The world of entertainment and media looks nothing like it did even just a couple of decades ago. Gone are the days of waiting around for your favorite show to air. Gone are the days of having to go to a movie theater to see a hot new release. Gone are the days of the networks and movie studios being in complete control of when, where, and how we can watch movies and television. The viewer is now in control – and that is all thanks to all of the great movie and TV streaming sites and apps that we have at our disposal today.
Once upon a time, in order to watch a hit TV series, you’d have to wait for each new episode to release. Although this is still sometimes the case, when it comes to series that are still currently airing in the traditional model, we have so many entire series and seasons of our favorite shows to watch to our hearts’ content in the meantime. Thanks to the new Netflix model of streaming content, on-demand viewing has become the primary mode of media consumption for most of the streaming world.
That is not all that has changed, though … in addition to the ways in which we watch content, the locations, and means by which we are able to watch it have also been tremendously altered. Remember when the only way you could watch a show or movie was to sit down in front of your television and either insert a DVD or wait for it to air on a given network? Well, nowadays, adding to this sense of autonomy that streaming sites have provided, you can take all of your favorite films and series with you, no matter where you go.
Simply pull up a premium streaming app of your choice on your smartphone or tablet and, voila, so long as you have access to the internet, you don’t have to worry about whether you will be able to watch something, or be beholden to what happens to be on TV. Have a long commute on the subway to work? No problem … pull up your Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, or HBO Now app on your phone and turn that dreaded commute into an exciting and entertaining trip with your favorite characters.
Have to board a plane anytime soon? Perfect … it will give you the opportunity to catch up on your favorite shows, or to finally get around to watching that movie your friends have been raving about for weeks now. There is no reason to be bored anymore, no matter where you are, or where you are going. My personal favorite time to use the best streaming apps is when I hit the gym. Nothing makes those usually eternal and sometimes painful minutes of cardio go faster than getting lost in some high-quality HD content on my phone. No matter what you like to do while you stream, premium streaming apps make it possible.
But which premium streaming app is right for you? Well, this question has a few answers, actually. First and foremost, though – the most baseline question that you have to ask yourself before you can land on the perfect app for your streaming needs – is, which premium streaming service (or services) has the most content that you know for a fact that you will enjoy. Because, at the end of the day, when it comes to the premium streaming apps that you are paying for, what you are really paying for is the premium streaming service in question … the app is just the mode by which you will be able to access it when you are not at your computer or in front of your smart TV.
That doesn’t mean that the app’s performance is any less important. That is, of course, a crucial thing to take into account as well – how well-designed the app is, how dependably it works, whether you can stream content in HD on your phone, etc. So, especially if you are the kind of person who does a majority of his or her streaming on the go, the premium streaming service that has the best premium streaming app on the market is likely the one that you’ll want to go for.
And with all of that in mind, today we will be taking a look at a premium streaming app from one of the biggest names in movies, TV, and, more recently, streaming … let’s dive in and take a look at the HBO Now app, shall we?
HBO officially announced its new app, HBO Now during a press event hosted by Apple on March 9th, 2015. Apple was also to be HBO Now’s exclusive partner for launch, which meant that the HBO Now apps would be exclusively available on Apple TV and iOS devices for just a trial period of 3 months. HBO Now content, however, was always made available on HBO’s official website.
The app went live on April 7th of 2015, coinciding perfectly with the April 12th premiere of Game of Thrones’ 5th season (some might say, its best season). Part of the deal stated that Apple would keep 15% of HBO Now’s monthly subscription fee, at least from those subscribers who signed up from an iOS device.
After those initial 3 months of Apple exclusivity, HBO Now was also released for Android and Amazon Kindle Fire on July 16th of 2015. The following year, too, in April of 2016, HBO Now launched apps for Xbox 360 and Xbox One. And on September 15th of the same year, HBO Now became available on the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 game consoles (this time in conjunction with the series premiere of Westworld.
Today, HBO Now exists as its own standalone HBO subscription service. This means that HBO Now is separate from HBO Go, and, thus, you’ll need a special HBO Now membership if you want to enjoy this service that was specifically designed for mobile devices and smart TVs – and anyone who has used HBO Go in the past knows that, frankly, it isn’t designed very well for mobile or desktop computers, only adding to the allure of HBO Now.
So, knowing that HBO Now, as opposed to HBO Go, was designed specifically with mobile devices in mind, you’d expect a remarkable improvement in design and functionality, right? Well, yeah, you would certainly expect it, but I’m afraid that HBO Now also does not deliver on a design standpoint. The app, first of all, does not look nearly as sleek or dynamic as you’d expect from one of the most popular and critically acclaimed networks in the history of television and film.
The design is very basic, but not, I’m afraid, in an extremely streamlined or experiential or minimalist way, more in a somewhat vacant, disappointing way. Maybe it will be best to cite the fact that on the Apple App Store, the HBO Now app has an overall average user rating of 2.8 stars (out of 5), which is exceptionally low for a premium streaming app such as this. Among other complaints, people often cite the app’s lack of an easy-to-use scrubber that allows for convenient rewinding and fast-forwarding through a show or movie. Instead, HBO Now has opted to just include a 10-second forward and backward button, as you might see on You Tube – fine for short videos, but remarkably annoying when it comes to skipping through the much longer content that HBO tends to specialize in.
Speaking of content, this is an area in which HBO will always shine. HBO Now offers almost all of the movies and series that are available in the vast (and impressive) HBO library (save for some notable old shows, such as Da Ali G Show, The Ricky Gervais Show, Tenacious D, and Tales from the Crypt).
Pricing and Plans
Considering the design flaws that I mentioned, HBO Now is relatively pricey. It will cost you $14.99/month. This is after a 1-month trial period, however, which HBO offers for free. Compared to Netflix, Hulu, and Disney Plus, HBO Now is definitely on the more expensive end of the spectrum when it comes to premium streaming apps.
Suggestions that I have for HBO Now
Well, first things first, HBO Now needs to address these blatant design flaws. Hopefully, knowing what the HBO budget must be like, they already have somebody on a redesign. That being said, I would also love to see the price point come down a little bit. Even if they added a second-tier, one with ads and one without – the former could cost $10, and that would be, in my opinion, more acceptable.