Download Netflix if you download anything

If you love movies you don’t need a bottom line on any app that delivers movies. You want to savor the experience. If you need a bottom line, you probably don’t have time to stream movies to your iPad anyway. You’re too busy cursing iWork Numbers because it fumbles spreadsheets pretty much on the kickoff. But here’s the bottom line just in case.

Netflix for iPad streams movies:

  • Cheap. Really, really cheap.
  • Without commercials.
  • Without a lot of setup hassle
  • With great image quality
  • And queue management
  • And lots and lots of movies

In addition, I compare Netflix favorably to Hulu, discuss the relative comfort of mattresses after twenty-five years in a water bed, recite the lyrics to an aria most people associate with Bugs Bunny (if you prefer Woody Woodpecker, by the way, the music is probably by Liszt), explain why you have to sacrifice sex to rescue, prepare your family for the worst even with an experience you should enjoy, and plug the World Cup (which will have only one more game after today’s semi-final, but it will be back in four years, barring the Apocalypse).

The other day Carol and I were watching Uruguay and Ghana in the World Cup quarterfinals and we couldn’t help but comment how much the Uruguay national anthem sounds like something from a Rossini comic opera. The introduction alone evokes pictures of Bugs Bunny snipping the only hair on Elmer Fudd’s head (which, let’s face it, is how most Americans know Rossini–and Wagner as well). Then everyone starts to sing and the notes are so cheerful we can’t help but compare it to the Figaro aria:

“All call for me,
all want me,
ladies and children,
old men and maidens.
I need a wig,
I want a shave,
leeches to bleed me,
here, take this note.
All call for me,
all want me.
I need a wig,
I want a shave,
here, take this note.”

I know the tune is slightly different but since I speak neither Spanish nor Italian, who’s to say those aren’t really the words?

We actually had plans for Friday afternoon but the rain was so bad we had to cancel. So once the game was over, and Ghana choked after missing a free kick on a flagrant penalty at the end of overtime, we found ourselves wondering what else to do. Neither of us wanted to get up because, to be honest, our online game We Rule was giving away free cash about every ten or fifteen minutes and neither of us wanted to be away from the bonanza.

Fortunately for us we have Netflix, which means we can download movies instantly (well, instantly in internet time; usually sixty to ninety seconds in human time). It’s a great way to spend an afternoon when you’re too lazy or too distracted to get up and actually load a DVD or Blu Ray.

You might be wondering at this point what Netflix has to do with a blog about the iPad. This is the best part. Netflix has a free app that allows you to watch any of their online content, commercial free, on your iPad.

Trust me, movies on the iPad are actually enjoyable, an experience totally unlike watching movies on tiny smart phone and iPod screens. It isn’t a full theater experience, or even a Blu Ray on HD experience, but late at night with a good set of headphones, it can certainly compensate for sleeplessness.

Most people I know would rather watch movies on their TV, and so would I. But there are nights when I can’t sleep and Carol already is, that it’s easier to pull out my iPad and plug in my headphones than turn on the TV. Then there are those times when we go on the road.

I can’t sleep in hotel beds. I can’t sleep in any bed, especially the bed at my sister Aimee’s house which she and Gary generously provide. You see, I married a hippie chick, and part of her baggage was a water bed. Carol has made it clear that if she has to choose between the water bed and me, well, I just better not force the issue. And after twenty-five years in a water bed, trust me, even the sleep number bed feels like sleeping on a sterile slab of granite. So I watch movies on my iPad, or read my Kindle until finally, around five or six in the morning, I’m so exhausted I have to fall asleep.

A great, cheap date.

You can even share Netflix movies with your special loved one as you snuggle in bed on a rainy night. Just the two of you with only the iPad between you. It’s an experience I can only imagine since we started fostering cats. Now we can’t even lean across the bed to kiss each other good night without launching a tidal wave of pissed off cats who were just fine piled in between us. And trust me, they don’t move. They just raise their heads and stare at you, so it’s even harder to reach each other.


Netflix instant movies are free if you already have a subscription. If you don’t. you can subscribe for five dollars a month. That’s half the price of Hulu for iPad, and you can watch two DVDs a month as well. For an extra dollar you can rent two Blu Ray disks. Or you can pay more and rent more. The instant movie price remains the same.

