Ease & Quality of Viewing
All of the services which we looked at have free downloadable apps for ease of viewing on mobile devices (including iPhone and iPads, Android phones and tablets etc), although the Fetch TV app is a “companion” to the Fetch set top box which is required for access to the service. Support for other mobile devices (Windows Phone, Blackberry, etc), computers and Smart TVs varies between providers, and this can be a barrier to convenient use, depending on the devices available to you.
In my household, virtually all of our TV and movie watching is done on our 55” Smart TV, with a small amount being watched on our second TV (also a Smart internet-connected model) or portable devices. For us, the ease and quality of watching on the big screen is of paramount importance, and mobile viewing is definitely a secondary consideration.
Netflix is the clear winner here, with native support for pretty well any internet-connected device, including Smart TVs, phones and tablets, Chromecast, Apple TV, computers, etc. Netflix also has the unique offering of a selection of 4k UHD content to 4k Smart TVs, and is therefore one of the very few available sources of 4k content if you have recently bought a 4k TV. We were able to access Netflix seamlessly in HD on all of our devices, including casting from the tablet app to a Chromecast plugged into our TV. The most convenient and most-used option of all for us is to watch via the Netflix app on our Fetch TV STB, as this fully integrates Netflix into all of our other viewing (FTA, subscription TV, catch-up TV, and movie rentals).
I will mention here that there are a number of late-model Smart TVs for which support for Netflix Australia is lacking. This is rather surprising, as the same models support Netflix in other regions. At the time of writing, it is unclear whether these TVs will regain Netflix access by a firmware update by the manufacturer, or whether they are considered beyond “end of life”. If your Smart TV is unable to access Netflix AU via a native app, you may need to consider purchase of a Chromecast or other Smart media hub – Chromecast being by far the cheapest option to add Netflix (and other internet connectivity) to any TV with a free HDMI port.
Stan is currently accessible via Android or iOS mobile device, or web browser on a PC, and casting to Chromecast or Apple TV is supported, but there are as yet no native apps for Smart TVs . Full HD is supported on compatible devices. Options for viewing on the big screen are therefore to cast to a Chromecast from a mobile device, AirPlay to an Apple TV, or use a HDMI cable from your computer to the TV.
Stan can be cast to Chromecast making viewing on your TV simple. Photo: Supplied
The Chromecast option is a lot “tidier”, but does require the purchase of a cheap Chromecast dongle, and some people will consider this to be a barrier. (Personally, I think Chromecast is a “must-have” accessory, as it provides cheap access to a huge range of streaming media, both video and audio, for which you may have no “native apps” on your entertainment system.) The HDMI cable option is awkward, unless your living room is already set-up with a media computer connected to your TV. Stan is therefore at a relative disadvantage to Netflix with respect to “ease of use”, at least until a wider range of native apps is made available.
Presto, like Stan, only supports primary casting from your mobile device or web browser, but again, Chromecast is supported. However, the killer issue for me is that Presto only streams in Standard Definition, and I believe that this is simply not good enough for a subscription TV service in the 21st century.
Quickflix provides native HD support on almost as many devices and performs as Netflix, so comes as a close second for “ease of access” on the big screen. Quickflix also offers a Blu-Ray / DVD rental service, so it arguably provides access to the best possible content quality, at the expense of “delayed gratification” while you wait for the the disc to arrive in the mail. (For our family, streaming HD is “good enough” on our 55” TV.)
Fetch TV provides access to your movie rentals (and Netflix) through the Fetch STB, which will already be connected to your TV, so there are no issues of connectivity.
Both Google Play and iTunes require a user account to their respective stores; if you are already an iOS or Android user, you will likely have an account and a suitable primary phone or tablet device to browse and select content, but you may need to purchase a Chromecast or Apple TV to “catch” the content and display it on the big screen. Chromecast is cheaper, but Apple TV provides the legendary consistent Apple experience for those who are already invested in the Apple ecosystem. Our household has both iOS and Android devices, and we find that Chromecast suits us very well, being fully compatible with both platforms and allowing access to a wider range of media sources. (Some services do not yet fully support Apple TV.)