Amazon vs Netflix: iPad App Viewing Experience

I only subscribe to Netflix when there’s a show I want to watch, which lately means a new season of Longmire or House of Cards. Being a month out from the later – read my thoughts on season four here – I logged in tonight to cancel until Longmire comes out in September.

For the last year and a half, Amazon Prime has been my streaming provider of choice. You could debate which one has the better television library. Prime has the HBO library, I think Netflix has more Showtime archives (it’s an add-on to Prime). Netflix probably has more heralded original content with House of Cards and Orange is the New Black compared to Transparent as Prime’s most notable show. Unless you consider The Man in the High Castle notable for being awful. Prime definitely tops Netflix for streaming movies. The point is, which has the better streaming library depends on what you want to watch.

But after using both, it’s definitively the case that the Prime viewing experience in the iPad is far superior to Netflix. Here is a screenshot comparison.

Prime has several overlay options for navigation and information. You can hop forward or backward by 10 seconds while Netflix only lets you go backward. Both let you turn on closed captioning, and Netflix has an option to jump straight to a different episode (upper right, to the left of closed captioning).

From there, Prime leaves Netflix in the dust. Prime has an awesome overlay feature it calls X-Ray. Powered by the IMDB, X-Ray delivers everything IMDB knows about what you’re watching: actors, music, trivia and characters. It’s a fantastic feature, especially if you’re the, “Hey, wasn’t she in…” type. Which I am. I enjoyed it most when I was watching X-Files, which I eventually gave up because it was boring. But before that I swear every episode had an actor who went on to appear in some other show I watch. It’s like the Bill Walsh coaching tree of television.


Netflix House of Cards Season 4 Screenshot


IMG_0408 IMG_0407

You’ll notice the second Prime screenshot is when using Airplay to send it from the iPad to Apple TV. Lack of an Apple TV app is Prime’s biggest shortcoming if you’re in the Apple universe, but Airplay works just fine and an app is surely coming.

This isn’t intended to be a total Prime vs Netflix comparison because that would surely entail a much deeper look at their catalogues and pricing. But if you are keeping track at home, Prime has one feature Netflix can’t match: Offline viewing. Prime lets you download TV episodes and movies to your device to watch offline, such as in the car, on the bus or at the gym. Netflix isn’t doing this, for the most preposterous reasons you can imagine.  Basically it thinks you’re too stupid and lazy to do it.

I won’t be re-upping with Netflix until the Longmire season five (season four ended with someone breaking into Walt’s house while he and his GF were getting friskay). Until then I’ll enjoy the superior viewing experience Prime offers and wondering why Netflix is so far behind.

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