First Look: Amazon Instant Video vs. Netflix on PS3
I’ve been an Amazon Prime subscriber for a few years and, for me, the ability to watch the odd TV episode or Movie online for free was always a bonus in addition to the speedier mail deliveries. I never really thought of Amazon as a replacement for Netflix. However, after using the Amazon Instant Video app on the PS3, I’m wondering whether I still need Netflix. I’ve included a brief review of the new user interface with a focus on navigating and discovering content. Please excuse the dodgy screenshots!
After downloading the Amazon app on its release day I encountered a few bugs trying to launch it – it is version 1.0 after all but I expect a patch will be following shortly. Before you can start using Amazon Instant Video you need to register the device at www.amazon.com/mytv – the app takes you through the steps and code entry. It seemed a much easier process linking the Amazon app to my online account than it did linking the Netflix app.
The landing page has been designed to provide a simple, clean interface driven by content artwork. A large block on the left is devoted to major promotions and the user can cycle through four possible pages. The rest of the screen allows quick access to the user’s Amazon Video Library, recently watched content, etc. You can scroll right to see more panels, such as Free First Episodes (a promo Amazon are running this week).
The Next Episodes panel had picked up on the fact that I’d previously watched an episode of Fry & Laurie and conveniently given me a link so I could continue viewing the season on the landing page. This is an inspired feature as most viewers will be bulk consuming back-catalog episodes of Mad Men, and the likes. You need to drill down some layers in Netflix to do the same.
Now here’s the bit that Netflix totally misses – users are directed to content in Amazon Instant Video through editorial suggestions, not only based on a recommendation engine. So under Editor’s Choice you have creatively compiled collections such as British Invasion, Favorite Bosses, Cops & Robbers, and Staff Picks. A similar Editor’s Choice area is available under Movies. This allows Amazon to promote content, make content more relevant and interesting, and encourages users to view new TV episodes or Movies. Wrath of the Titans is in the theatres, what better way for Amazon to drive up buys of vintage Harryhausen monster movies than to create a customized collection in this area?
If you’re used to navigating through the Netflix catalog by scrolling up and down, get used to scrolling left and right for Amazon Instant. With over 100,000 titles available it can take a very long time to scroll through even Movies > Genres > Comedy in Amazon. There seemed to be a lot of older titles buried in these lists and they didn’t seem to be in any particular order (release date, alphabetically by title, etc). Amazon maybe need to give some more thought for how to navigate the catalog in these areas.
The Amazon Instant Video Search Screen is simple and I found it easier to use than the search in Netflix (which always seemed a bit archaic). Progressive search results display above the keypad as you type.
Everyone knows Amazon to be the king of the recommendation engine, so its not surprising that titles have a “More Like This” feature that promotes content discovery. Almost expected a “People Who Watched This Also Watched…” as used on the website, but maybe that’s integrated into the recommendation algorithms elsewhere.
Before playing videos, unlike Netflix, Amazon displays a message saying it is determining the optimum speed for streaming. I think Amazon must have added more intelligence around streaming video based on connection speeds. I often suffer from dropped video watching content on Netflix – so far, I haven’t had any dropped video streams using Amazon Instant Video (but early days). One area that Netflix outshines Amazon is in play-back; for instance, there is no key frame navigation in Amazon Instant Video.
In conclusion, I personally prefer the Amazon Instant Video UI to Netflix on the PS3 and I think Amazon is a better platform for promoting and discovering new content. Ultimately it will come down to the availability of content on the platform and the subscription cost.