There’s been more news this week about the annoyances of Xbox Video movies and TV shows not being able to play on Windows Phone 8 devices. We complained about this originally in our Windows Phone 8 review back in October when Windows Phone 8 was first announced. The new Windows Phone 8 sync/transfer utilities are really pathetic compared to many of the other tools Microsoft had released in the past. Well, guess what? With Windows Phone 8, some of those sync tools from the past are now functional again!
We already looked at the best way to sync music to Windows Phone 8, which was to use the ancient Windows Media Player still included on almost every Windows PC. Back in 2004, Microsoft had a great way to sync TV shows and movies to your Windows Mobile devices automatically when they were plugged in to your TV tuner-equipped Windows Media Center. We first got a look at this feature with the imate JAM, which you can see in our full review here.
Basically, while Windows Media Center is running, you plug in a Windows Mobile device and it will ask you if you want to set it up for syncing content. Select Yes, and you’ll go through a series of screens where you can select playlists, TV shows, and movies to sync to your phone. With Windows Phone 8, it works exactly the same. This should work with Windows Media Center versions from Windows 8, Windows 7, Vista, and Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005.
If you’ve got a TV tuner equipped Windows Media Center PC, the TV shows and movies that you record will also show up in Windows Media Player which has management options for the same sync partnerships as what you would set up in Windows Media Center itself. From Windows Media Player you have more robust options for creating auto-playlists. For example, if you only want to sync the single newest episode of “How I Met Your Mother” as opposed to the 3 newest episodes, then you can do that here. For more details, be sure to read “The Best Way to Sync Windows Phone 8; Not What You’d Expect” In those options, you’ll see that you can set the video transfer to automatically downsample recordings in order to save storage space on your device (however the quality will be reduced significantly.)
I’ve been using this for a while to keep about 5 of the newest recorded TV shows on my phone and it’s been working just as nicely as it did in 2004. Plug the phone in, let it sit overnight, and the new TV shows are there in the morning. However, there is one fairly major problem and that’s digital rights management. Certain TV shows that you record in Windows Media Center have DRM attached and are not allowed to sync with mobile devices. That means you’ll see sync failures in the listings for certain shows like “The Walking Dead”.
Of course, I still wish the movies I bought through Xbox Video & Zune would work on Windows Phone 8 as well as they did on Windows Phone 7.x, but having FREE automatic TV show syncing back from 2004 is pretty cool too.