With the release of Netflix Australia, we’ve taken a fresh look at our original take on the streaming TV and movies into your home via Netflix, Stan, Presto and Quickflix.
Our first look at a comparison of these services followed a full weekend of playing with all platforms.
We’ve now spent the time to add the experience of Netflix here in Australia, all with an aim of looking at what service you should get – looking at the obvious differences in pricing and content, but also platform, interface and ease of use, device observations and more. Read on!
Netflix launching in Australia reminds me a lot of Spotify’s arrival. While a number of Australian-made sites are built on solid foundations, Netflix immediately comes across as mature, both technologically and brand-wise.
They’ve already built a fast, ubiquitous platform for streaming high-resolution content at impressive speeds, they already have an incredible assortment of original content, and their brand brings with it a reputation for quality, and most importantly, long-term stability. I doubt Netflix is going to shut down anytime soon.
Yet, despite this, when it comes to their local launch, there is a catch to recommending Netflix, and it’s a pretty big one.
For starters, if you’re just using Netflix Australia, the content on offer really isn’t too distinctive when placed side-by-side against Stan or Presto. It’s clearly a little better, technology-wise, and their interface feels a little more streamlined when placed side-by-side with the competition, but in terms of content, Netflix’s Australian catalogue is lacking.
Apart from a few shows, like House Of Cards, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and even Mad Men, as well as a cool selection of movies, Netflix Australia’s catalogue is just another isolated, seemingly random assortment of TV shows and movies.
So whether it deserves the local hype, just yet, is still not yet set in stone.
Sign Up / Pricing
While Stan and QuickFlix let you pay one price for everything, Netflix splits their offerings into three pricing tiers, and strangely their divisions don’t rely on separating content, like Presto, but rather on more technological constraints.
For $8.99 a month you get the ability to watch the entire Netflix library, though only in SD, and on only one device at a time. So, for instance, if someone else in your house is watching House Of Cards on their iPad, you won’t be able to watch a movie on the TV without upgrading your package, or waiting for them to finish up.
Netflix’s $11.99 plan is more reasonable, with support for two streams at the same time, and, on top of that, support for HD streaming. Unless you live in a remote location with average internet speeds, or unless you have a big family and a great home network, this is likely the default plan for most people.
And finally, for the families out there, or those of us lucky to be on the NBN, Netflix’s $14.99 plan lets you stream select titles in 4K, as well as watch Netflix content on up to four devices simultaneously.
Compared to the competition, a tiered pricing system is somewhat nice to see, and it means that you’re only paying for what you need. Equally nice is Netflix’s deals with local ISPs iiNet, Optus, Internode, Westnet and Adam, to bring unmetered access, as long as you’re not using a VPN.
In the grand scheme of things, Netflix is well priced, and considering the current price of the Australian dollar, the plans on offer are pretty generous indeed. (We looked at Netflix not collecting GST, here.)
As I said before, Netflix blows away the local crowd in terms of technology and interface. Device support is flawless, with HTML5 support in the browser, as well as apps on iOS, Apple TV, Windows Phone, Windows 8, Chromecast, and Android, and integration with PlayStation, Xbox, and, heck, even the 3DS and Wii U. In fact, there’s even a Wikipedia entry dedicated to outlining which devices have a Netflix app, including a selection of Smart TVs and Blu-Ray Players.
Device support is just the start too. Netflix’s whole interface is smart and refined, with a clever recommendation system, a Watch List feature that works really nicely across devices, and most importantly, closed-caption support on a lot of the content available. Shockingly, the same feature can barely be found in local video streaming products, with caption support being seen as more of a horizon feature rather than a modern need. There’s also a profile system inbuilt with Netflix, which means you won’t be getting recommendations for the ‘Beverly Hills Chihuahua’ movies if you share it with the family. And speaking of that, there’s also a Kids section filled with movies, from Shrek to Pixar’s Up.
In fact, one of the few issues I’ve had with Netflix was its haphazard system for syncing playback progress, which meant I’d occasionally have to rewatch scenes of well-paced TV shows when switching between devices. But still, everything else basically just works.
