy Tab 3. The app version I am reviewing is 3.6.0.

Once you start the App, you get to see the rather red-ish pink loading screen which tends to take about 5 seconds to load on a Samsung Galaxy S5 which is the newest model out at the end of the year 2014. This is somewhat slower than I would expect but not terrible. This loading speed seems to be more a programing technique issue rather than a cell phone memory or processor issue as the loading speed on a Samsung Galaxy S3 and Galaxy Tab 3 are similar.

When you load the app, you are provided 3 tabs associated with 3 types of pages. A somewhat odd thing is that it takes about a second or so for the bottom goggle ad banner to load after you see the screen for the first time. While not a problem practically, it feels abrupt when the ad suddenly pop in. This happens for every time you go to a new show page also.

Discover  page: providing collections and suggestions
The left tab loads the “Discover” page which shows you a horizontal carousel of shows and notices. Below the carousel, there are currently 3 type of show collections provided: Last month’s TOP 10, Sweet romance, Action. When touched, you are provided with 10 shows in a separate page, “collection” page, replacing the “Discover” page. And it shows the title of the collection. Thus, you can say that there are actually 4 types of pages rather than 3 as stated previously.

This is where the app has minor UI issues. Once you load a “collection” page, the left tab is fixed to that collection page rather than the default “Discover” page. So, whenever you come back from viewing a video or viewing another page, that specific “collection” page loads. In addition, the proper collection title is no longer showing and is replaced by the title of “Discover”. The only way to get back to the “Discover” page is to press the back button on your cell phone while on the “collection” page.

This whole UI set up it problematic. It seems to be a problem with only using 3 tabs for a basic 4 page setup. Once you get used to the UI, it is usable but it is still cumbersome. In addition, the page titling bug really needs fixing. It is just confusing.

Profile  page: social media interactions and miscellaneous functions
The middle tab is the profile page for membership logins and setting up favorites, viewing history, going to the app’s Facebook page. I did not have as much experience with this page but it seems to be what you would expect. One thing to say about this page is that some features seem to be unfinished. There is a “Settings” subtitle with nothing below it. Also there is a rating link to the google play store that does not work

Drama  page: show listing and organization
The right tab is linked to the “Drama” page. This is basically a thumbnail listing of the shows you can access. An interface change happens when the “Drama” page is loaded. With the other pages, you see a search icon on the top left. With the “Drama” page, you get an additional menu icon which seems to be used to sort/group the listing of shows displayed in the “Drama” page. While this page is rather straight forward as you just touch a thumbnail of the show to watch the show, the shorting/ grouping function is not always straight forward.

There are five shorting/ grouping categories on the “Drama” page when the menu icon is touched: Views, Time, 2014, 2013, Before 2013. Views means that the shows are sorted according to higher views. Not exactly sure where the data is coming from but is seems to work according to the data provided. I have no idea what Time is supposed to mean. First, I thought it indicated currently airing shows. But there were old shows in the mix also. The date related categories seemed to group shows as indicated but I am not sure how the sorting of the shows are done. It is not alphabetical.  Also, grouping every show before 2013 as a single category is just impractical.

My impression of show listing and organization function it that it is problematic. It is not a very efficient manner of looking for shows. At least there is a grouping by country of origin feature when you can acess when at the top of the show list. However, still searching is very cumbersome. Rather than using the listing and sorting feature, I would just touch the search icon and type in the title of the show. I do like the title, actor search feature though.

Shows and episode selection
However you got to the show you wanted to watch, you will see the picture of the show with a side scrolling episode selection wheel. You scroll to get to the episode you want to watch and press on the number. This works for the most without an issue. However, I did find out that, for a few shows and only a few times, the episode selection wheel does not always pop in all episodes at first. It always works on the second try after I experienced this bug. I think it may have something to do with the Google ad integration but that is just a hunch.

