The Bottom Line
The Hulu Plus app is an attractive option to iPhone, iPod, and iPad users because it's the only way to access Hulu content on the iOS. While it offers a solid library and some good features, nagging issues, especially around what shows are available, mean you should look long and hard before subscribing.
- Access to larger library than standard Hulu
- 720p high-definition streaming
- Works on non-iOS devices
- Interruptible streaming
- Not all shows available in Hulu Plus
- No AirPlay support
- Some streaming/buffering problems
- Not enough content, especially new content
- Has ads, despite subscription
- iOS app compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad running iOS 3.2 and newer
- App is free, but subscription is $7.99/month
- Allows users to stream TV and movies to desktop computer, mobile devices, gaming consoles, and other web-connected devices
- Content is primarily from network TV, classic TV, and some basic cable channels. No premium cable channels (HBO, etc.)
- App supports 720p HD streaming; web version maxes out at 480p standard definition
Guide Review - Hulu Plus iPhone App Review
Hulu Plus is an extension of Hulu, the popular website that streams TV shows and movies to computers via a web browser. Because the Hulu site uses Flash, and Flash famously doesn't run on the iOS, iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch users can't access the site. Enter the Hulu Plus app.
Hulu Plus is more (and, in a few ways less) than an iOS version of the Hulu website. Instead of just offering the same content as the web version, Hulu Plus brings a substantially larger library to iOS users--but in order to access any of it, even the content available free on the website, users must pay US$7.99/month.
In exchange for that fee, users get access to thousands of episodes from hundreds of TV shows, including dozens of shows not available to users of the website. Hulu Plus users also get a deeper back catalog, including every current-season episode of many shows (as opposed to only the 5 most-recent episodes on the website).
While the Hulu Plus library is undoubtedly much bigger than the free library, it's got some major holes. Whether it's worth $8/month will depend on your tastes and what you've already seen.
While the claim of full seasons is often true, it's not universal. For instance, the U.S. version of The Office is missing Season 2 Episode 10 and Season 3 Episode 7, with no notice. That's not exactly a complete season--though to Hulu's credit, it offers extended producer's cuts of a number of episodes of that series.
Hulu Plus also offers complete series like The X-Files, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Law & Order: SVU, Desperate Housewives, Miami Vice, and Dragnet. Such a larger library is appealing, except that the shows with the most episodes have been off TV, and available on DVD, for 5-10 years (or 30+, in the case of Dragnet), so if you really wanted to see them, you may already have done so. As a result, it can be hard to find something you really want to watch on Hulu Plus (I started running out of things I was truly interested in after about 3 weeks).
To compound the frustration, some shows available for free on the website (Fringe, for example) aren't available via the app. Given that app users are paying customers, that's unacceptable.
A major benefit of Hulu Plus is that it streams video in 720p HD, while the web-based version is standard definition only. Hulu Plus subscriptions are also portable to other devices, so your subscription gives access on the iOS, PlayStation 3, and other web-connected devices, which is a nice perk.
That said, Hulu Plus subscribers still see ads during their shows. Ads may be necessary for Hulu's economics, but if subscribers have to see ads, they should at least see fewer.
For some people, Hulu Plus may be a good value. After all, the $8/month subscription is fairly minimal. How valuable it is will probably depend on how many of the older shows in its library you haven't seen or want to see again.