To be fair though, the level of thought seen in the Netflix platform should be expected from an 7 year old product, and Stan is a close second in this part of the competition.
Equally as impressive for Netflix, though, is the quality and speed of streaming. Even on my crummy ADSL2 connection I was up and streaming HD content in just a few seconds on my TV and iPad. On the desktop the quality of video was equally intriguing, especially since YouTube can sometimes hardly load video at 480p.
Just peeking behind the covers too, Netflix does this through both excellent work on their streaming servers, as well as by cutting up content into little chunks, which means switching between different qualities of stream is pretty easy and seamless. And if you’re on a small bandwidth cap, Netflix lets you lock down your bandwidth usage pretty easily in your account settings.
Equally interesting is the way Netflix queue’s up content, with an encouragement of binging, which might not be good for a late-night House Of Cards session.
Netflix worked really well in any modern browser, whether it was Chrome, Safari, or Internet Explorer. Firefox users are currently still stuck with Silverlight.
Content streams in fast and in HD quality, and the interface is identical, if not superior to that seen on their native mobile apps. As well, it was nice to see little features, like preview-skimming of a video, being included in the desktop site. Though if anything, it would be nice to have a manual quality selector, like you might have seen on YouTube, as the start of a stream would occasionally come in at a low resolution, and would only eventually switch to HD.
iOS / Apple TV
On my iPad and iPhone Netflix works just as expected. There aren’t any feature omissions, video pipes in at HD resolutions, and your progress syncs across devices as you would expect. Also, there are little feature inclusions, like the ability to zoom in on widescreen video on the iPad with a double-tap of the screen. As well, there’s also inbuilt AirPlay support, which works well alongside a native Apple TV app.
Which, speaking of, is a platform no other Australian service has dared to touch. And, as a person who loves his Apple TV, the Netflix app is great, and also appears to have feature parity with every other Netflix app, with great streaming quality, and also an entirely usable interface. And for a TV app, that’s pretty unique.
Along with a solid iOS app, Netflix on Android is superb. While I wasn’t able to try it on a tablet, I did try the phone app, and picture and sound quality were both fantastic. In fact, the interface for Netflix’s Android app almost feels more platform-suited than their iOS app, with a clean Material design aesthetic and flow, a fast overall feel, and a structure that feels fully-featured, with everything from subtitle support, to even push notification support for new show alerts. Chromecast support also comes out of the box, and works as expected. All in all, an impressive app.
Windows Phone I’m luckily testing a Windows Phone for an upcoming review, so was able to try Netflix on both a flagship, and a budget device, and I’m happy to say that it works well, even on a platform that’s usually ignored by developers.
In my short time with the app I found that it’s fully featured, content loads in hot resolutions, and, again, it (almost) just works. The only problem I witnessed was a bug where subtitles basically froze, meaning if you need or want subtitles, you might just be out of luck on a Windows Phone. If you only have a Windows Phone, this is probably the best streaming video app we’ve seen for the platform yet, but still, maybe it could still use some work in terms of bugfixes.
This is the part where recommending Netflix becomes a little less easy. As we pointed out yesterday, Netflix’s library is just plain small when compared to their US offerings. Sure, there are some highlights, such as 6 seasons of Mad Men, a selection of great movies, as well as every episode of Netflix’s Original Series’ like House Of Cards and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Though generally it just feels lacking.
This is especially true if you’ve seen what their US service provides, and I constantly found myself turning on my US VPN to access that library. So, apart from some alright initial offerings, the only way I can really say Netflix is better than the competition is by saying that, yes, their original content is fabulous, and that, yes, with the single >$9 Netflix subscription you can use a single subscription to access, through a $10+ VPN, another nations library. For me, I think that’s worthwhile, especially since you can now subscribe in Australian Dollars to Netflix, and you don’t have to go through the rigmarole of downloading apps from the US App Store, but it’s still admittedly a little challenging even for myself.
When Netflix’s main purpose is to provide convenient access to entertainment, I’m not sure if everyone will want a VPN, and without one the local content lineup is passable, but still a little challenged.
