If you don’t have a video streaming service on your smartphone in 2018, we’ve really got to wonder what kind of life you’ve been living.
Streaming services have been around for quite a few years now, but it wasn’t until recently that these entertainment on-demand services really hit their stride. Streaming services are disrupting the very way we think of entertainment. They’re killing television, opening minds, and redefining the very idea of digital amusement.
In recent years, streaming services have also invaded mobile devices. Apps like Netflix have been around for awhile, but it wasn’t until recently that they became truly viable. It’s easier than ever to download a streaming service to your mobile device and enjoy a variety of entertainment with few restrictions.
As glorious as the age of streaming is, it comes at a very real cost. With so many monthly fee streaming services out there, it’s hard to expect someone to own them all. As such, you’ve got to be a little picky about which ones you subscribe to.
To help you sort through the madness, we took a look at the biggest premium – and free – video streaming services for iPhone. There are 12 that you need to know about.
- A Unique Library
- Functions Rather Well
- Completely Free
- Not Worth Much More Than A Quick Look
- Very Few Genuinely Good Pieces of Content
Rewinder is one of the more amusing on-demand/streaming services out there. By amusing, we mean weird, sometimes useless, and worth checking out if for no other reason than the fact that you can download it for free.
Rewinder is packed to the gills with public domain content. The funny thing about public domain movies and shows is that there are times when genuinely great pieces of entertainment just slip into the public domain. Night of the Living Dead, The 39 Steps, and House on the Haunted Hill are all great public domain movies you can find on this service.
The problem is that the vast majority of public domain movies and shows is that they’re awful. While there are some people out there that will find some amusement in how bad some of the content on Rewinder is, there just aren’t that many people in the world who will consider this a go-to service.
Still, it is a free download, and there are a few genuinely great movies on Rewinder. Beyond that, it’s pretty much a novelty.
- Original Content
- Well Designed App
- Content isn’t that good
- Tons of Ads
- Frequent Bugs
Crackle is one of those services that makes you realize just how many great streaming service options there are. Unfortunately, that’s only half of a compliment.
The good news is that Crackle is free meaning that you can easily take it for a spin and quickly form your own conclusions about what it has to offer. Said offerings include some pretty interesting original shows, a few easy to recommend movies, and some quality television shows available via the service.
The bad news is that Crackle’s lineup is usually pretty weak. While the rotating Crackle collection means that you’re never stuck with the same content for long, the problem is that Crackle isn’t really known for featuring the latest and greatest movies and shows. Opinions may vary regarding the general quality of every movie on the service, but most of them are pretty low-rated by critics and audiences.
Of course, you’ll also need to deal with some ads if you choose to take advantage of Crackle’s free offerings. All in all, it’s a nice service to have around, but there’s nothing about Crackle that is essential.
10. Showtime Anytime
- Quite a bit of Showtime Content
- Available for Free (With a Showtime Subscription)
- Offers Offline Download Options
- Library Is Pretty Bad
- Iffy Interface
- Not Available As a Standalone App
Showtime Anytime – which is a great name – isn’t the worst iOS streaming service out there, but in terms of major names, it’s hard to recommend.
Showtime Anytime’s biggest problem is that its library is pretty weak. While new movies and shows are added to the app as they are added to the Showtime network, the problem is that Showtime isn’t exactly known for being a top-tier provider of original content and feature films. Your mileage may vary in that respect, but when you compare Showtime’s library to that of other major streaming services, it’s hard to justify the $11 a month fee (though that number might be less depending on which service you use to subscribe).
In any case, the best thing you can say for Showtime Anytime is that it’s fairly well-made. Offline downloads are always nice, and the app itself is stable. The interface leaves a little to be desired (video playback buttons can be finicky), but there’s nothing too appalling here from a tech standpoint.
Still, there are better options available.
- Basically a Virtual Red Box
- No Monthly Subscription Fee
- Rewards Program
- In Public Beta (Which Means It Can Be Buggy)
- Not All Available Videos Can Be Rented
- Tends to Focus on New Films/Shows
Not to be confused with the standard Redbox app – which is an essential companion piece for anyone who regularly rents from Redbox – Redbox on Demand is Redbox’s most ambitious attempt yet at breaking into the digital video market.
