Android Honeycomb tablets were made for watching movies. Okay, sure – they were made to serve many other purposes too. But anyone who’s ever had more than a few hours to kill and a fully charged battery can tell you that there’s nothing quite like the experience of watching an HD movie on a device light enough to palm.
But what should be an unparalleled experience in visual discovery is proving to be something of a painstaking process for Honeycomb tablet owners who’ve come away a bit miffed at the seemingly short supply of Honeycomb tablet apps for watching TV and movies. While we wait out the way overdue official arrival of Hulu Plus for Honeycomb (or Ice Cream Sandwich), here’s a list of the best Honeycomb tablet apps available for movie and TV watching.
Netflix: Netflix has rapidly become the holy grail of all Honeycomb tablet apps for giving paying Netflix customers the ability to watch movies not only on their desktop computers or on their internet-connected TV sets, but any place they please. Just as long as there’s Wi-Fi or data connection, you’re good to go. Oh, and of course there’s that pesky little issue that requires you to have a Netflix streaming membership, but as long as you’re willing to provide a valid credit card number and can remember to cancel before you get billed, you can get a free 30-day trial to test it out for yourself.
Although it’s stoked the ire of many customers (and ex-customers) in recent times for splitting up online streaming and DVD-by-mail into two separate services, which thereby raisied the rate of receiving both, and then backing down on the split before signing agreements with studios that keep new releases off the service for upwards of two months following the DVD release, the astonishing variety available on Netflix is enough to justify the increase in cost. Netflix also lets you choose between “Good,” “Better,” and “Best” streaming quality for those who have data usage caps on their internet plans and might want to ratchet back on the consumption.
Crackle: I’m an absolute sucker for pay services that offer an impressive amount of free content, and since Crackle delivers precisely that, I’m practically a fool for it. You might be too, if you take a closer look. Crackle is a Sony Pictures-affiliated website that’s also available as an app for your Honeycomb tablet or Android mobile device. It delivers a plethora of free and uncut movies in high quality video and even features a bunch of classic and contemporary TV shows (think everything from The Three Stooges to Breaking Bad). But beyond just being an entertainment provider, it also incorporates the elements of an actual cable TV channel, providing exclusive hosted content and even original TV programming.
A quick pass through their gallery of free entertainment will be enough to convince you it’s an app worth downloading, and the surprisingly big selection of free movies is enough to keep you busy for many a night at home with nothing to do. You might even find yourself canceling plans to stay home and dig in.
The Android Market: Lo and behold, there’s a viable solution for those who’d much rather sit out the arrival of their next Netflix DVD than hit the local Red Box kiosk, but for whom the appetite for instant gratification is striking hard and nasty. The next time it does and Netflix streaming has left you high and dry, stay planet. Just point your Honeycomb tablet to the Android Market and launch your search. Sometimes featuring online rentals as cheap as 99 cents a pop, Android Market rental costs are competitive with those you’ll find on standard cable pay-per-view and, in addition to the standard 24 hour rental period, also offer you a 30-day rental “grant period” which essentially means you have 30 days to start watching the selected movie. The selection is superb, especially in regards to high-profile new releases you might not otherwise find on Netflix or other streaming service.
SlingPlayer for Honeycomb Tablets: Billed as the app that gives you the power to watch your TV anywhere, SlingPlayer for Honeycomb Tablet takes the whole “viewing on the go” idea and ramps it up to the nth degree. Think of it as an application that lets you bring your living room with you wherever you go. Or, more appropriately, as an app that enables you to turn any location with a Wi-Fi signal (or 3G/4G) into your very own portable viewing space.
You’re not just able to watch your TV channels from a remote location – you’re also able to set up future DVR recordings and view selections from your DVR library. Its operation is simple and straightforward, with an on-screen replica of your home remote control that you can maximize or minimize and use to change channels, set recordings, set favorites, and scour local TV listings. At $29.99, the app isn’t free and it isn’t cheap. It also requires you to already be equipped at home with a Slingbox, which is yet another more costly investment. The app also doesn’t work with Slingbox setups older than SOLO and PRO-HD, so be sure to double-check your compatibility before sinking your hard earned bucks into it.
Qello for Tablet: Not everyone equipped with a Honeycomb tablet and some time to kill has the desire to take in a movie or a TV sitcom. Some people prefer their visuals matched with music. When the fancy strikes to take in some live performances, Qello for Tablet ought to be the first stop. Forget the fact that even with Netflix’s mobile streaming app it’s almost impossible to find live performance videos due to their lack of a simple “Musicals” category. Even if you were able to crack that particular egg open you’d see there are a depressingly minimal selection of concerts on offer there, as there is most everywhere else. But with Qello you’ve got some pretty serious variety, ranging from contemporary banal fare to some shockingly eclectic choices, like Marillion and Keane.
The trick with Qello is that each concert is available for rent for $4.99 – and while that might sound like a lot, bear in mind these rentals are good for 30 days, which is more than enough opportunity for the music lover to get every decibel of bang for your five bucks.
Best of the Rest
YouTube: Yes, you can get YouTube on just about every Android or tablet on the planet, but its movie rental options are only available on desktops and can’t even be accessed on a mobile device if you bypass the app and go straight to the website. However, since YouTube is a Google service, many of the same movies that appear are also available in the Android market.
Vimeo: Considered by many to be a more high-brow alternative to YouTube, Vimeo became available for Android on January 12, and it includes both smartphone and tablet support. Of course, its debut for iPhone took place almost a full year ago. Vimeo’s Android app even empowers a user to record, edit, and upload HD content directly from the app itself, and we’ll take a closer look at it in the near future.
MIA, Missing in Android
I’ve already made mention of the depressing absence of Hulu for Honeycomb tablets (actually, Hulu is presently available for a handful of smartphones and the Vizio tablet released last year, and hopefully will come with the Ice Cream Sandwich update, but that’s not yet confirmed) but unfortunately, it’s not the only player that’s curiously missing.
Blip.TV: Strangely, there’s an app for Blip.TV, but it’s only available for the Samsung Vibrant smartphone – a fact that might prompt a big percentage of desktop Blip.TV users to say “Oooookay… whatever.” It’s also enough of a shortcoming to warrant Honeycomb tablet owners who prefer the webisode-leaning content that Blip.TV is famous for to cry “Hurry up!” to Blip’s development team.