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I’ve been using the Netflix app on my iPhone 3GS for a while now. By far, it’s one of the best apps I have. I’ve heard complaints about not being able to manage one’s disc queue, but I’m not overly concerned with that; it makes sense for the long term strategy of Netflix and also keeps the app focused. Additionally, it maintains goodwill for the developers who have apps that already do that, PhoneFlicks being the one that I use. (As a nerdy aside, Netflix has a great developer API, that’s really worth taking a look at. It’s clean, intuitive, and works great. It takes a lot of work to get an API designed right, and they’ve done it.)
This week I did hit what I consider to be a major flaw in the application: no video out on the 3GS.
Over the last week I was in San Diego, on vacation, without my laptop. I had been mulling over getting the Apple AV cable because it would make Netflix Watch Instantly way easier at home: my wife or I could just dock an iPhone and start watching. (No, we don’t have TiVo, which has Netflix built in; we choose not to subscribe to cable service.) Our current setup is a laptop with S-Video out connected to a hand-me-down receiver. We swung by the Apple store, picked up the cable, and headed back to try it out on an episode of Doc Martin. Sound, but no video. YouTube and local videos worked fine, but no go for Netflix (or Hulu Plus, for that matter). As I mentioned, major flaw.
Another issue that is mostly an annoyance rather than a glaring problem is the limitation of only being able to see the first 20 items on your WI queue.
Also, beware of which plan you have. This app doesn’t work if you’re on the el cheapo $5/mo plan. Any normal plan should be fine though.
Bottom line: The Netflix app is one that makes me hope I’m grandfathered in for unlimited data usage when I eventually upgrade. It’s a great app, but would be made better by supporting video out on the 3GS.
Having heard about Skyfire on AppleInsider, I thought it sounded interesting but had no reason to try it–until I was on a vacation with no computer or wifi. When Hulu Plus failed to deliver, I thought I’d spend the $3 to give Skyfire a chance.
First up attempt, Sherlock on PBS.
Two immediate problems. 1) We had left off at about 20 minutes in, but the video in Skyfire offered no way scrub to that location. 2) Audio not sync’d with video, off by about 1.5 seconds.
Second attempt, Fringe on Fox. This worked, although I did get interrupted, and had to come back to it. After which I had to start the video from the beginning again because of the lack of the scrub bar to seek to a location. But at least the audio was synched and the picture looked pretty good for 3G.
Bottom line: $3 price tag is the upper limit of what I’d pay for this. At least it’s a one-time cost and the service will hopefully improve with time. The real value here is not the browser, but the backend service to transcode Flash videos.
I’ve gotten very spoiled by Hulu. They make is possible for me to not subscribe to cable (or even have an over-the-air antenna, for that matter), yet keep watching TV, while enduring only a fraction of the commercials–all for free. The normal downsides of requiring a computer and watching a day later aren’t really issues for me. I usually always have a computer nearby, and, with a newborn, watching anything uninterrupted is a rarity.
This is what makes Hulu Plus a hard sell: Paying for TV and still having to watch ads. But, there was the perfect storm of vaca w/o laptop or wifi, Hulu Plus offering free trial week, and a couple show backlogs. So, I decided to give it a shot.
What isn’t immediately clear until you sign up for Hulu Plus, is that not all shows that are available on Hulu are available on your device (iPhone in my case), dealbreakers for me were: Psych, Fringe, and Chuck.
Aside from all the shenanigans with the subscription costs and ads, the app itself was a little buggy. It outright crashed a handful of times, and often I would have sections of a show pause, buffer, repeat from about 15 seconds, and then pause at the same place again. These could have been related to the 3G connection instead of wifi, but that’s really no excuse. The plus side of the bugginess is that the ads rarely worked either.
Oh, and on an iPhone 3GS, the Hulu Plus app doesn’t allow output to TV via Apple AV cable.
Bottom line: With limited device content, bugginess, no TV out, and adverts, still not worth the reduced cost of $8/mo.
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