Two contradictory trends are happening in video. On the one hand, we spend a lot of money and effort making our living rooms seem more like movie theaters — all anchored by a large high-definition television, of course.
On the flip side is mobile video, in which we watch movies on screens smaller than old analog portable TVs. It’s a matter of convenience. Whether you’re commuting, stuck in an airport, or trapped at a function with your in-laws, sometimes you need to escape with a movie, and your phone is the only device available. Fortunately, there are plenty of options for mobile movie watching.
MOBILE PHONE MOVIES: STREAMING SERVICES AT YOUR FINGERTIPS
With streaming movie services, you pay a monthly subscription and can watch the available titles as often as you wish. Hulu is best known for letting viewers catch up on their favorite TV shows. For about $8 a month, Hulu Plus gives you access to an extensive movie library. You won’t necessarily find the latest blockbusters, but its catalog of classic films is impressive, anchored by its inclusion of the Criterion Collection, which includes art-house favorites from across the globe. You’ll find films by Jim Jarmusch, Francois Truffaut, and Yasujiro Ozu, among others, within the section. Download the free Hulu Plus Android app for access to its entire streaming library on your mobile phone.
Share Your Phone Videos
The roster of movies on Netflix’s $8-a-month streaming plan still isn’t as compelling as it should be. Blame it on studios such as Sony and Universal keeping their titles off of Netflix. Of course, there’s still the frustration you experience when the rights to some titles expire and you can’t watch them on Netflix anymore. But it’s getting better all the time. Netflix’s Android app that’s free when you purchase a streaming subscription to the service can be used to watch any movie available for streaming on your mobile device.
Like Hulu, the selection of newer movies is spotty. You’ll currently find Friends With Kids, Cosmopolis, and Bernie among the newer arrivals. The selection of older titles is a bit better, where you’ll find classics such as Midnight Cowboy and Gosford Park. Netflix’s foreign film roster is good, even for celebrated newer titles such as Leos Carax’s Holy Motors and 5 Broken Cameras, which was nominated for a 2013 Academy Award for best documentary feature. Netflix’s strength is in its roster of television shows, which includes Mad Men, the Netflix original series House of Cards, and the upcoming reboot of Arrested Development.
Before you start streaming any movies on your mobile device we recommend checking out your data plan. Streaming movies over your phone’s data network can eat through a data plan pretty quickly. Unless you have an unlimited data plan, you might be better off streaming movies over your phone via a free WiFi connection.
DOWNLOAD PAY-PER-VIEW MOBILE MOVIES
For the best selection of new releases, pay-per-view mobile movie downloads are your best bet. With pay-per-view services, you can stream movies directly from your smartphone app when you’re connected to a network. You can also download the files, which allows you to watch a movie on your mobile phone when a network connection is unavailable (when you’re on a plane, or when visiting in-laws who live in a wireless dead zone). The downside to downloading a movie is that video takes up precious space on your phone or memory card. The good news is microSD cards are becoming more and more affordable (you can get a 16GB card for under $15 that can store up to 64 hours of non-HD video). Also keep in mind that when you rent a movie, you generally have 30 days to start watching it, and then a 24-hour window to finish watching the movie once you begin.
If you have an Android smartphone, it’s a snap to watch purchased movies with Google Play. If you have a recent Android smartphone, the Google Play Movies and TV app comes preinstalled on your device. To download Google Play titles to your phone, find the video you wish to save in the Google Play app, click the “push pin” icon on the thumbnail image, and press “OK.”
You’ll find the latest titles for rent or purchase on Google Play, such as Lincoln, This Is 40, and Skyfall. The newest titles are generally $4 or $5 to rent and $15 to purchase. Older movies are usually cheaper to rent, although purchase prices tend to remain constant. Also, not every title — especially older ones — are available for purchase.
Owners of the Samsung Galaxy S III smartphone and Galaxy Note phone/tablet hybrid can take advantage of the preinstalled Samsung Media Hub app, which offers access to new movie and TV titles, such as Life of Pi and Bates Motel.
TRANSFER MOVIES TO YOUR MOBILE DEVICE
It’s easy to watch movies on your mobile phone directly from the content providers. But what if you already have a library of paid-for movies stored on your PC that you’d like to be able to watch on your phone? You can use RealPlayer to transfer videos to your smartphone.
Connect the phone to the computer, open the RealPlayer library, and click on the phone icon. Hover your mouse over the video you want to move, select “Copy To,” and choose your mobile phone. RealPlayer does the rest, and you’ll be able to watch mobile movies with the free RealPlayer for Android app.
How often do you watch movies on your mobile device? Let us know in the comments section.