Holiday season is prime time for offline viewing. As Thanksgiving approaches, millions of Americans will be looking to download movies, TV shows, and other video content to their mobile devices to keep themselves entertained during their travels.
When you're ready to binge-watch "Transparent" on a plane or amuse the kids with Pixar favorites in the backseat of your minivan, the last thing you want to think about is weak WiFi or the data overage fees associated with streaming video.
But you may be surprised to learn that the biggest players in streaming don't have much to offer when it comes to offline viewing. Despite rumblings of change earlier this year, Netflix and its menu of original content remain an online-only affair.
"Game of Thrones" fans are also out of luck because HBO Go requires an internet connection. The sames goes for Hulu and Sony Pictures Entertainment’s Crackle, home to feature films and original shows like "Firefly" and "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee."
Amazon Prime Video: This service, included with a Prime subscription, offers many downloadable titles, including feature films like "Inception" and the acclaimed original series "Mozart in the Jungle." It's a bit of a hassle to get the Prime Video app onto Android devices given that it's not available in the Google Play Store, but the bounty of popular content makes it worth the trouble. The four-step process involves downloading the Amazon Underground app first and then the Prime Video app.
YouTube Red: Google's monthly subscription service not only allows you to watch videos without ads but also gives you access to exclusive content such as "Lazer Team," not to mention songs on Google's Play Music. And yes, subscribers have the option to download videos to view offline. Users in India and a host of other countries receive the service free, but U.S. consumers have to dole out $10 per month ($15 for the family plan). Here's a tip, though: The free 30-day trial will get you through most of the holiday season.
Vimeo: Most of this content, including TED Talks and indie films, can be downloaded onto a smartphone or tablet. But content from the platform's new TV partnerships with Lionsgate and Starz isn't available for offline viewing. So sorry, no watching "Mad Men" or "Weeds."
iTunes, Google Play, and Amazon Prime Video store: All of these services offer a large selection of rentals for a modest price, including free access to content you've purchased in the past. Better yet, the rental period doesn't start till you open a file. And once you've finished watching the content, it deletes itself. That allows you to load up on movies or TV shows for the outbound journey and then add all new content for the way home.
Before you hit the road for the holidays, remember to:
• Check the storage space on your device. Your media file just won't download if there's not enough room—simple as that. So take a little time to dispense with the stuff you no longer need.
• Download your travel fare while you're at home instead of relying on your cellular data service. On my high-speed WiFi connection, for example, it took about 7 minutes to download "Up in the Air" from Amazon Prime Video.
• Consider opting for standard-definition downloads. It takes up less than half a GB of data for a 2-hour movie. If you're viewing on a smartphone, the quality drop isn't too noticeable.
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