I especially wanted to point this out because Hulu rates ahead of Netflix on the App store’s popular free apps list. But neither is actually free and Netflix is actually cheaper.

You can even try Netflix free for a month just to see how you like the service. That’s thirty days of free streamed movies to your home and iPad. Sure, they’ll charge you if you don’t cancel, but most readers will not want to cancel.

Besides, if you sign up for a free trial and then forget to cancel, you deserve to be charged. How hard is it? You go back online and click a couple of buttons. Shame on you.

No commercials

Even the TV series play all the way through without commercials. I’ll admit, there’s a trade off. You aren’t going to get all of the hippest, most recent series that you might get on Hulu. For instance CBS and NBC don’t seem to want to play, but a number of ABC series such as Desperate Housewives and Gray’s Anatomy can be found, as can seasons of some Fox shows such as 24 and Lie to Me.

I don’t know how some series get picked up and others don’t. I suspect Netflix (and Starz, who supplies a number of the instant broadcast features) have to negotiate with series producers.

I checked Hulu’s iPad site, and their catalog isn’t complete either. They didn’t have Chuck, for instance. And Netflix carries Showtimes hits like Dexter and Weeds, which Hulu doesn’t.

Hulu, however, has commercials, even if they’re short commercials. And since I already watched most of the shows I wanted to watch with commercials the first time, I don’t want to watch them with commercials again. If they aren’t on Netflix instant, I would rather wait and rent DVD (which is already included in my subscription price).

Really easy to use

Once you download the Netflix app, you simply type the name of show or movie you want to watch in the search field and Netflix will list available titles that match. If movies are available for instant streaming you will see a “play” button next to the title. To watch the movie, simply click “play” and the title will start playing in a minute or two.

If you add movies to your queue instead of clicking “Play” you’ll have better luck finding them later. This is important in case you have to interrupt your viewing to run an errand for your loved ones, play with the cat you should have adopted from a fine organization like Siamese Rescue, or, finally, drift off to sleep.

But it also means that if you see a movie or series you want to watch, but don’t have time to watch now, you can queue it up to watch later. You can do this buy clicking the “movie details” button instead of play. The next window will give you the option to add to your queue.

Press the movie title on your iPad
and wait for the movie details window to appear.

Click “add to queue” instead of play.
You will have an easier time finding the movie later.

You can move this movie to the top of the queue to find it right away.

Quality image

The picture is almost always crystal clear, and the 1028 x 768 glossy screen makes the movie look better than anything I’ve seen played on most computer monitors. I would estimate that it’s a little bigger than those nine or ten inch portable TVs, the kinds the kids used to get in their bedrooms when I was young but now people keep in their bathrooms, showers and over the refrigerator. The widescreen aspect ratio lets you see most movies the way they played in theaters with little or no letter boxing.

Movie management

I’ve already mentioned that you can create a queue of movies you want to watch. You can also manage your queue (as well as your DVD queue) straight from the Netflix app. You can move any movie to the top of your list, delete it, or change the list order as your preferences change.

Netflix also keeps track of movies and series before their release. If you know a title will be coming out, you can save it to your queue. As soon as the title becomes available, Netflix moves it from the saved category to the bottom of your list. Since most releases are announced on Tuesdays, I check in every Tuesday to see what’s been added. Then I can movie the title up in the list for when it becomes available.

You can reorder your queue at anytime.

Lots and lots of movies

I don’t know how many movies and shows can be found in the Netflix instant catalog, but there are a lot and they grow every day. A surprising number of films make it onto the list on or even before their DVD release date. A while back I stayed up to watch an instant stream of “Animals” several weeks before the DVD release. I sure am glad I didn’t have to waste time exchanging it in the mail. Or watch it on the HDTV and have Carol wake up in the middle of one of the really steamy scenes and think I was watching porn.1

The best news is that if you simply can’t wait for a really popular new release to make it to instant streaming you can have the disk delivered straight to your home.

I’m tempted to simply recommend that you log in for your trial subscription and decide for yourself if there’s any downside to Netflix. But because I must be objective I will have to admit the service is less than perfect.

No subtitles for the hard of hearing

This isn’t a Netflix problem this is a digital movie problem in general. But it’s worth mentioning. The only subtitles are on foreign films.

