Amazon Prime may have started in Australia as just another video streaming provider. But now, having turned into a package that combines entertainment, perks, shopping deals and free shipping for less than five dollars a month, it’s essential for anyone who shops, games or watches video online.
It’s been a long road to a full launch for Amazon and their Prime service in Australia. But that time’s finally arrived after well over a year since the “soft launch” of Prime Video and the Amazon shopping site (which itself had kind of been around for a couple of years before then, selling only Kindle eBooks). After a lead-up that’s seen the Australian media repeatedly predicting the day Amazon would wipe out the rest of Australian retail, culminating in a clever advertising campaign, the full Amazon experience has arrived and brought the Prime service with it.
Prime and Prime Video – What’s the Difference?
If you’re one of the many who’s been signed up to Prime Video of Australia at its promotional $2.99 USD per month price, you’ll know that the discounted price was there for a reason – all you got access to was Prime Video, with none of the other Prime benefits (more on those shortly). Amazon did add Twitch Prime quietly a while back, but really, the focus was firmly on the TV and movie streaming service.
Now, in the US, you can choose to just pay for a Prime Video subscription, and forgo the other benefits of Prime, in return for a slightly reduced monthly price. However, that’s not an option here in Australia, where the Prime Video membership you signed up for just underwent a transformation.
What You Get with Amazon Prime
What we’ve got here is unique in the world of streaming TV providers. Your monthly (or annual) fee gives you not only unlimited access to TV and movie streaming but also a bunch of other benefits that can represent incredible value if several of them are of use to you.
|Amazon Prime Account||$6.99/month|
|Prime Video, Prime Shopping, Prime Reading, Twitch Prime, Amazon Drive, Prime Photos|
The thing that most of us are here for, Amazon’s Prime Video service continues to grow and expand its reach across multiple platforms, and there’s been a steady flow of content new and old – as well as some surprises.
Now that Amazon has its warehouse set up here and has ramped up its Australian shopping site to full operation, the shopping side of Prime comes into the picture at last.
Essentially, as a Prime member, you get treated like a VIP customer, with free “expedited” shipping on Prime-eligible items (which basically is almost everything directly sold from Amazon itself), free international shipping on orders from the “global store” over $49, and regular special deals and promotions (such as the annual “Prime Day”).
Delivery is handled, as it turns out, by Australia Post under a special arrangement with Amazon. We ordered a couple of Blu-ray discs late on a Sunday night and got a notification that they’d shipped on Monday evening. And before lunch on Tuesday, a parcel-laden postie was at the door with our movies. It was effectively next-day delivery – in this case, a full day earlier than Amazon’s promised delivery date. And as a Prime member, that warehouse-to-front-door delivery (which does offer tracking, by the way) didn’t cost a cent.
If you own a Kindle eBook reader this is a Prime benefit you’re going to enjoy – a rotating selection of around 1,000 books of all kinds for you to download and read at no extra cost. There’s a little bit of everything there – fiction of all persuasions, Lonely Planet travel guides, comics, kids’ books and more. Sure, there are no blockbusters here – if it’s those you’re after, there’s a separately available “Kindle Unlimited” subscription that gives you access to almost everything – but it’s a nice little side benefit to have. You can read these even if you don’t own a Kindle, by the way – just grab the free app for Windows, Mac, iOS or Android.
If you love your video games, you probably already visit Twitch regularly. But link your Twitch account to your Amazon Prime account and suddenly you’ll find Twitch offering you all sorts of free stuff – games as well as add-ons for them, for example. Every month there’s a batch of free games released that you can add to your Twitch account, and there have been some really good ones included so far. As a Prime member, you can also subscribe to your Twitch channel of choice for free each month, directly supporting your favourite creator or streamer.
Amazon Drive and Prime Photos
Not advertised much at all at the moment, you nevertheless can make use of these free cloud services. Amazon Drive gives you cloud storage space and the Prime Photos app can back up all your smartphone’s pics to the cloud. This makes it easy for you to keep your devices clear of clutter and browse your files and pics on demand. Just grab the apps from your app store of choice to sign in with your Amazon Prime account and get started.
Does Amazon Prime have unique content?
Amazon Prime has a range of shows exclusive to its streaming service. Photo: Amazon Australia.
When it comes to shows and movies, it’s very much the Amazon Prime Original content that’s worth the price of admission, with acclaimed shows like The Marvelous Mrs Maisel, Bosch, Goliath and more light-hearted fare like the rev-head itinerants in The Grand Tour, superhero spoof The Tick and affectionate 1980s comedy-drama Red Oaks. Along with those, there are a few “Prime Exclusive” shows which are actually original productions from US companies like Hulu – The Path and The Looming Tower amongst them.
Backing up this catalogue of goodness is a wide-ranging array of TV shows and movies, mostly a few years old but quite the treasure trove of interesting stuff to spend time with.
Check out how Amazon Prime Video compares to other streaming providers:
What about sport?
Prime Video has been making some forays into sports streaming. We don’t get to see all of it here in Australia due to licensing rights issues, but when they do offer it (we’ve seen tennis, basketball and hockey so far) it’s at no extra cost either.
Are there any accessories for Amazon Prime?
Amazon’s Fire Stick helps you stream directly to your TV. Photo: Amazon Prime.
