There are lots of options when it comes to watching video on your Android phone. Nearly every manufacturer has some sort of offering unique to its take on how TV and films should be on Android to try to persuade you in its direction. On top of that there are all sorts of subscription services and one-off payment offerings across the whole of Android as apps that anyone can download from Google Play.
So, which is the way to go? How should you be watching video on your shiny new Android phone. Those with the likes of the HTC One, Samsung Galaxy S4, or the Sony Xperia Z will no doubt be dying to take their new screens for a spin. So, sit back, relax and give these video apps a whirl for the very best in Android video.
Google Play Movies
The Big G itself even has its own video-on-demand store on Android as part of Google Play. Hit the movie tab, or install the Play Movies app, and you get a storefront laid out identically to the app element of Play, except this time with movies.
There’s a lot to choose from in terms of newly released titles as well as a decent selection of older stuff. The app shows you the Top-selling videos at the moment as well as new releases, so you can see what's hot and what's to be watched.
Movies are priced from £2.49 for SD films and £4.49 for HD films to rent. To buy costs start from £7.99.
The draw of Google Play is its cross-platform connectivity. Unlike some Android offerings that limit the rentals to the manufacturer’s skin, Google Play will let you watch the same video across any Android tablet, smartphone or PC.
It doesn't offer TV shows however.
QUICK VERDICT Google Play Movies will have most of the videos you want to watch and they are priced reasonably too. Add that to the added bonus of it not being device restricted and it's a great option.
Unlike the other video services on offer, Netflix is all about a one-off subscription and then unlimited content thereafter. For £5.99 a month you get access to a significantly decent on-demand video library, which, while nothing that rivals what our American friends get, is still worth it, especially if you like watching American TV shows.
The real draw of Netflix is the quality of its application. The app runs on just about every single piece of technology under the sun, including Android. It’s also very stable and manages to squeeze some sort of video streaming out of even the weakest connection. The UI is decent enough and it will remember the sort of movies you watch and transfer that info over to other Netflix apps using your account.
The important thing is that you can watch something on your smartphone and then pick it up in HD later on your Xbox or smart TV, all for the same £5.99.
QUICK VERDICT If you are a TV shows kind of person this is £6 well spent. If you are an Arrested Development or Kevin Spacey fan (House of Cards) this is a must. We especially like that you can watch it on more than just your Android smartphone - like your TV, console, and iPad.
Sky Go is the free app that comes with certain Sky packages and allows you to watch Sky on your Android smartphone or tablet. And it's just about as good as it gets when it comes to watching video on a smartphone.
The app is broken down into two sections: what's on right now, and what's available on-demand to be streamed when you fancy it.
The Sky Go service offers more than 49 live channels including Sky Sports, Sky Movies and plenty of on-demand content.
The downside is that the app isn't available on all devices because of the vast differences between Android handsets and tablets, but most are covered:
HTC: HTC Desire, HTC Desire S, HTC Desire HD, HTC Incredible S, HTC Sensation, HTC Sensation XE Desire X, One X, One XL, One S and One V
Samsung: Samsung Galaxy S, Samsung Galaxy S2, Samsung Galaxy S3, Samsung Galaxy Nexus, Samsung Galaxy Note, Galaxy S3 LTE, Galaxy S3 Mini, Galaxy Ace 2, and Galaxy Note 2
Google: Nexus 4 and Nexus 7
Sony: Sony Xperia S, Sony Xperia T
LG: LG 4X HD
QUICK VERDICT If you've got Sky and you've got a compatible phone, this is a must.
LINK Sky Go
Not a BBC fan? Go for something ITV-flavoured then with ITV player. Like iPlayer this offers you seven days of catch-up after a show has aired. You get everything downloadable free, although there is one big difference: adverts and lots of them.
The other problem with ITV Player is that, just like the desktop client, it’s really not the best quality streaming. Every ITV channel is there to play with, but expect plenty of evidence that they are streamed on a smartphone. Another slight irritation is asking for your email address when signing up, as it is used to send you ITV-related mail.
QUICK VERDICT If you really need to watch Downton Abbey, this is the way to do it on the go.
