Hands-on look: Hulu Plus for iPhone, iPad

Holy streaming "30 Rock," Batman, this app is a tantalizing taste of things to come. But is Hulu Plus worth 10 bucks a month when Netflix offers more for less?

The iPad version of Hulu Plus looks and feels a lot like the Web version. And the video quality is superb.
The iPad version of Hulu Plus looks and feels a lot like the Web version. And the video quality is superb. Rick Broida

Today, Hulu officially announced Hulu Plus , a premium subscription service that gives you all-you-can-eat (er, watch) access to streaming TV shows and movies for $9.99 per month.

For now, Hulu Plus is available by preview invitation only, but iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch owners can get a sweet, sweet taste of the service by downloading the new Hulu Plus app.

Here's a sampling of what you can watch right now, for free--no invitation or subscription necessary:

  • "30 Rock," Season 4, Episode 1
  • "Ugly Betty," Pilot
  • "Spaced," Season 1, Episode 1
  • "Parenthood," Pilot
  • "Grey's Anatomy," Season 6, Episode 1
  • "Wipeout: The Top 10 Moments of Wipeout"
  • "Cosmos: The Shores of the Cosmic Ocean"
  • "Great Museums: Wild Thing: The Smithsonian National Zoo"
  • "Super Size Me"

Remember, that's just the stuff in the Free Gallery. If you switch over to the Featured, Popular, TV, Movies, or Recently Added sections, you'll find pretty much everything Hulu has to offer. The apps are simple, straightforward, and elegant.

You don't need a subscription--or even an invitation--to watch the shows in the Hulu Plus Free Gallery. Some good stuff!
You don't need a subscription--or even an invitation--to watch the shows in the Hulu Plus Free Gallery. Some good stuff! Rick Broida

Oh, and awesome. Having just watched "Spaced" on my iPhone 3GS and "30 Rock" on my iPad, let me just say this: Hulu Plus freakin' rocks. Its video and audio quality are superb when connected via 3G and Wi-Fi networks. (Streaming on an EDGE network  is not supported.)

But would I pay 10 bucks per month for it?  I'm undecided on that point, mostly because Hulu isn't the only game in Streaming TV Town. There's also that little upstart called Netflix.

Indeed, the big question here is whether Hulu Plus will be able to compete with Netflix, which already has a killer app on the iPad and will soon offer a just-as-killer app for the iPhone .

I'm a Netflix subscriber, already paying $8.99 monthly for DVDs by mail and unlimited streaming. (Using Netflix "Watch Instantly" on a Windows Media Center PC is practically a religious experience.) The service has a much larger movie library than Hulu does and an extremely comprehensive TV catalog.

In fact, Hulu's only real edge is that it delivers the latest episodes of my favorite shows, such as last Friday's "Friday Night Lights." With Netflix, I have to wait until the entire season is available, which usually happens months after the season ends.

What do you think? After you get a chance to play with the iPhone or iPad apps, tell me if you think Hulu Plus is worth $9.99 per month, or if Netflix is the better deal. Right now, I'm leaning toward the latter--but Hulu Plus is mighty tempting.

 

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