Netflix is super easy to cancel. On the left side of your Account Settings page, just click Cancel Account, and you’ll be on your way to a Netflix-free life.
If you can afford to buy a VPN subscription alongside a Netflix account, then this service is a no-brainer.
Thanks to Netflix’s global account system you’ll be able to fairly easily access the superior US library, as well as the Australian catalogue if that ever gets interesting. Though, with that said, if you just want to pay $10 a month for a service, you might still be a little out of luck when it comes to Netflix. Without a VPN, it’s just another streaming service, with a great technological edge to the competition.
It still has the B-grade movies, and tonnes of children content, but overall it’s lacking in content ambitions. Netflix’s Original Content is the biggest thing going for it through its Australian launch, though at the same time, I still think Stan has been more competitive in terms of capturing brand-new, third-party content like Community and Better Call Saul.
And in the end, Netflix Australia is just another isolated library of shows that you might like, or that you might have already watched.
I know it sounds like I’m being a little critical of Netflix, but frankly, there was a lot of hype, and a lot of teasing from the company that their Australian launch would be something of worth, and right now it feels like more of a soft-launch. Hopefully in a few years the market will have weeded out the less serious streaming contenders, and we’ll have a few more focused services to choose from.
Quickflix has always been a bit of a work in progress. Competitors, like newborn Stan and Foxtel-backed Presto, have spent months trying to win customers through interesting content libraries and admirable device support. Yet Quickflix comes across as confused in execution and awkward to use. To be fair though, Quickflix has made some smart moves in recent months, and isn’t yet out of the game, with promising acquisitions of some classic HBO and BBC content, but they still has a lot of ground to cover when it comes to improving their clunky interface, poorly thought-out device support strategy, and their insistence on using the Silverlight plugin for web playback.
Sign Up / Pricing
Signing up to Quickflix is a far more streamlined experience than it used to be, thank goodness. You enter your email, choose a plan, punch in your details with a credit card number, and you’re ready to go. As is now the norm with a lot of other streaming services too you’ll also get a 14-day free trial of Quickflix by default, with $9.99 being billed monthly following the initial evaluation.
As with other services, Quickflix puts a lock on simultaneous streams, which is an admittedly generous 3 users per account, but this still might be difficult to fit under for bigger families. As well, there’s no way to request for more access, which by comparison is a feature exclusive to Netflix.
Data usage might also be a concern too, with Quickflix still yet to secure any unmetered terms with Australian ISPs.
Click the image to see more
Despite multiple redesigns, Quickflix is still visually messy and inconsistent across devices. TV shows with multiple seasons aren’t grouped together on the homepage. Different box-sets get odd, different slots. And the few movies Quickflix gives users for free are similarly poorly featured.
Another strange part of Quickflix is their ‘Premium’ content, which is an add-on iTunes-style service on top of the subscription service.
While the ability to buy new releases in a single interface is fine, there’s an unfortunate lack of distinction between free and ‘Premium’ content.
For example, see that ad for Fury up above? Despite being logged in, with an active paid subscription, that ad still leads to a ‘Premium’ paywall, with absolutely no warning from the homepage. Nobody likes a bait-and-switch, so hopefully their a-la-carte ideas are improved, or removed altogether.
Overall platform discovery is poor, and their homepage editorial just isn’t up to snuff at the moment, especially compared to their competition. Personally I think this could be helped by some sort of automated Charts system, such as iTunes Charts, which would help through automatic curation. Though Quickflix just lacks the personality and moderation of the competition.
By the time you realise that their homepage is useless though, you’ll soon find that search is pretty decent on Quickflix. It still sometimes brings up completely random results, and is again filled with separated boxsets of TV series, rather than single hubs, but it’s fast and it works.
In general though, Quickflix feels super disjointed, and on each platform, whether it’s on the web or on a games console, the interface is different in confusing ways. Apart from that, the only other feature of Quickflix is a ‘My Playlist’ section, which I guess you could compare to Netflix’s Watch List. Though, again, it isn’t supported on all platforms yet. And this sort of sums up Quickflix. Despite a head start, Quickflix still comes across as unfinished when placed side-by-side with rivals.