LINK ITV Player
Ahh, iPlayer. How we love it so. An app that has been around for a long while now and shines with all the polish of a sergeant major’s boots. Helped along by our TV licence fee, Android fans now get access to plenty of high-quality BBC content on their smartphones.
Not everything in the BBC back catalogue is there and you usually get only seven days to watch something, but this is definitely a useful app should you want to be catching up on telly missed while you're out and about over 3G.
Streaming quality is good, as is the user interface, which is simple yet gives enough depth to let you explore content properly. Shame there just isn’t more stuff to get stuck into with iPlayer, but still for a free service, this is great stuff.
QUICK VERDICT If you watch television in the UK, this is a must.
LINK BBC iPlayer
BlinkBox from Tesco
BlinkBox from Tesco isn't available for Android smartphones, but is available for a host of other devices like the Xbox 360, PS3, Mac and some SmartTVs from Toshiba, Samsung, LG, and Philips.
The premise is similar to Google Play. You can buy or rent movies and the selection is what you would expect with most of the latest bases covered. The benefit here over Google play is that it is supported on many more devices than just Android.
Rentals at 99p and other special offers try to convince you to watch more stuff.
QUICK VERDICT The big catch here is that it's only available on Android tablets rather than Android smartphones. Shame.
Samsung Video Hub
The Samsung Video Hub is a video-on-demand service by Samsung for Samsung Android owners. It offers a range of blockbusters and TV shows, considerably later than everyone else it seems, and the choice is okay, but nothing outstanding.
Finding a movie or TV show is easy, and the interface is fluid enough that you shouldn't have any problems. When it comes to watching, you can break out the video to an overlay screen so you can do something else at the same time.
Rentals start at £3.49 for a movie or you can buy movies in SD resolution from £7.99 up to £12.49. TV shows cost £1.89 an episode.
The My Videos tab, like all the other Android video apps, lets you watch things you have either rented or downloaded on other devices with Samsung Video Hub installed, which is nice enough.
QUICK VERDICT The Samsung Video Hub is an included feature and Samsung's attempt to offer something, but in reality you'll be better off going with other apps that have a bigger catalogue to choose from.
Sony Video Unlimited
If you've got a Sony mobile or tablet such as the Sony Xperia Z then you can access the Video Unlimited store which, like the Samsung offering, provides pretty much the same as above but via Sony instead.
The interface is easy to use, and the prices very similar to Google Play and others.
A new blockbuster will cost you £11.99 to buy and £3.49 to rent. Like other services, rentals last 48 hours.
QUICK VERDICT The app is free, works just as good as the other offerings here, and if you've bought a Sony phone it will be pre-installed. It will also work with your other Sony devices.
LINK Sony Video Unlimited
HTC’s Watch is a bit like iTunes but for Android. It allows you rent or purchase movies and TV shows, store them on your phone and then watch them later. If, for some reason, you own more than one HTC Watch-toting device then you can also view the same downloaded videos on that. In fact, one video download equates to five Watch-enabled devices in total. Don't forget though, these videos are playable on HTC phones only.
So what do you get? In essence a fully featured video rental store, but with a few drawbacks, namely some titles are only available to rent, others only to buy - likely out of current rights restrictions. Starting out on the HTC Sensation, then the Flyer and now on the One line of smartphones, it’s a way for HTC owners to quickly access video content.
The actual app is well enough laid out with a clear user interface that makes browsing easy. Movies get plot synopses and more information on directors and other titles and the like. The real clincher for HTC Watch is that, using HTC Media Link HD, you can stream DRM-protected movies from your phone to your television. The other clever function of HTC Watch is its ability to buffer video the moment you purchase it, meaning you can stream titles straight away without having to wait for them to download.
In terms of content selection there is a decent enough choice. HTC in its Watch FAQ claims it has more than 1000 titles to choose from, although we get the feeling this was written a while ago and the service has grown since then. In terms of studio deals, expect any major releases to be appearing on Watch, although admittedly it seems very varied from country to country.
QUICK VERDICT: Simple and easy to use, it doesn't have as much content as you may want, but it has most of the usual bases covered.
What is your favourite video player app for Android? Let us know in the comments below.