Amazon Prime could become the streaming video service of choice for commuters and frequent flyers with the addition of offline playback on iOS and Android.
Previously, Amazon had only offered this feature on its own Fire phone and tablets. It’s now available on iPhones, iPads, Android phones, and Android tablets.
No other subscription streaming video service offers this feature. In fact, Netflix said last December that offline viewing was “never going to happen,” calling it a “short-term fix for a bigger problem” of needing fast, ubiquitous Wi-Fi access.
Why this matters: While Netflix may have a point about needing better connectivity, it’s going to be a long time before that happens. In-flight Wi-Fi remains too slow for streaming video, and is becoming more expensive as demand increases. It’s also impossible to get Wi-Fi while traveling by car, and the overages and throttling policies of wireless carriers can make streaming over mobile broadband cost prohibitive. Instead of merely talking about what ought to happen in the future, Amazon is solving an actual problem that subscribers face today. Netflix should consider doing the same.
How Amazon Prime downloads work
The ability to download a Prime movie or show does remain at the discretion of content owners, who may block the feature or set time limits on how long users may keep their downloaded videos. Still, Amazon points to a wide range of titles that are available, including original series (such as Transparent and Bosch), HBO originals (such as Curb Your Enthusiasm and Veep), kid’s shows, and movies (such as Star Trek Into Darkness, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, and The Wolf of Wall Street, all of which also happen to be departing Netflix by the end of September).
Android phone and tablet users also have a couple more hoops to jump through at first, since Amazon doesn’t offer its video app directly through the Google Play Store. Users must first sideload the Amazon Appstore or Amazon Underground, then use either app to install the standalone Amazon Video app.
To save a Prime video, users can simply hit the “download” button from a Prime movie or TV show page. On iOS, users can find their downloads by hitting the Library icon, then tapping Refine and On Device. Android and Fire device users can just hit the Your Downloads option from the left navigation menu.
Since lengthy downloads can sap battery life in a hurry, Amazon recommends plugging in the device and leaving the app open while saving videos.