By Jared Newman | Thursday, September 30, 2010 at 9:29 am
With Apple’s approval, PlayOn finally has a native iOS app for skipping Hulu Plus and streaming heaps of web TV shows to the iPhone.
PlayOn uses PC software to pull in web video from Hulu, Comedy Central, ESPN3 and elsewhere, and then makes the content available to other networked devices, like game consoles, certain set-top boxes and now the iPhone. The iPhone app is free, but you’ll also need the PlayOn PC software, which costs $40 per year or $80 for life. You can try it free for 14 days.
Approval from Apple was pending since July, and in the meantime PlayOn created an HTML5 workaround. It worked wonderfully, and I was even able to fool the app into allowing iPad access (a few commenters say this no longer works). The native app looks cleaner, and some iTunes reviewers claim that it runs faster than the web app. It also works with an iPad, but with pixels doubled, of course.
PlayOn’s main drawback is that it’s tethered to a PC, so you can’t watch videos without running the PlayOn desktop software, which gobbles system resources and must be networked with whatever other devices you wish to use. Also, it seems like every time I use the software, technical difficulties abound. (Lately, PlayOn has taken on a habit of knocking my router offline, and I can’t figure out why.)
But what I loathe about PlayOn is also what I love about it. The makers, MediaMall, are clearly going against the will of TV and movie studios, who want to tightly control how and where you watch their content. They’re entitled, of course, just as you’re entitled to disregard their efforts and find a workaround, even if it’s less convenient. Using PlayOn is at once empowering and frustrating, but once you see the depths of Hulu’s catalog and more streaming to your iPhone, at a fraction of what Hulu Plus costs, the frustration suddenly seems worthwhile.