Amazon does have something of a vested interest in persuading you to buy their Fire TV Stick to watch Prime Video.
The Fire TV stick certainly does the job for a very low price, but it’s a model that does not support 4K – and with Prime Video, you get 4K streaming at no extra charge (available mostly on Amazon’s own shows, such as The Grand Tour and Man in the High Castle). Amazon does sell 4K-capable (and far more feature-packed) Fire TV devices in the US, and we really hope to see them sold in Australia in the near future – the main hurdle is probably the need for the devices’ Alexa voice support to be reworked to understand Australian accents!
The apps and website are very easy to use, as you’d expect from a company that’s been around about as long as the internet. Just like streaming platforms Netflix and Stan, Amazon Prime Video sorts its content by genres, which should make it easier to find something to watch. It also has a Watchlist feature so you can tag movies and shows to watch later.
However, just like these other providers, Prime pads out its viewing choices by listing the same titles in different genre lists. And unlike these providers, Amazon Prime doesn’t offer a big huge list of things it thinks you need to watch. This can get a little frustrating when you see the same show or movie at least three times when scrolling through the home screen. Somewhat ironically, this actually makes it harder to find content, as it basically turns into a case of browsing and hoping. Further, a fair bit of the content you might want to watch is only available to purchase, or is listed as “not available in your location”. Which feels like a bit of a tease. You pay money to access the service, then you have to pay again to get access to certain shows and movies. Or wait until licensing magic happens, and Amazon Prime can stream these items to Australian audiences.
If you’re just signing up to see the big-name shows produced for Amazon Prime – the ones that are available in Australia, at least – then you won’t be disappointed. But if you want more varied content, these issues can make it hard to find.
Finally – and this is just a small gripe – the (skippable) pre-roll ads that play before your watching session starts can feel a little intrusive. Granted, they are usually for other Amazon shows, but this isn’t something you experience with many other streaming services.
How to access Amazon Prime
How you use Amazon Prime depends on what you’re aiming to do.
- Shopping is best done online via a browser or through their mobile apps.
- Streaming movies and TV shows work flawlessly with most apps and devices, although you will most likely want a big screen to take advantage of their 4K streaming service.
- For ebooks, an e-reader is a must, as reading from your smartphone or laptop for any length of time can be a strain on your eyes.
- Twitch Prime is best accessed through a desktop, laptop or gaming console (it is a gaming service, after all!).
- Amazon Drive and Prime Photos, it depends on where you are. You can upload and view files and images from any device capable of opening the files involved.
For a full list of compatible devices, check out the table below.
The biggest change to Prime Video since its Australian launch has been its availability on more and more platforms.
|Device||Does it work?||Device||Does it work?|
|Amazon Fire Stick||Yes||iOS||Yes|
|Amazon Fire Tablet||Yes||PCs/Macs||Most modern browsers supported|
|Apple TV||Yes||Smart TV/Set-Top Box/Blu-Ray Players||Yes|
|Fetch TV||No||Xbox One||Yes|
The launch of a Prime Video app for Apple TV was something many never expected to happen, and it joined apps for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, iOS & Android phones and tablets – and of course most major brands of smart TV.
The one thing Prime Video still doesn’t support is Chromecast, so if you’re using one of those nifty Google devices for your video streaming, you’re going to need to look for another solution.
You can stream three videos at the same time using the same Amazon account. That’s three screens you can watch from – a pretty generous allocation compared to most providers. The caveat is that you can only stream the same video to a maximum of two devices at a time.
Amazon is continuing to expand its compatibility range. Check back frequently to see new updates!
Cost and Promos
Amazon Prime now bills customers in Australian dollars – and it’s gone up to $6.99/month, compared to the roughly $4.10 that the discounted rate worked out to when converted from US dollars. But for that increased price you get the full suite of Prime benefits (those available in Australia, anyway, with more to come) along with your Prime Video subscription.
If you’re not impressed with the price rise regardless, though, Amazon’s got a solution. You can go for the annual Prime subscription at $59/year – which works out to $4.90 per month. So for less than a dollar extra, you’re upgraded to the full Prime package. Well worth it, and the first 30 days of Amazon Prime Australia are free as well. But for those not ready to commit to a full year just yet, Amazon is discounting the month-to-month subscription to $4.99 until the end of January 2019.
As if that wasn’t enough, Amazon is also giving all new customers a 30-day free trial! This promo also ends 31 January 2019.
Conclusion – Is it Worth it?
We’ve long said that Amazon Prime Video was fantastic value for a little over 4 bucks a month, and the expansion of the service to “full Prime” only increases that value exponentially – and the more you use Amazon’s services the more value you’ll find. The free expedited shipping on just one product a month will more than pay for the monthly subscription, so in many ways, your Prime Video service just became far more valuable – because now it’s about more than just streaming video.
Prime Video remains the centrepiece of the service and the thing you’ll probably use the most often – and with some big new original productions on the way (like the Tom Clancy character reboot Jack Ryan) there’s plenty to like for under a tenner a month.
Amazon being Amazon, everything you get with Prime – from streaming to shopping – are only going to get better over time, as more shows, movies, products and features are added. But whether you’re a streamer, shopper or both, the price right now makes Prime a clear winner.
Thinking about trying out Amazon Prime? Sign up today!