Click the image to see more of … well … nothing…
With more and more people (including myself) switching off their TVs and turning to their computers to watch movies and TV shows, decent browser support is critical in 2015, and any attempts to defend the big screen as the ‘proper way’ to experience movies or TV shows is pretty much over, at least in my demographic.
Sadly, though, as with other web apps from Stan and up until recently Netflix, Quickflix relies on Silverlight to push content through the browser rather than a more ubiquitous platform like Flash. Silverlight was first launched in 2007 by Microsoft as a competitor to Adobe Flash. Though, as time went on, it was soon seen as a lost cause for Microsoft, with HTML5 gaining significant traction in browsers and on mobile. Microsoft ceased development of the plugin in 2013, though it’s still a popular way to protect video streams, even with its small 64% user adoption rate as of May 2011.
As a product of its time, Silverlight was fine. It was chunky, and it wasn’t exactly a popular plugin for users, but it did its job. With that said though, in 2015 it’s just not a relevant web standard anymore. Not only does Chrome for Mac not even support Silverlight, but when I switched to a browser that did support it (Safari) to watch a show, the playback experience was simply broken. I clicked play on an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm and waited. And waited. And waited. But nothing happened. Maybe that’s a problem with the plugin, or the player, or the browser, but in the end it all comes down to the fact that Silverlight, as a plugin, is already dead. To launch a service now with a reliance on it is just an act of ignorance, especially when the world’s top streaming platforms (Netflix and YouTube are already using the open HTML5 standard.) Perhaps the web Quickflix player will work for you, though it shouldn’t be up to the user to work around a website for compatibility, it should be up to the platform to make sure their content works with popular setups. While I couldn’t test it, playback on the web, according to Quickflix, is at the moment limited to SD. If Quickflix is competing with piracy then it’s losing.
Looking beyond the fact that the Quickflix iOS app is just a reskinned iOS 6 app, their mobile attempts are, again, frustrating. As well as an ugly design, the app is just flat out buggy and broken. There’s no Airplay or Chromecast support (Stan and Netflix support both this), playback is only in SD, and the organisation of the app is outdated at best and gross at worst. For example, the organisation of ‘Premium’ movies is also just as frustrating here as it is on the desktop. And even worse, if you want to rent a ‘Premium’ movie you have to leave the app, check your emails for a link, open Safari, login to Quickflix, purchase the movie or show, then go back to the app to watch it. Pass.
Surprisingly Quickflix’s best mobile overall experience is available on Android. If you want to fire a video to your TV, you can with Chromecast. If you want to watch something off your Playlist, you can. And if you want to buy a Premium movie, right in the app, you can. The interface is Holo, which is nice to say the least, and it’s actually almost coherent in terms of finding content, searching for movies and shows, and just getting in and going.
I’m guessing this is the blueprint for a future revision for Quickflix’s other apps. Playback is fast too, and video pipes in at nice HD resolutions. With that said though, the only problem I find is the custom player used, which wouldn’t hide my notification tray, but I’m not sure whether this is just a bug with Oppo’s Android skin or whether it’s an app thing. There were a few hiccups with the app too, namely an occasional error message, but if you just want to Chromecast a movie to your TV, and if don’t really watch media on your computer, Quickflix on Android ain’t bad. In fact, it’s sorta good.
Windows Phone / Windows 8 Didn’t have a chance to try this, though the most recent user review says “Videos don’t restart and glitch all the time”, which doesn’t sound out of the ordinary for Quickflix apps. The last update for the phone was in May 2014 too. Playback is also in SD.
PlayStation/Xbox This app is a bit slow, particularly on PlayStation, but it seems more functional than any other app. HD playback is available too, which is great, and Quickflix just generally it feels right at home on console. Only real issue is the UI, which, again, doesn’t feel like any other Quickflix interface. Consistency is king guys.
Chromecast Works from the Android app, and worked fine for me.
Apple TV Not supported yet in any way.
