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Best Netflix alternatives for phones and tablets

Streaming tabletsThe video-on-demand space is seriously competitive right now. Netflix owns the space, and along with other upstarts like Hulu, it has really rattled the cages of the cable companies – so much so that they are responding with services of their own. The result for us is a great choice of video-on-demand services that allow us to watch a huge variety of content on our smartphones or tablets. However, when it comes to mobile devices, the quality and level of support varies wildly, so we decided to take a comparative look at the gold standard Netflix and all of its alternatives to find out who is optimizing for tablets and which apps are best.

Netflix

Deservedly one of the most popular unlimited streaming services online, Netflix also has a great batch of apps for smartphones and tablets. It costs $8 per month for unlimited streaming and features a large library of TV shows and movies which is constantly growing. The content is also free of commercials. The app works flawlessly and there are optimized versions for the iPad and Android tablets. As an added bonus, the Android and iOS apps allow you to use your smartphone as a remote control for Netflix on your PS3 or Xbox 360. Netflix is available everywhere.

Supports: Android, iOS, Windows Phone

hulu-plus-for-android-tablets

Hulu Plus

Another popular streaming service offering TV shows and movies, Hulu Plus also costs $8 per month. Hulu specializes in just-aired TV, making its offerings more current than Netflix, but it still has a lot of commercials. Some users find the advertising irritating considering it comes on top of the subscription fee; the ad breaks tend to be frequent and short. The Android and iOS apps are not highly rated and, while the ads seem to be the number one complaint, there are bad reviews citing unsupported devices and buffering problems. There is optimization for the iPad and Android tablets. If you use Apple TV then you can mirror from the iPad and activate a second screen mode.

Supports: Android, iOS

Crackle Ipad App Screenshot

Crackle

If you’re looking for completely free content, Crackle should be on your list. There’s no fee and no subscription, but you will find advertisements. There’s also no escaping the fact that Crackle offers a very limited choice of classic TV shows and movies (a few dozen at a time). There is some optimization for iPad and Android tablets, but the apps have no hidden features or second screen capability. Reviews are generally positive, but some people have encountered issues with updates.

Supports: Android, iOS

Kindle Fire HBO GO

HBO Go

If (and only if) you already pay for HBO through your satellite or cable provider, you can download the HBO Go app for free and enjoy all the TV shows and movies it offers. The quality of the content is excellent, but there’s no way to use the app without an existing subscription through cable or satellite. There are optimized apps for Android tablets and the iPad, but one major gripe is the lack of support for AirPlay. HBO Go’s user interface is not as refined as Netflix.

Supports: Android, iOS

Amazon Instant Video

You’ll find over 140,000 videos in the Amazon Instant Video store for rent or to buy. You can also get access to a library of free content (over 5,000 videos) if you have an Amazon Prime membership which costs $80 per year. The content comes without advertisements, but is currently only optimized for iPad – and because Apple demands a 30 percent commission on anything purchased through an app, Amazon won’t let you rent/buy movies or TV shows from your iPad. There are additional benefits to the Prime membership including free two-day shipping on eligible Amazon purchases and access to the Kindle lending library, but you can just get the free Amazon Instant Video app and rent or buy videos if you prefer. Prices vary and more recent content tends to be more expensive. Just like with HBO Go, AirPlay, and HDMI out are blocked so you can’t watch content on your big screen using your smartphone or tablet, but you can download content for offline viewing later.

Supports: iOS

Vudu

This service is backed by Walmart and it’s another entry that offers TV shows and movies to rent or buy. There are over 50,000 videos to choose from and many are recent releases. Prices vary from $1 to $6 for a movie rental and, like Amazon’s service, more recent content costs more. Vudu is optimized for Android tablets and the iPad first, but works on smartphones as well. Many people have complained about unsupported devices. There are also a lot of reports of technical issues in the reviews at Google Play and the App Store. Vudu does allow you to download content to view later offline on the Android app. Offline viewing is set to roll into the iOS version very soon.

Supports: Android, iOS

Redbox Instant

Verizon’s Redbox Instant costs $8 per month and it combines unlimited streaming with DVD rentals from Redbox kiosks (4 one-day DVD rentals per month). The streaming quality is good and there’s optimization for Android tablets and the iPad. The problem is that rentals, streaming content, and content to buy is all mixed in together and it’s tough to find what you want. To be fair, the app is still in beta right now, but the review scores are abysmal. Android users are angry at the lack of support for rooted devices and iOS users are disappointed at the lack of AirPlay support. The DVD rental choices are much more current than the streaming selection. One bonus is that you do have the option to download content for offline viewing later.

Supports: Android, iOS

Showtime Anytime

If you already subscribe to Showtime through specific TV providers, you can download the Showtime Anytime app and stream shows like Dexter to your smartphone or tablet. Sadly, the list of supported TV providers is limited right now (AT&T, DirecTV, OPTIMUM, and Verizon). The streaming quality is not the best and many users complain of having to log in every time they use the app. There is some optimization for the iPad and Android tablets, but no special features have been added.

Supports: Android, iOS

U-Verse On Demand

The options from AT&T are decidedly confusing. The existing U-Verse app is designed to enable users to set recordings on their DVRs at home from their mobile devices, but you can also stream selected content. AT&T recently announced a new addition called U-Verse Screen Pack for $5 per month, which will allow U-Verse subscribers to access a library of movies on their mobile devices (reportedly 1,500 at launch). The app is optimized for Android tablets and the iPad, with some second screen functionality built in. There’s also a Live TV app that costs $12 per month on iOS and $10 per month on Android and BlackBerry. It gives you access to live TV and on-demand movies and TV shows. The Windows Phone U-Verse apps seem to have been discontinued. The Live TV app does allow you to download content for offline viewing later.

Supports: Android, iOS, BlackBerry

xfinity app for iphone

XFinity TV Player

Comcast’s offering brings you plenty of TV shows and movies from various networks, but the choice you get depends entirely on your existing cable subscription with Comcast. The app is optimized for Android tablets and the iPad. The great thing about the Xfinity TV Player app is that you can actually download content to watch later, which is ideal if you want to stock up for a flight or a long trip. Unfortunately, a lot of users are complaining about glitches and that you can’t use HDMI out or AirPlay.

Supports: Android, iOS

Best Netflix alternative app?

In terms of content, features, and support, the Netflix apps are blatantly the best right now, but if you want more recent content and you’re willing to pay for it then you might turn to Vudu instead. Android and iOS users are well served, but for Windows Phone users it’s slim pickings, and for BlackBerry it’s even worse. Overall, the app quality varies wildly and some apps, like Amazon Instant for iPad, don’t let you purchase inside the app.

We’d love to hear about your experiences with these apps so post a comment and give us your opinion. If you’ve used another video-on-demand app that isn’t mentioned here and liked it then let us know.