[Update: The new iOS 5.0 version of the Flixster app allows downloading to your device, so you can view movies offline. Flixster listens. Now for 3G streaming… and Airplay.]
A few weeks ago I bought Green Lantern on Blu Ray. It’s packaging claimed it came with a digital copy, and on further inspection it was a new sort of digital copy that uses a couple of companies to deliver streaming movies.
I really like digital copies. I use my Apple TV to stream movies from my iOS devices to my TV, and even use an iPod Touch to watch movies on a small TV in the car on long trips. My iPad is almost always filled with video. If a movie comes with a digital copy, I download it. If not, I try to handbrake it. Digital copies are generally a little smaller, look great, and even have nice cover art. Now, they are DRM’d to iTunes, which isn’t great, but since most of my device can handle that it’s normally not an issue.
When I saw this new Ultraviolet/Flixster digital copies I was intrigued. There are iOS apps for the service, and you can stream the video instead of having to load it onto your device. You can download the files as well.
So I started the process of getting my copy. First I had to sign up for Flixster, then in the registration process I was taken to a portal to sign up for Ultrviolet. I spent about 20 minutes trying to complete the registration. I was stuck at the password creation portal. Something was wrong. I finally left the registration. turns out that ultraviolet has a different criteria for passwords than Flixster. The one I was trying to use wasn’t setting off any warnings in the Flixster portal registration, but Ultraviolet wouldn’t let it complete. I signed up on the Ultraviolet site, and went back with that login info to complete my Flixster set up.
I could stream my movie. I went ahead and downloaded the apps and even downloaded the file of the movie itself onto my computer. I logged into the app on my iOS devices and I could view my movies. So far so good.
I soon discovered that there ae a couple of issues with the service, though. I can stream the movies on my devices, but only in a wifi signal. I cannot watch the movie on my iPhone over 3G. well, that was annoying since the main selling point was that i could stream the video instead of having to load it onto my device.
I thought, OK, I’ll just load it. Then I discovered you cannot load the movie file onto your iOS device. It can only be played on the computer. Now I’m annoyed.
I won’t be able to use my movie outside of a wifi network on any portable device. Want to watch the movie on a plane? Nope. Let your kids watch one while diving down the road? No way.
With the iTunes digital copy, I may have to load the file onto my device, but I can watch it anywhere. So, I took the DVD and handbraked the movie. I am not a fan of the Flixster/Ultraviolet digital copy.
The one redeeming thing? Their social media team is very responsive. They have an active twitter, and they pointed me toward their developer feature email. I sent an email asking for what I would consider basic functions. If you want to be a replacement for iTunes, you have to be able to do at least why they do. If you want to be considered a streaming solution, you must be able to stream over 3G.
In the meantime, I will stream the video when i want at home, but will load my ripped copy when I want to take it out. Maybe they will add these features and make the service better.