Just days after Warner Bros. Discovery sounded the death knell for HBO Max as a standalone streaming service, the platform has received a major design overhaul on desktop, Android and iOS devices.
The update (opens in a new tab)which began rolling out to the HBO Max app on Roku streaming sticks, PlayStation consoles and other TV-adjacent devices in September 2021, brings improved navigation and a more refined visual style to those versions of the streamer that hadn’t yet benefited from the facelift .
In addition, the HBO Max app on desktop, Android and iOS devices will now have a shuffle button, split screen functionality and support for both landscape and portrait orientations. SharePlay support has also been added for iPhone and iPad users in the US.
Given Warner Bros. Discovery’s intention to combine HBO Max and Discovery Plus into a new superstreamer by 2023, the timing of a major design update to the former is a bit unfortunate. Also, the company cited “performance and customer issues” with HBO Max in its rationale for unifying the two services — so why bother fixing that shortcoming now?
Well, the answer is quite simple. As noted, WarnerMedia began rolling out this update to HBO Max on TV streaming devices in September 2021 — about six months before it merged with Discovery Inc. in April 2022.
The decision to overhaul HBO Max was made long before the formation of Warner Bros. Discovery (and therefore ahead of the decision to merge HBO Max and Discovery Plus). It is a surprise that the update in question took so long to roll out to HBO Max on all devices, but the timing is, we suspect, just coincidental. We have contacted HBO Max to get clarity on the matter.
By the way, WarnerMedia launched HBO Max in 2020 on the same clunky app architecture as the HBO Go and HBO Now apps, both of which were disbanded later that year – so an updated user interface (UI), one suitable for today’s streaming age, was long overdue .
The move also comes just weeks after Amazon began rolling out a similar design overhaul for its own streaming service, Prime Video. For more insight on the merger of HBO Max and Discovery Plus, read why we think Warner Bros. Discovery’s streaming plan risks weakening HBO’s name. Alternatively, check out our selection of the best HBO Max TV shows available to stream right now.