App of the day: Blinkbox review (Android)
When it comes to watching TV or movies on your tablet, you're not short of choices these days. There are the big players, like Netflix, offering a subscription-based system. Then you've got Lovefilm (on some platforms), as well as a range of catch-up TV services, Sky Go, Now TV and more.
Buying content is easy too: all the major players have some sort of provision for supplying you with content to buy, to stream, sometimes to download. But what if you just want to rent or buy a movie? Today we're looking at one of the "other" services, but one that's worth considering.
- Rental or purchase costs
- Google Play
Blinkbox is a TV and movie rental service that is part of Tesco, so there's no danger that it's suddenly going to run out of cash and fold. In fact, if you're into that sort of thing, you can claim Tesco Clubcard points for the movies you rent or buy. Every little helps, remember.
Back to the service and Blinkbox is available across a range of platforms. We've been using it on the Nexus 10 Android tablet and it's a nicely designed app that's easy to use. The interface uses nice, big, bold sections, so it's easy to find your way around and navigate to the content you want.
There are featured films to check out, including a healthy selection of recent releases and we love the majestic use of space on a tablet display, with great picture backgrounds, access to details, the ability to create a watch list for later when something piques your interest. The handling of individual episodes of a TV series is good too.
Blinkbox's recent big story is that it has just started HD streaming and to kick off the fun, it's the first service to give you access to Game of Thrones season 3. It was also the first service to have Game of Thrones seasons 1 and 2, but there's a whole lot more content than that and you can easily browse the selection without signing up on the website.
One notable oddity is that you can't buy HD content through the tablet app. Even though the Nexus 10 will display HD content beautifully, you can only buy SD content through the app itself. However, if you've bought the HD version on your console or computer, for example, you'll still be able to watch it on your tablet.
That said, the quality you get on the tablet is perfectly acceptable, but if you're paying for HD and watching on the tablet in SD, you could be spending more than you need. We had no problems streaming the content on any of the devices we tested it on.
The Blinkbox story is bigger than just one app. Because this is part of a service, like Netflix, you have the advantage of being able to access your content over several different platforms. We've used Mac, Xbox 360, as well as the Android tablet. It's also available on some smart TVs, PlayStation 3 and some smart devices like Blu-ray players.
Perhaps weirdly, there's no Android smartphone app. It's a tablet-only offering, which Blinkbox say is because of the focus on the full screen experience. It's also noted on the Google Play app page that not all content is available on Android because it's currently being re-encoded for Android.
The real difference between a service like Blinkbox and Netflix, is that this is pay as you go. You can rent or buy your content to watch through the Blinkbox app or website and there's no subscription fee. That means you pay only for what you want to watch and you'll have faster access to some of the latest movie titles.
You could, of course, argue that the same applies to Google's own service Play Movies. However, you can't get Play Movies on all platforms, like consoles or your iPad, which is an advantage that Blinkbox offers. The disadvantage is that this app won't let you download your content to view on the move: you'll need a Wi-Fi connection to stream it to your device.
When it comes to pricing, Blinkbox is fairly consistent and competitive. Argo, to rent, costs £3.49, but to rent on Google Play costs £2.49. This is 40 is also £3.49, as it is on Google Play. As for owning those titles, This is 40 will cost you £10.99 to buy on Blinkbox or £9.99 on Google Play.
In short, it's a case of picking your platform and deciding what you want to rent or buy and where you want to watch it so you only spend what you need. It's worth remembering, however, that while Blinkbox will let you watch a film you buy via your console, Google Play would let you download it to your phone to watch on the move.
We like Blinkbox. We like the availability of titles and we like that you can buy a series piecemeal, like an individual episode of Game of Thrones. We also like that it's easy to access on another device, with resume play and that the HD quality via a console is good too.
Blinkbox might not be a one-stop shop for everything, but if you want to stream rented movies, it's certainly worth investigation.