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Review: Amazon Instant Video for iPad

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Amazon Instant Video

Amazon has been stepping up its game in the digital arena, with the Kindle Fire going head-to-head against the iPad, Amazon Instant Video competing with iTunes and Amazon Prime taking on Netflix. Unfortunately, its execution can sometimes leave a lot to be desired, a fact that's evident in the Amazon Instant Video release for the iPad.

Amazon Instant Video Features

  • Stream Amazon Prime movies and television to your iPad
  • Buy or Rent on Amazon and watch the instant video on your iPad
  • Save movies and TV shows to a watch list to playback later
  • Syncs with Amazon's website and Amazon Instant Video applications on other platforms

Amazon Instant Video brings Amazon's collection of movies, videos and TV shows to the iPad, including the free Amazon Prime streaming surface. This is a big boon for Amazon Prime members, which also allows thousands of Kindle books to be checked out and offers free two-day shipping on select items purchased from Amazon.com for the relatively cheap price of $79 a year.

Amazon Instant Video also gives iPad owners an alternative to buying movies and TV shows through Apple's iTunes store. Amazon Instant Video will sync with Amazon's website and other Amazon Instant Video applications, allowing playback of movies and videos that are purchased or rented from any device to any device.

Unfortunately, Amazon's Instant Video app was released in what can only be described as an incomplete state.

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Amazon Instant Video: The Good

Amazon Instant Video takes some of the good bits from Netflix and Hulu Plus and intertwines them, resulting in a rather slick interface that loads fast and doesn't bog down. The interface has more than its fair share of problems, but its a good start and it is easy to see how nice the app will be once it is actually completed.

I was also impressed with the speed at which videos began to play. Rather than waiting through a few seconds of buffering, each video I chose to watch started almost instantly. The actual playback itself is what you would expect, with videos playing in full screen and the familiar video controls available at the touch of a finger.

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Amazon Instant Video: The Bad

It is unfortunate that even the good in the app is marred by the bad. The interface may be slick, but it suffers from bad usability, which can make it a little confusing to navigate at times. And while video playback is good, you may be stuck with watching it on the iPad's screen. If you try to watch a movie on your HDTV using AirPlay to send the movie to Apple TV, you will be greeted with a black screen. Oddly enough, the sound stills comes through, which makes me think this is just another bug rather than an intentional omission.

But where Amazon Instant Video really fails is in what is missing from the app. And, unfortunately, there is a lot missing, including features that should be standard in this type of application.

Want to watch a movie? If its not among those shown in the featured list, you'll need to head to Amazon's website on your Safari browser. The application does not contain a search video, so while Amazon Prime may have a ton of movies and TV shows, you can search for them within the application.

The application is also missing a recently watched category, so if you want to resume watching the movie you started yesterday, you'll need to search for it again. And by search, I mean scroll through the list since there actually is no way to search.

There have also been some complaints of the app simply not working at all on earlier versions of the iPad, including iPad 2 users complaining about frequent crashes when trying to use the app.

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Amazon Instant Video: Worth the Download?

It's hard not to say the app is worth a download if you are an Amazon Prime member. After all, you've already paid for access to the collection free movies and TV shows and the app doesn't cost anything. You might be disappointed in the lack of key features, but once you get a video playing, you can forget about the problems.

The app is also great for anyone who has built up an Amazon video collection or likes to rent videos through Amazon. Obviously, it is the only way to watch these videos on the iPad, and getting at your video rentals and purchases is actually rather easy in the app.

What the Amazon Instant Video app won't do is convince you that Amazon Prime is worth it if you are interested in watching the shows mainly on your iPad. There are plenty of great streaming services you can use as an alternative, including Netflix and Hulu Plus.

Hopefully, Amazon will get the problems fixed. But it is a shame that they released an app that is so clearly not finished.

Download Amazon Instant Video from the App Store

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