Quickflix has content problems. Despite an investment of sorts from HBO, the platform doesn’t have any standout movies or TV shows. Their best content is also hidden behind the ‘Premium’ paywall, meaning you might as well use Google Play or iTunes over Quickflix. According to the company, deals exist with Disney, NBC Universal and BBC Worldwide, as well as with Lionsgate. Yet movie selection is poor and the TV library, while having some scores thanks to HBO and the BBC, still has big gaps in other departments. Also, Quickflix has, just recently, found itself in a financial struggle of sorts, meaning they’re far less likely to invest in anything too risky.
Cancelling a Quickflix account is easy as pie, with a big button on the settings page. A+ here.
Quickflix has a fine selection of content in isolation, but it’s still buried and thin in comparison to, say, Presto or Netflix. Mixing paid content with subscription is also incredibly scummy, and just makes me not want to use the service in general. Their apps are generally disappointing too, excluding their Android app, and no Airplay support on iOS means I can’t watch their content the way I want to.
If Quickflix is competing with piracy, then they’re failing, hands down, in both accessibility and in content, unless you use just Android and Chromecast, or a games console.
If you really need to watch a particular show, like The Sopranos, I would give Quickflix a trial for a month or so. But still, there are far better platforms available, even from less experienced companies. All Quickflix has going for it, for now, is maybe some cool content deals, but their platform itself is hot garbage.
Presto was originally launched in March of 2014 as a movie-only subscription service, and gained a lot of press as a potential Netflix competitor. Despite an initially small platform footprint, a humble library, and also an absence of TV content, the service has grown into a seriously good deal, and their device support keeps getting better and better. In recent months too, thanks to a large investment from Seven West Media, the company also started a roll out a TV service which, similarly, destroys the competition in size. Just in terms of content, Presto has a genuinely diverse selection of movies and TV shows, with a bigger library than both Stan and Quickflix, as well as a unique selection of local titles from the Seven Network. Also, for new release movies, and even some classic movies, such as Pixar films, Presto wins in the content department. Though there are some catches to their content head-start.
Sign Up / Pricing
First up, Presto is split into three different payment plans. For $15 you get Presto Entertainment, which is their entire TV and Movie library, though alternatively you can pay $10 for either Presto TV or Presto Movies. Basically it’s like choosing the Movie channels and the Entertainment package on a Foxtel subscription, which is quaint given Presto’s part-Foxtel ownership. As well as this, the sign-up process itself is a bit goofy, with a confirmation email never arriving for my account. I’m not alone too. Though support, which operates from 7am to midnight, 7 days a week, sorted me out quickly and without any sass. Also, just recently Presto introduced a 30-day trial to the mix, meaning you can try it for a whole month without losing any cash.
When it comes to simulatenous streams, a single Presto subscription is capped at 2 users, which is bare-bones compared to the competition, and might mean the service is untenable for bigger families. Though on the flip side, even though Presto likely won’t take a big toll on your home data cap, because of SD-only streaming, the service is now unmetered for Telstra and Foxtel Broadband users, which is a plus.
Presto’s interface is sort of like a middle-ground, resting in between Quickflix and Netflix. It’s a bit slow on desktop, and the iPad app could do with some changes, though, in contrast to Quickflix, in general they’ve so far emphasized quality over platform quantity, which I prefer to a suite of crappy apps. Slowly but surely too, they’ve started to roll out new apps, including a brand new, improved iPhone app, though they still don’t support AirPlay with the Apple TV.
Presto’s homepage is also really well put together, with a curated selection of interesting titles from the service’s library plucked out by an editorial team. And if that ever gets stale, a Trending section has proven itself to be a great discovery mechanism for when you just can’t think of what to watch. Search is also fantastic, with the unique ability to search by person, meaning a search for Tom Cruise gave me hours of great movies to watch. It’s fast and precise. Admittedly, though, their team doesn’t really have to do much to showcase great content, because Presto’s library itself is fantastic. There are some great TV boxsets, some incredible movie choices, and on top of that everything is organised in a smart way. Shows have hubs, with rich metadata, and the service also remembers your progress through any chosen item. Rotten Tomatoes reviews and cast info are also great, and just in general the Presto system of organisation is perfect. Presto also has a nice Watch List feature, which is another pattern between these services. And I’m happy to report it works really well.