In addition to the episode selection wheel, there is a share icon and a favorite icon in the shape of a heart. With the share and social media integration features, there is a sense of incompleteness. It does nothing other than load the selected social media app. There are no specialized messages like “this person is watching this show”. This is the same for the share icon shown while watching a video.

Here is a basic feature of the app. Unlike many other “middle man” apps which connect you with various media sources for the same episode of a show, “ DRAMOT+” decided to only shows you one source. The episodes’ files could either be a single file or multiple segmented files depending on the source. The issue with this approach is that the app has no way of hedging risk regarding server issues which the app has no control over. This is not like “Dramafever” which has its own servers for streaming. While most videos run ok, I had experienced several shows that would not load for server issues. Thus, you are out of luck and have to try other apps which may have multiple file sources.

Let’s talking about the video themselves. “DRAMOT+” uses its own dedicated video player. And I am not sure that this is the way to go since I think it is not as good as the ones that are on the market currently. When compared other apps, the video playback seems to be slightly blurrier and rougher. This could be a video source file issue but I think it is a video player issue since I have compared it side by side with other apps. The difference is not serious enough to seriously hinder one’s viewing experience since resolution of these types of streaming source files are not that great to begin with. However, it is more noticeable when using tablets. I’ll cover tablets later.

Another issue I had with the video player was that the player just stops after the video is finished rather than either showing the next episode or going back to the app’s pages. You have to press the back button yourself.
No tab icons on tablets
At the moment, “DRAMOT+” only has the SD version available on the android platform. It does say that it has a tablet HD version for the iPhone OS. I have not seen it at this point. The SD version can be used on tablets like many apps. However, there are serious app UI bugs since lots of the graphic assets do not scale up properly as they seem to be of low resolution. You can still watch videos without much issue if you already know the UI well enough. If not, you will have problems navigating.

On the video playback issue on tablets, the blurriness is more noticeable compared to other apps playing essentially the same file. But it is still passable.

Not shutting down the app manually
As with many Apps nowadays, “DRAMOT+” does not have an off switch. Rather, you have to shut it down using your phone app shutdown procedures. Since this has become the norm, this is not much of an issue except for the fact that, if you have been running the app for a long time in the background because you did not shut it fully down, the program may stall next time to touch the app icon to watch a show. This can be solved by fully shutting down the app with the phone app shutdown procedures and reloading it.

This happens sometimes with apps because of memory management issues while they are running is essentially sleep mode. However, it is somewhat irritating. Usually this happens with “DRAMOT+” when you have let the program run in the background for more than an hour or more.

Other than the bottom banner ad you always see while not playing videos, you see ads before you watch a video. If you fully finish a video, you do not seem to get another ad. However, if you try to go back to the app screen before the video ends by pushing the phone’s back button, you have to go through 3 separate ad screens.
Overall, I have to say, ad integration is clunky but bearable since they do not last long individually. However, the variety of ads is currently very limited which creates its own negative response.

A “middle man” app does not provide its own video content. Thus, the only value this type of app has is to provide a great user experience.  “DRAMOT+” performs the basic function of playing videos competently within the restriction of  “middle man” app. However, the user experience is not the best. On one hand, there are minor programing and UI design issues that you can work around but why would you want to. On the other hand, the show organization feature is rather clumsy. Considering the huge library of Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Taiwanese shows available via the shady side of the internet, this is a serious deficiency. Thus, one has to knock points off for this.

However, I do not see a reason why these issues cannot be solved in a few updates. The app is currently at version 3.6.0. I think “DRAMOT+” could be something worth using around version 4.0.0. At the present, I will not switch over from “Dramania” since they have a good show organization feature and let’s you download show files. 

However, try “DRAMOT+” for yourself. It is functional with just minor flaws. 

The download links are as follows:

1 comment:

  1. This is great. I love hearing all the scattered conversations around. The market vendors work hard. I need to go shopping in a market sometime around Nyc.