HolidayBuyer's Guide

Best streaming-video apps for iOS

I take a look at the best apps on iOS for watching YouTube videos, movies, and TV shows from around the Web.

Netflix
Photo by Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

Netflix
Netflix needs little in the way of introduction as the app for iOS that lets subscribers watch movies and TV shows on the service's Instant Watch library. While the streaming service isn't nearly as strong as the Netflix DVD library, it's great to have the option to pick from several shows to watch on an iOS device wherever you are.

The Netflix app's straightforward design starts off with a home screen that shows your most recently viewed and incomplete shows at the top for easy access, then featured content like Top Picks and popular shows. You can swipe up to view more content from various genres, then swipe left to view more shows from each genre.

Although the app itself is free, you will still need to subscribe to Netflix to take advantage. It will run you about $8 a month, but if you want to watch videos and shows on the go, the Netflix app is worth the price.

Crackle
Photo by Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

Crackle
Crackle for iOS provides completely free streaming of television shows, movies, and other video content. Sure, it's ad-supported, and programs are occasionally interrupted by commercials, but considering the amount of content available, it's still worth it.

The Home screen starts you off with featured content, while the main navigation buttons on the bottom lead to pages with Movies, Shows, and your personal Watchlist. Content is laid out in an attractive tiled thumbnail view, or you can switch to a basic list view, if you like.

While they may be necessary to fund a free movie service, the ads can be pretty frustrating, but it's hard to argue with free movies and TV shows that you can watch anywhere. Crackle is great for finding something to watch in a pinch, especially if you don't want to sign up for a subscription, but just be aware that you're going to watch some ads.

Jasmine
Photo by Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

Jasmine
Jasmine isn't like the others in this collection where you can watch full-length movies. Instead it is an iOS Universal YouTube client app with a clean interface and tons of features that make it a worthy YouTube app replacement, but it runs into some problems with YouTube's rules.

The YouTube app for iOS is not bad on its own, but with Jasmine you get a really stylish interface with both day and night (low-light) themes. Touching buttons produces neat, simple animations, which -- while not necessary -- add to the elegant feel of the app.

What makes Jasmine a joy to use, even above the original YouTube app, are the extra features and the overall feel of the interface, but it's worth noting that the app is constrained by YouTube's policies. In the most recent update, for example, Jasmine had to remove customizable skip and rewind controls and automatic background audio playback, and had to add 2 seconds of video load time to make regular playback YouTube-compliant.

Still, Jasmine has great customization options, a great-looking and logical user interface, and plenty more features promised on the horizon. If you like watching YouTube videos, Jasmine is one of the best ways to do it on an iOS device.

Redbox Instant
Photo by Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

Redbox Instant
Redbox Instant lets you manage your rentals from your iPhone or iPad and offers instant movie streaming, but the streaming catalog is not on par with other services like Netflix. What makes this app especially worthwhile is if you're a Redbox subscriber because you can queue up rentals, reserve movies at your local Redbox, and watch some movies instantly.

Once you're set up, the home screen for the Redbox Instant app is laid out a lot like Netflix's, with thumbnails of movie posters sorted by category. Across the bottom of the screen are buttons to navigate to each section. You can browse movies by using a drop-down menu in the upper left to switch between genres and Redbox-curated collections.

With fewer movies available to watch instantly, it probably wouldn't make sense for you to sign up with Redbox right now unless you're going to take advantage of the four DVDs per month from nearby Redbox stations. But if you're already a Redbox devotee, this app is great for managing your rentals, browsing through titles, reserving movies at the Redbox near you, and watching an instant movie from time to time.

Squrl
Photo by Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

Squrl
Squrl is a streaming-video player that lets you search and browse many of the Web's most popular video services, all from one place. The main dashboard offers a number of ways to quickly find interesting videos from around the Web, and even has a powerful engine for serving personalized recommendations.

While it's not required, I suggest connecting Squrl with your various social media accounts, like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and even Netflix, in order to get the most out of the app. By doing so, you essentially open up other channels that Squrl can sift through, which ultimately means more video access for you.

The best thing about Squrl is its wealth of content. It pulls from many of the most popular sources like Netflix, Hulu, Vimeo, YouTube, CollegeHumor, CNN, ESPN, and more.

Squrl is a fantastic app for watching and discovering new videos from around the Web. It comes with tools that let you customize what you want to watch, a queue for saving videos for later, social connectivity so you can share with friends, and powerful recommendations. If you're a big fan of Internet video, download Squrl onto your device now.

Close
Drag