Presto’s device support has grown a lot since I last took a look, though at the same time there’s still some work to be done.
Web Browser The web interface for Presto is probably its best asset, though it can be a hog in some places. Presto’s homepage is a bit sluggish, and it even killed a Chrome tab on a new Macbook Pro, which makes me worry about potential access on an older computer. Though in terms of design, menus are big and smart, and the whole site feels like a dynamic app, rather than a static page. I also have to give Presto a pat on the back for actually using a Flash Player for their web playback. Seriously, thank God for that.
Though with that said, the actual playback of shows isn’t fabulous. As with all Presto video, you’ll be watching in compressed SD, which sometimes feels like watching a pirated DVD from Bali. As well, the video player itself opens as a box on top of the website, and it can be hard to actually activate the video controls on their player when compared to the leanback experience of competitors. As well, just by inspecting the Flash Player itself I can see that Presto is hosting their videos on Ooyala, a video provider which can have some hiccups on Australian internet. But after just an hour of use I can report that, generally, Quickflix’s web interface is pretty good. It’s smart, there are plenty of shortcuts (like a quick menu for adding shows to your watch list), and the Flash playback, based on my experience, was fast and nice. Plus the solid foundations mean it should be easy for them to smooth this out over time.
Presto on iOS is a little weird. On iPad, the app is a little antiquated, and on the iPhone their app looks new, shiny, and functional. So I’m going to assume that Presto is currently building a major revision for their iPad app, because as it stands it’s a bit underwhelming.
For starters, on either app there’s no Airplay support, and the tablet structure, while fully-featured, also feels a bit dated in places, looking more like an iOS 6 app rather than a new app. The video player is also weirdly huge, as if they stretched out a phone UI and put it on a tablet. Playback is in SD, though it works fine and streaming is fast and smooth, so maybe that’s for the best at launch.
In contrast, their new iPhone app looks new and fancy, but it doesn’t work that well. I had to restart the app a few times, buffering is a concern, and it doesn’t really seem as smart as it could be, with no obvious way to add movies to your Watch List either.
Presto’s Android tablet app is pretty much a port of the iPad app, which isn’t a good thing. It’s slow and stuttery, though I guess it gets the job done. And also, there isn’t a phone app. For a first effort, it isn’t great.
Lack of platform support is a little frustrating, but at least it’s better than Quickflix’s plan of moving fast and breaking everything.
Chromecast support, though, is great, and works as it should on Android and iOS. Though, because of my short trial time, I might have not seen problems that may exist.
Presto’s movie content is world class compared to their local competition, with a lot of its library coming from Foxtel’s Movies channels. According to the company their providers include MGM, NBCUniversal, Paramount Pictures, Roadshow Films, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Twentieth Century Fox, The Walt Disney Company, Warner Bros Entertainment, Hopscotch Entertainment One, ICON, Studiocanal and Transmission Films. And just by looking at the homepage you’ll see that Presto is a killer movie service, though that’s to be expected given its higher price. There are also just a lot of great classics too, and I was surprised to see things like a whole range of Pixar movies, and my favourite older titles like the Die Hard series.
Presto TV, which just launched recently, is also still fresh, and its library is also world-class in some aspects, though lacking in other more niche areas. For example, at launch they only have the first series of The Newsroom, and also they have all but the last series, season 8, of Dexter. And while Presto loves to list of their launch titles, often they only offer older seasons of shows.
Speaking of content though, Presto is in quite the predicament in the way it’s competing with Foxtel’s own Foxtel Play service, which makes me wonder whether Presto might intentionally be shooting itself in the foot as a way to bring more value to Foxtel’s own streaming services. Though with that said, just in the echo chamber of competition, Presto’s initial offering is incredible in a number of ways, though lacking in a few other ways. Though, with the might of Foxtel behind them, month after month Presto is improving, and that’s definitely a promising sign.
