5 Best Streaming Video Apps
It seems like only yesterday that our phones were pretty cool if they could send and receive picture messages. That’s still pretty cool—provided we’re talking 24 pictures per second.
Yes, streaming video on your phone is all the rage, and for good reason, as phones are increasingly capable of providing an enjoyable mobile video-viewing experience. Screens are getting bigger and clearer. Processors are getting faster. Bandwidth is now nearly unfathomable through the air (provided you have 4G coverage). Video apps are prevalent. The latter, of course, is the feat we’re here to celebrate.
Undoubtedly, video quality on your phone hasn’t reached its pinnacle. Connectivity remains an issue if you’re not on a Wi-Fi network, and—most importantly—content libraries have infinite room to grow. So where should you turn to fill that time on the bus or the boredom at your distant cousin’s four-hour wedding ceremony? We’ll tell you, with these five streaming-video apps.
Hulu has the distinction of knowing what the major television networks needed before they did: streaming, on-demand content. Their library offers hi-def streams of big shows (and movies) from all of the major networks and, more importantly, they are current. Unlike Netflix, which is paced by the DVD release schedule, Hulu’s content is available as soon as the show airs.
Whether you subscribe to Hulu Plus at $7.99 a month is merely a matter of preference. For the true TV addict, Hulu’s content simply won’t be enough, especially when you factor in the loss of live programming (such as live news and sporting events). But if enough of your favorite shows are on the service, unshackling yourself from the rigid television schedule to watch them whenever you want is easily worth the price of admission.
Still, mobile streaming through the app only comes with a Hulu Plus subscription. It’s not broadcast TV through your phone, but it’s close. (Free to $7.99 for Android and iPhone)
Ustream is like a modern take on radio: live, streaming content from anywhere, but with full video and social-networking capabilities. Instead of the network TV-driven content of Hulu Plus, or even the prepared video content of free-wheeling YouTube, Ustream content is a two-way street. Users can broadcast and share from anywhere or tune in to their favorite channels live to chime in.
The Ustream app means you don’t have to miss any of your favorite channels. If Justin Bieber is hosting a live chat, you won’t have to miss it just because you’re stuck on a long car ride. But the real power of the app is the Go Live button, which turns your phone into a broadcasting beacon. Broadcast your bad fast-food experience, the concert you’re attending or your (not so) candid thoughts as they come to you. (Free for Android and iPhone)
Often featured on The Recapp, Netflix is the reigning champion of streaming content. They so wholly believe in streaming that last year they even tried to rid themselves of their popular DVD service before its adoring public was ready.
Though their public is now slightly less adoring, Netflix is still an unrivaled mainstay of modern entertainment. The sheer volume of streaming content (growing in size and quality each day) is more than anyone can hope to wade through. And their recommendation algorithms mean you’re always pointed to shows and movies that you’ll (probably) love.
In our opinion, Netflix’s video quality is the best of any streaming video app. It syncs seamlessly with your instant queue, which means stopping a show from home and picking it up mid-episode from the road (well, not while driving) is super simple. If you have a Netflix account, this one’s a no-brainer. (Free for Android and iPhone)
Crackle is a good place to look for some of the problems facing mobile streaming content. On one hand, Crackle is great: Sony’s proprietary video streaming app is filled with a lot of great Sony movies and television shows. The quality is high and the cost is nothing. That’s right: It’s free.
But could you imagine if every studio and every television network had their own app? Say what you will about TV, but there’s one thing about it that works: All the content comes from one place. All you do to access it is flip the channel. You can argue that if all the content comes through your phone, it’s the same thing. Does it matter how many apps you need?
We would argue that it does. It’s messy and confusing. One day, we might get a single-service app that pulls from others. But until that day, you should download Crackle and add to the mighty weight of your mobile streaming library. (Free for Android and iPhone)
HBO GO is a slick app, but it pretty much boils down to this: HBO GO is only awesome because HBO is awesome.
Access to HBO GO is granted with an HBO subscription through your cable provider (find a full list of the providers on HBO GO’s website). This means there’s no app-only, TV work-around. You would think they’d have a paid subscription option for those without TV, but the politics of channel/cable-provider relations loom.
Nevertheless, HBO GO offers access to more than 1,400 of its shows. That’s thousands of hours of indulgent, brainless entertainment, enjoyed from anywhere on the go. (Free for Android and iPhone)