The Cinema In Your Hand – Part Two

Alex Walls
June 20, 2013

Handheld cinema is here in all its HD glory. Watch blockbusters on any smartphone or tablet,   play, pause and resume without ads and noisy audiences. What Mobile takes a front row seat to see some of the popular online movie services on offer for your mobile viewing pleasure – part two (see part one here).


What it is

You’ve probably been living under a rock for a while if you haven’t heard of Apple and its digital content empire that is on offer through the App Store and iTunes. As its name implies, iTunes is the online store front where you can buy music, but also movies, using a registered Apple ID and credit card. You can purchase movies and shows from Apple to download to your device directly; so iTunesagain, make sure you’re doing it over Wi-Fi. The same applies for Google’s Play Store, which is Google’s answer to iTunes, allowing you to purchase via a registered credit card and a Google ID.

You’ll need an Apple account and iTunes downloaded, or a Google account (such as gmail) and access to the Play Store.

The pros  

You own the content you’ve just purchased, as you would if you’d bought a DVD at a store. This means you can download it to your other devices and view it over and over again to your heart’s content.

The cons

Some of Apple’s content, including TV shows, is DRM (Digital Rights Management) protected, which means you can’t move it onto other non-Apple devices; for instance, a recent Futurama purchase has to remain on my iPhone because it wouldn’t transfer to a Windows Phone device.

The content on offer with instant downloading services is often more expensive; you’re paying for the convenience and immediacy of downloading straight to your device. For instance, the movie Bridesmaids was £7.99 on iTunes and Google Play, compared with £5 for the physical DVD on Amazon (with the fastest shipping).

The amount of videos you can watch is naturally limited by the memory your device has. However, many handsets come with expandable storage options these days, so you can always buy a microSD card.

SKYGO  sky-go

What it is

If you’re already a Sky customer and you just can’t get enough, Sky offers its customers Sky Go. This allows you to stream certain Sky channels, including some live programmes, from your television package on up to two mobiles and selected tablets (supported devices include iPhones, iPads and selected Android phones and tablets) without paying anything extra on your package. All you need is a Wi-Fi or 3G connection and to sign up for the service.

For £5 extra a month, you can use Sky Go Extra on up to four devices, as well as downloading programmes for offline watching.

If you’re not a Sky customer, you can still use Sky Go by signing up to the Sky Go Monthly Ticket from £32 per month.

Download the app from the Play store or App store and sign in with your Sky ID.

The pros

It’s free if you’re a Sky customer anyway, so why not?

Sky Extra lets you download programmes to watch offline, although these will expire and be deleted from your device over time. You also have 48 hours to view your downloaded content once you’ve started watching it, before it expires.

Being able to watch what plays on Sky means you’ll often get television programmes or movies that Netflix or Lovefilm don’t have (I’m guessing due to various licensing restrictions); the Sky Go app has Futurama, Game of Thrones and various Terry Pratchett adaptations.

The cons  screenshot-lrg-36

If you don’t have a Sky account, the Sky Go Monthly Ticket is not a cheap option, particularly compared with services like Netflix and LoveFilm ‘ admittedly, you’re likely to get some more mainstream channels with Sky but £32 a month is still a lot to pay.

If you’re a multi-device person, then you’ll need to choose which two handsets you want to download to.   This seems more than enough for anyone, however.


While they don’t have the same content on offer as the streaming services, there are a number of apps out there that let you watch recently aired television shows and movies on your device, free of charge.

BBC iplayer  

Free on Apple iOS and AndroidBBC iPlayer

A neat little offering, not least because the BBC plays some quality programming, including Miranda and Mock The Week. The app lets you download programmes over Wi-Fi only to your device and keep them for 30 days to watch offline (but programmes expire a week after you press ‘Play’ for the first time).   Downloads can come in regular format (roughly 200 MB for one episode of MTW) and higher quality.

The app also features radio downloads as well as programmes for the various TV and radio channels.


Free on iOS, Android, Windows Phone, BlackBerryYoutube

The home grown Android apps are most likely going to run better than its other-platformed brothers (until recently, the Windows Phone offering just launched the browser), but YouTube is to all the cats-jumping-into-boxes videos, interviews and possibly pirated snippets of television shows you could want (remember, pirating is illegal kids and your videos will get removed). Free to download and, despite the trial of subscription channels, you can still watch other people’s TV efforts for free too; we suggest the likes of The Guild.


Free on Apple iOS, Android and Windows Phone 8  40D

The 4oD app allows you to stream recently aired programmes up to 30 days after transmission for free, much like BBC iPlayer. However there’s no option to download for offline watching and three devices struggled with this app, on Android and iOS. You will also have to sit through about two minutes of ads before your programme starts.

The content can be a bit dire on 4oD but it does offer a few gems like Father Ted, 10 O’Clock Live and The IT Crowd.


Free on Apple iOS  Dave

This app is supposed to work on iPhone 4 and above (as well as iPad 1 up and iPod Touch gen 5) but didn’t in testing; an iPhone 5 ran it with stutters; we had to keep exiting the app for it to keep playing (on Wi-Fi).

The app does offer some nice content though (such as Would I Lie To You) which generally expires seven days after, and is available one hour after, broadcast. The app features a parental control lock also.

You’ll again have to sit through not only roughly two minutes of intro ads, but also ad breaks in between the actual programmes.

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