Cancelling Presto is easy, though you will have to look past the fact that Presto calls a cancelled account a ‘paused’ account. More confusing than it could be, but still, considering this is Foxtel’s baby, consider yourself lucky.
Presto, as you’d hope, dominates when it comes to content. The presentation is still a bit undercooked, though at the same time that’s to be expected from a brand new streaming platform. At least it works. Airplay support is, again, a strange omission, which is odd given Stan and Netflix’s support of the Apple content-pushing system, though Chromecast support means that watching awesome TV shows and movies on your TV will only cost another $49. Content is king with Presto, offering a slab of shows and movies you won’t be able to get anywhere else, though with that said, it still isn’t a one-stop shop, which is a common conclusion for every service. Thanks to increasing competition too, that probably won’t change.
Stan is without a doubt one of the most promising video streaming service to be built in Australia, just as a platform, though it is missing a lot of the content appeal of Presto.
For $9.99 a month StreamCo’s service, which is a joint venture between Nine Entertainment Co. and Fairfax Media, will give you access to an adequate TV and movie library, with a lot of specific content wins, though also a lot of holes broadly speaking. Little nuggets of gold like exclusive new episodes of Community and Better Call Saul shine bright though.
In terms of platform, Stan is simply the best place for streaming, apart from Netflix, with quality apps available from launch on iPhone, iPad, Android, and desktop. On top, Airplay and Chromecast are also supported at launch, with a native Apple TV app also apparently in the works. If ubiquity is important to you, Stan is an interesting proposition.
For Stan, it seems that they’re more focused on little glimmers of light with content, such as a current promotion of James Bond movies, and of a single new release movie, rather than a one-size fits all model.
Sign Up / Pricing
Signing up for Stan is super simple. Just enter your email, your password, credit card, and some other details and you’re ready to go. From there too Stan offers the most generous free trial of any local service, with 30 days of TV and Movie access offered for the nice price of free.
Like Quickflix, Stan lets 3 users stream from their library at the same time, though, also like Quickflix too, Stan has no unmetered options on any local ISP, so you’ll have to be careful not to go over your data cap.
Stan’s UI isn’t exactly perfect, but it’s close to it, with a consistent, clean visual style across all platforms. It’s safe to say that their designers were inspired by Netflix, but it also still has its own unique twists, as well as great features ripped straight from Netflix, such as a continuity-style feature where you can put down one device, pick up another and keep watching your last watched item from the homepage. It’s fast and seamless.
The only real interface issue I’ve experienced is to do with search, with sluggish performance, a lack of real search filtration when compared to Presto.
Though going back to the good bits, menu’s are great on Stan, with simple ways to sort through content when compared to the local competition, with a choice of genre’s, collections (James Bond movies), and an option to see everything available on Stan. There’s also a Kids section, which locks kids out of mature content and instead just lets you, or even themselves, choose some cool child-friendly TV shows, documentaries, and movies.
Charts would be cool addition for discovery, though I’m sure this will eventually be added as the service matures.
A My List feature is also available, giving users a Netflix-style way to come back to content that might be interesting. It works well, as far as I can see, and again, thanks to a simultaneous launch on iOS, web and Android, the feature is consistently applied throughout each interface.
If anything, my only other complaint is a lack of TV apps on Xbox, Apple TV, or PlayStation, though it’s early days, so hopefully things like this arrive soon, and at least the apps already available are stable and work as promised.
Unlike Presto, Stan unfortunately relies on Silverlight for movie playback, a platform Microsoft themselves have even abandoned. This means that Google Chrome simply cannot be used to watch anything on Stan, which is a shame. If you move to Safari or Firefox though, Stan’s web app is close to perfect, with quick streaming, HD options, and also the ability to go fullscreen. The web player, in comparison to Quickflix’s broken one, is also pretty nice, despite its Silverlight reliance. And again, I have to commend StreamCo’s consistent design style, which means the website feels more like an app rather than a disconnected web recreation. But they still need to add an HTML5 player, if that’s possible, or at least Google Chrome support. When you’re competing with piracy you really can’t afford to make these kinds of DRM sacrifices at the customers expense.