Currently in public beta (which means it’s open to everyone) Redbox on Demand allows you to rent or buy quite a bit of content that you might find at a physical Redbox. The price of every title is based on factors like its popularity and whether or not you’d like to rent or buy it, but the selection is varied and generally pretty good.
One of the potential problems with Redbox on Demand is that its offerings tend to be pretty new. That might not be a problem for some, but for those used to a having a selection of classic titles at the ready, that might be kind of a disappointment.
In fact, the only people we can easily recommend Redbox to are regular Redbox users who like the service’s selection and are interested in earning points towards future purchases.
- A Theoretically Infinite Amount of Content
- Custom Servers
- User-Friendly Set-up
- Premium TV Options
- Requires You to Upload Your Own Content
- Tends to Push the Premium Features
Plex is one of my absolute favorite media apps, even if it’s hard to recommend to anyone.
First off, Plex isn’t a traditional media streaming service. It offers some pre-loaded content (some of which can be purchased via a premium pass and subscriptions), but Plex’s true calling is as a media server. To be honest, the content that Plex offers can usually be found in better overall streaming services (so far as pure content goes).
However, as a media server, Plex is essential. The ability to upload your own content to Plex and access it at any time is something that other services do, but few are as user-friendly or flexible as Plex. It just makes it so easy to take your content with you anywhere.
It’s very hard to recommend Plex’s premium and subscription options simply because it feels like an inefficient way to get much of the content it offers, but you absolutely should have Plex on your device due to how easy it makes creating your own streaming service using your content.
7. Pluto TV
- Most of the Available Content is Free
- Satellite-Style Programming
- Varied Selection of Programs
- Premium Content Isn’t That Great
- Tends to Repeat Programming for Weeks at a Time
Pluto TV is the portion of this particular list where things get really interesting.
Anyone who grew up with cable or satellite television knows that there’s a certain thrill that comes from randomized, themed programming. In the mood for sci-fi? Throw it on the sci-fi channel. Feel like laughing? Flip it over to the comedy channel. Sometimes, it’s nice to not be responsible for your programming entertainment.
Pluto TV replicates that experience. It offers quite a few free channels of themed content ranging from Mystery Science Theater to professional wrestling and martial arts films. Pluto TV is great for those situations when you just want to throw something on and not overthink what you’re going to watch tonight (or if you just need background noise).
The significant downside to using Pluto TV is the quality and quantity of its content. There are a lot of channels on Pluto TV, but they often repeat the same content for weeks on end. That means that it’s difficult to rely on Pluto as your go-to entertainment app.
6. Sling TV
- It’s TV!
- Fair pricing
- Pick Your Own Programming
- It’s Tv.
- You’re probably getting a lot of this content through another service.
Sling TV is one of the most popular live streaming services on any platform. After all, it’s essentially the TV plan we’ve always wanted. Sling lets you choose pre-set packages of channels or, better yet, mix and match channels to create your own TV plan.
Being able to make your own TV package is nice and all, but what really sells Sling is the price. The price of different channels and packages varies, but generally speaking, Sling charges a very affordable rate for just about any combination of channels.
That’s a good thing, but the problem is that many cord cutters have ditched TV not just because it’s expensive but because there’s nothing good on. Picking and choosing channels is nice, but it only really works for those who have channels that they want to pick and choose from. Everyone else will probably end up feeling like they’re better off subscribing to a more current streaming service where many ongoing shows are also available.
Still, it’s hard to argue with what Sling TV offers for those who are interested in it.
- The Criterion Collection
- Incredible Film Variety
- Various Price Tiers
- Movie Collection Definitely Not For Everyone
- No TV Shows
FilmStruck isn’t exactly the new kid on the block, but the service didn’t capture the attention of most people until they acquired the sacred Criterion lineup.
For those who don’t know, Criterion is a video distribution service designed to preserve what are described as important films. Criterion labels everything from obscure French films to Robocop as being important, but their collection is largely made up of films that most people have never heard of. Still, just about every Criterion movie is a good film.
You don’t have to subscribe to the Criterion package, but it really is the selling point of the service. The good news is that it only costs $10.99 a month (the service’s most expensive package) and it includes the TCM lineup which so happens to feature a tone of bonafide classic films.
The downside to FilmStruck is that it’s clearly not for everyone. Serious film fans are going to love the movies that FilmStruck offers, but if you don’t fall into that group, you’re probably not going to find much here that’s all that appealing.