The picture quality sometimes leaves a lot to be desired.

When there’s a huge hit on the delivery system because everyone else has nothing else to do either, the picture quality can go way down. This tends to happen more often with the connection to the television, but occasionally you might notice the hit on your iPad.
In addition, the iPad’s smaller screen makes quality loss far less bothersome than it would be on a large digital or HD monitor.

And sometimes there’s no picture at all

A bigger problem, however, is that when there’s an overload, you may not be able to make any connection. Again, this happens far more often with the TV, although, to be fair, we also use the TV far more often.

When either of these happens, however, the good thing about your iPad is that you can simply watch videos stored in the iPad video application. And I would recommend loading a couple for just this occasion. You don’t actually have to buy anything from iTunes, you can convert your favorite DVDs to .mp4 format with freeware converters.
In addition, a number of Blu Rays and more and more DVDs ship with digital copies that look great on iPad.

This, however, is another column.

I would avoid watching using 3G

Unless you were lucky enough to be grandfathered under ATT’s unlimited data plan, I suspect that watching using a 3G connection will be costlier than the movies you have to pay for. I can’t swear to it, but that’s a lot of data you’ll be pushing.

Sometimes cats like to watch with you

If you have cats, or even a lap dog, they often have this desire to settle down in front of the iPad and watch the movie with you. Teddy Bear is a big fan of movies. When he sees me watching a movie on my iPad, he just curls up in front of me. Of course, I can no longer see the movie, but he seems to believe that’s half the fun. And now Zorro likes to watch with me, and Paris and sometimes even Coco Puff, our tailless rag doll who was supposed to die from cancer last year. When she wants to watch, it’s hard to tell her no because we don’t know how much longer she’ll be with us.

It’s a hundred monkeys kind of experience. Once one cat learns, sooner or later that knowledge spreads through the cat community around the world. Most cats can’t be bothered with iPad movies, but enough of them will that if you have cats yours might just settle down in front of your iPad to watch. And once a cat learns to do something, any dog nearby will want to do it too. They’re shameless little mimics.

Actually, they’re pretty shameless .

Would I give up Netflix over any of these problems? Absolutely not. I don’t really even see them as problems. I just wanted to mention them in case you noticed them and decided I misled you.

I learned the need to do this from family long ago, especially from Baptist and post-Baptist family members (it’s like alcoholism, you never really stop being a Baptist). The minute you recommend anything, they’ll find something you didn’t notice that sticks in their butts like a needle in a theater.

“You didn’t tell me there were swear words. I took my kids to see that movie.”

“I thought ‘hell’ and “butt head” were taken off the official list of swear words back in the sixties. And your kids are in their twenties anyway.”

“Be that as it may, there were swear words.”

Oh, yes, so I should probably warn you.

Some of the movies on Netflix have swear words

And nudity. And violence, which only liberals find offensive so that doesn’t count. And some of the movies are just terrible movies. The kind Joe Bob Briggs would like if the liberals hadn’t run him out of Dallas.2

Jenny Manytoes rates Netflix

For some reason Jenny isn’t interested in Netflix, whether on the iPad on the big TV. Even when I play movies with cats. But Teddy Bear loves it, and, quite frankly, I make biscuits

on the covers whenever I lie in bed at night watching Netflix with my iPad.

1By steamy I mean, that I thought my iPad would melt. I will probably watch more movies with that actress in the future.back
2If you don’t get this reference, you’re not a Texan. Fortunately, we have Google to shore up those gaps in important human knowledge.back

The Jenny Manytoes Rating System

Jenny Manytoes, our polydactyl cat
  • When Jenny makes biscuits on a product she thinks she’s in heaven.
  • When Jenny purrs over a product she’s very happy.
  • When Jenny naps next to a product it’s okay with her.
  • When Jenny bunches her tail she can live with a product, but she has higher expectations.
  • When Jenny leaves it in the litter box….I don’t think I need to explain this one.

iPad Envy is created entirely using apps from my iPad
iPad Envy.


About Phillip T Stephens

Phillip T. Stephens disappeared into the Bermuda Triangle twenty years before he was born, creating a time travel paradox so confusing it remains unspoken between physicists and sci-fi writers to this day. Follow @stephens_pt
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