Interest in watching video on mobile devices is on the rise, and Apple iPhone users can now watch TV shows streamed from Hulu thanks to a new application.
The new Hulu Plus offers whole seasons for many shows. But there are a couple of drawbacks: it costs $10 a month to use, and its selection of recent shows is limited.
This app is for all iOS 3.3 and 4.0 devices, not just the iPhone. I'm using it on a third-generation iPod touch, and I've played around with the special version for the iPad.
FEATURES AND CONTROLS
This service was clearly created to be a companion for the web-based version of Hulu. That's why it doesn't repeat all the content that's on Hulu. Unfortunately, that leaves iOS users out in the cold for a great many shows, from the Simpsons to Warehouse 13.
I asked Hulu about this and I was told "Because of the agreements in place with our content providers, there will be some shows that will only be available as part of Hulu's free service, but not available on Hulu Plus."
What This servicedoes haveis full seasons of classic TV shows. You can watch every episode of The X-Files and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, for example. There's a good selection, from comedies like The Mary Tyler Moore Show to dramas like Bones.
Of course, a great many shows are in reruns now because it's summer. You can catch up with the whole last season of Desperate Housewives or American Dad, though. and there are some new episodes coming out. I'm a fan of The Good Guys, and I can see new episodes I miss with this app.
Theselection is a bit weak in children's shows. This app seemed like it would be a good way to keep kids quiet on trips, but they probably aren't going to be interested in watching The Fall Guy. They have a surprisingly good selection of Japanese animation, if your kids are into Macros.
There are also a few movies, but I hadn't heard of 99% of these.
I'm not sure how the episodes are picked for the Featured apps screen, but I suspect companies pay for the privilege. To me, this is the least useful option.
The purpose of the Popular screen is self-explanatory: it a list of episodes that the most users are watching. This is episodes, not shows.
The Search function lets you look for episodes by keywords. These words can be in the show title or the episode title.
The TV screen is an alphabetic list of all the TV shows available through Hulu Plus. This is the screen I use the most.
When you find a show you want, just push the Play button.
Once your show is playing, you have the usual set of controls. You can pause it, or use a slider to move around in the episode.
These controls aren't on screen at all times. They slide off the edges when don't need them, but touching the display brings them back.
PERFORMANCE AND EASE OF USE
Videos on your iPhone or iPod touch look quite good, as long as you're OK with watching TV on a 3.5-inch display. This app is definitely running against the trend toward ever-larger television screens.
You can use Hulu Plus over Wi-Fi or 3G, though I'd suggest Wi-Fi unless you have an account that provides unlimited data.
If you have a slow connection, this app degrades the quality of the video you see, but still keeps streaming your show to you.
Brief advertisements show up whenever you begin a show, but these last just a few seconds.
Hulu Plus is available now in the on-device App Store. It cost $9.99 a month to use.
Whether you think it's worth that will likely depend on if it has shows you like to watch. If you're a fan of classic TV, you'll probably love it, and it offers quite a bit of more modern shows, too. But it doesn't offer everything on the web-based version of Hulu, which I think is going to disappoint or frustrate a great many people.
I like Hulu Plus. It's a great way to pass some time when the only way you have to amuse yourself is your iPhone or iPod touch.
At $120 a year, though, it's a bit steep unless you often find yourself need to be entertained, though. For that same price, you could buy 60 TV episodes from iTunes, or purchase three or four whole TV seasons of your favorite shows.
Aside from classic TV, the offerings aren't great right now, but I'm hoping that's something that's going to change with time.
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