4. HBO Go/Now
- Some of the Best Original Series Ever Made
- Decent Selection of Movies
+Watch HBO Shows Live
- Depends on How Much You Like HBO
- Kind of Expensive
- Bare Bones App
HBO is the most important channel in the history of cable television. The subscription service changed the rules of what you could get away with on television and raised the bar for television drama and comedies.
Indeed, the biggest selling point of HBO Go/Now is that it allows you to access nearly every HBO show ever made. While there are some shows missing, the bulk of the HBO backlog is available to view via the app. You can also watch current and live shows, which means you never have to miss Game of Thrones again.
The biggest downside to HBO’s streaming service is its cost. Unless you already have an HBO subscription via your TV service, you’re going to have to shell out $14.99 a month for access to HBO Now. That’s not an outlandish price, but in terms of what you ultimately end up getting, there’s a strong argument to be made that your money could be better spent elsewhere. It doesn’t help that the HBO app is merely functional.
Still, it’s hard to argue against the HBO lineup.
- Is Included With Amazon Prime
- Offers A Ton of Content to Rent or Buy
- Variety of Movies and Shows
- Not Really Worth It As a Standalone Streaming Service
Amazon Prime Video is a tricky service to rate.
The thing about Amazon Prime Video is that it’s probably the best “add-on” service on the entire internet. By that, we mean that many people are already subscribed to Amazon Prime in order to take advantage of the site’s two-day shipping option, and that means they get Amazon Prime Video as part of their subscription.
As an add-on, Amazon Prime Video is brilliant. There’s quite a few great movies on here, some really good original content, and a decent selection of TV shows. It’s not the best library out there, but it’s not bad. You can also rent or buy a variety of movies via Amazon’s video service.
The problem with Amazon Prime Video is that you might not be an Amazon Prime subscriber. In that case, it’s kind of tough to justify paying $8.99 for just the streaming service. It’s also not going to sell you on an Amazon Prime subscription if you’re not already interested in the benefits of being a Prime subscriber.
- World-Class TV Lineup
- Very Good Original Content
- Live TV Options
- Cost for Ad-Free Plan is Questionable
- Better Movies on Other Services
Hulu has long been the “other” streaming service, but that doesn’t mean it’s a second-class citizen.
One thing that Hulu offers that no other streaming service comes close to matching is an exceptional collection of TV shows. Hulu has invested heavily in bringing some all-time classic TV series to their service and even a brief glance at their lineup reveals how well their strategy has paid-off. From Seinfeld to The X-Files, Hulu’s TV section really does have many titles for just about everyone.
It certainly doesn’t hurt that Hulu offers live TV options and usually features clips and full episodes from current or recent TV shows. It’s a TV lover’s paradise that so happens to feature some pretty good movies (even if that’s not the service’s selling point).
Speaking of selling points, let’s talk about Hulu’s price point. At the base price of $7.99 a month, you might think that Hulu is a steal. However, if you want to ditch the ads that come with that packages (and you certainly do) then you’ll need to pay $11.99 a month. Features like DVR and Live TV will cost you even more.
Anything beyond the $11.99 plan does make you start to question the value of the service just a bit.
- The Definitive Streaming Service
- Exceptional Original Content
- Great Rotating Selection of Movies
- TV Lineup Not Nearly As Strong as it Once Was
Netflix is the first and last name when it comes to streaming services. They’re a cultural phenomenon that transcends the idea of streaming entertainment.
Despite the service’s popularity, Netflix is more than just hype and a brand name. What started as a DVD by mail service evolved into a revolutionary streaming platform that kicked the doors open and revolutionized the industry.
Since they’re streaming debut, Netflix has expanded into the realm of original content and have established themselves as one of the premier names in that field as well. From Narcos to Stranger Things, Netflix’s OC lineup simply can’t be beat amongst dedicated streaming platforms. Their collection of movies and television shows is pretty strong as well.
If there’s one downside to Netflix to seriously consider, it’s the service’s collection of TV shows. Netflix has been letting shows go over the years as they invest more in original content. That means that some awesome shows that were once on the service or no longer available.
Serious TV lovers might prefer Hulu, but it’s hard to argue against Netflix being the king of streaming.