The one feature Netflix users have been yearning for ages has been the ability to download and watch videos without the need for an internet connection.
However, for Amazon Prime account holders (costing £79 a year), you can now watch videos offline using the Prime Instant Video streaming service. Those using Amazon devices like Fire TV and the Kindle Fire or any iOS and Android devices will be able to use this feature with the latest version of the Amazon Video app.
A download icon should appear by each episode
Unfortunately not all content is available to download. TV Shows like Sons of Anarchy and The Americans cannot be viewed offline which we presume is down to licensing issues.
However, you can download top shows like The Walking Dead, Ray Donovan, Arrow, Mad Men and Hell on Wheels. You should be able to see a ‘Download’ tab under the ‘Watch Now’ tab. For TV shows there’s a download icon next to each episode title.
Netflix declared last year that offline viewing was “never going to happen”as offline downloads are a “short term fix for a bigger problem”, that problem being Wi-Fi access and quality. With today’s announcement from Amazon, will they change their stance?
While Amazon Instant Prime Instant Video may not be able to boast the sizeable library Netflix has, the ability to watch videos offline certainly makes them a more attractive proposition to new customers looking to subscribe to a video streaming service. It’ll certainly make long haul flights and train commutes a lot more bearable.
Amazon Prime Video downloads mini-review
Phone Cruncher has tried it out the download-enabled iOS app and it works pretty much as you would expect. There are 3 tiers of download quality – Good, Better and Best – although there are no specific bandwidth rates given for each level.
As with streaming settings, there is the option to only download over a wi-fi connection which is pre-selected to avoid nasty cellular bill surprises.
Not all Amazon Prime content is available for download – movies and TV shows from Fox and NBC remain streaming-only. But about 80% of the catalogue is available for offline viewing.
One issue we have with the download functionality is that there is no obvious way to see a list of all the stuff you’ve downloaded. You have to navigate to the title by bowsing or searching, then click Watch Now.
The app does cache its content to allow you to do this offline – but a dedicated ‘Downloads’ section like the BBC iPlayer app would be useful.
That said, the ability to download TV shows and movies for later offline viewing in a car or train is a real game changer. And if Netflix doesn’t add the feature to its mobile apps then many customers may switch to Amazon Prime for this functionality alone.