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Amazon Instant Video

Amazon Instant Video for the iPad

published by Chand Bellur
August 1, 2012 at 12:56 p.m. PST

Amazon released their Instant Video app for the iPad today. It leaves much to be desired. Given that Amazon is an extremely large corporation, the mediocrity of this first attempt is surprising. I would consider this an “epic fail”.

The UI looks nice and is very simple to use. Once I started using the app I realized how limited and mediocre it is.

AirPlay is supported, but audio only, unless you use AirPlay screen mirroring. When you mirror your iPad’s screen onto your AirPlay receiver (AirPlay is supported by many AV receivers — it is a standard), the aspect ratio is 4:3. Furthermore, the video stutters in between edits with large transitions, as the increased video data is too much for iOS and AirPlay to handle. It also drains your battery faster than a proper AirPlay implementation. With AirPlay mirroring, both the iPad and AirPlay receiver are displaying the video. Given the amazing battery life of the iPad, this isn’t a major shortcoming. The 4:3 aspect ratio and occasional video stuttering are unacceptable, however.

Fire TV Stick 4K at Amazon

It is surprising that Amazon did such a poor job of implementing a vital feature such as AirPlay. Was this intentional? After all, the Kindle Fire cannot wirelessly transmit video to a TV. I find it hard to believe that a mega-corporation like Amazon can’t develop a decent iOS app. Netflix is a much smaller company, and their iOS app had a proper AirPlay implementation over a year ago. With 4 million Apple TVs sold, and myriad AirPlay receivers made by other companies, this is either severe ineptitude or a competitive move. I think it is the latter. If the Amazon Instant Video app for iOS can do more than the Kindle Fire app, why would anyone buy a Kindle Fire? If the rumors of an iPad Mini are true, the Kindle Fire will only be good kindling for a fire. (Well, not really. I would imagine it would unleash toxic fumes. Don’t try this at home!)

One cannot actually purchase videos within this app. You can only play video you have purchased on Amazon’s e-commerce store. Purchasing content is not integrated into the app. If you have Amazon Prime, you can access a very pathetic collection of video. Their selection is abysmal. It is worse than Netflix streaming was two years ago. I would rather watch Comedy Central’s movies. It is that bad. That said, Amazon Prime is more than video content. Subscribers to the premium Amazon service get free 2 day shipping and access to thousands of Kindle books. If you have Amazon Prime for these reasons, this app may be worth downloading. It is free, but I am going to delete it. It’s not even worth the storage space.

This app is only recommended for Amazon Prime subscribers, people with Amazon digital content, commuters and road warriors. It might not be a bad thing to watch on a plane with wi-fi. Amazon has some decent content for purchase, outside of the Amazon Prime subscription selection. The Amazon Prime instant video collection, however, is a motley crew of awful video content. “Superstar” is one of their most popular films. It’s not a bad movie, but it’s not something I would pay to view in 4:3 with stuttering video. I wouldn’t watch it on my tablet either. The in-flight movie would probably be a better choice! iOS users have iTunes, Netflix, and Hulu, in addition to apps by major networks, PBS, and cable channels like Comedy Central and Adult Swim. Netflix streaming, in particular, has improved in quantity and quality of content. Their Apple TV app is rock solid. It even works well when my 4G Clear connection is acting up due to inclement weather or peak demand. The addition of Amazon is nothing to write home about. I almost didn’t bother writing a review.

This app could improve, but I don’t know if I will bother with updates. First impressions are important. The first impression I got from this app is that it is not worth the memory it takes up on my iPad. Delete!

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