While there are a few misplaced drop shadows, the iOS interface for Stan is definitely nice on the eyes. The home screen is fast and smooth, though search is, again, still a bit slow on the iOS app. The video player, which is a non-native one it seems, is a great first effort, but the custom video player isn’t as polished as it could be, with little bugs occasionally occurring, such as the time still showing throughout playback, even when watching a video in fullscreen. Airplay support is great too, and I was darting videos between my iPad and my Apple TV with ease.
The Stan app on Android is another great experience, and the only difference I could really see between this and the iOS version was a visual goofs when streaming video. For instance, while watching an episode of Top Gear the video would flash blue when it was switching between HD and SD, though this was in part due to a weak Wi-Fi signal. Tearing was also a bit of an issue, and the video wasn’t as smooth as it was with the Quickflix app. Chromecast support makes up for this though, and again, the UI both fits with Android, while still feeling consistent with Stan’s overall design style.
While it’s still hard to judge Stan’s content lineup for now, at launch it appears to be complementary to Presto, and destructive for Quickflix.
For example, Stan occasionally is missing newer series of TV shows, in quite a disappointing way, though it also has a lot of the classics that Presto lacks, such as a personal favourite, BBC series Life On Mars, or some cool little things like new episodes of Community, Better Call Saul, and other cult-favourites like Daria.
Though touching on that again, a big gulf exists in season availability. Dexter on Presto has series 1-7 available, while on Stan it only has the first three up for grabs.
Though besides this, just observing the homepage shows that while Presto has more fresh movies, Stan fills in a lot of their gaps, and vice-versa. Content deals currently include Sony Pictures, the ABC, SBS as well as their World Movies subsidiary, Viacom, MGM, BBC Worldwide, Showtime, and CBS. Stan’s deal with ABC Commercial, a content house for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, means you can watch Summer Heights High, Ja’mie: Private School Girl, Upper Middle Bogan, It’s a Date, The Moodys, Angelina Ballerina, Bob the Builder, Thomas and Friends, The Wiggles, Redfern Now, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, Jack Irish and Janet King.
Another non-exclusive deal exists with Viacom Global Networks, with rights to SpongeBob SquarePants, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, iCarly, VICTORiOUS, Avatar: The Last Airbender, Legend of Korra, Teen Mom, My Super Sweet Sixteen, Geordie Shore, South Park, Tosh.0 and Reno 911.
There are also talks of potential co-productions from Stan, meaning a lot more local content is on the horizon from Nine, the ABC, and SBS.
At launch, Stan is promising, though time only time will tell in terms of whether its content will remain fresh. As always, this part of the comparison is super subjective, though personally I still find Presto to be more up to date, while Stan is more complementary, with some personally impressive exclusives.
Cancelling Stan is easy, with a big, obvious button available on the Account Details page.
As a platform Stan surely isn’t as mature as Netflix, but it’s definitely the best platform for streaming video in Australia. Though with that said, Presto still holds the crown for more premium offerings. There are a few specific exclusives for Stan, such as Better Call Saul, but their new releases are more sporadic compared to Presto. Personally, I’m going to be using Netflix and Stan for the time being.
While Netflix is the most mature streaming service out there, in Australia their catalogue is lacking.
For right now, the final choice really comes down to what you want out of a streaming service. Netflix, Stan, and Presto each offer unique slices of content from leading distributors, but it’s up to you to pick your flavours. As well, you really should ask yourself whether you need a subscription service at all. If you watch a lot of TV on free-to-air or Foxtel, then you might not really have a use for a subscription service. And the same goes for movies too. If you already spend less than $25 on movies a month, then maybe your best option is to rent what you want, when you want it from iTunes, Google Play, or your local video store. For me though?
Personally, I’ll be moving to a combo of Netflix with a VPN, which is a lot easier to pull of thanks to the local launch and their global subscription system, though I’ll likely keep paying for Stan just for their exclusive deals. As for Presto, right now their platform is really limiting their appeal for me. And until they fix that, their content can only tempt me.
If you still have any questions regarding this guide or the services, feel free to let them fly in the comments below. I’ll do my best to answer them.
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