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Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Jason Snell

Amazon Instant Video goes offline, leapfrogs Netflix

Note: This story has not been updated for several years.


So there I was, halfway through Netflix’s “Daredevil” series and headed out to a weeklong getaway at a series of locations with terrible Internet connectivity. There would be plenty of opportunity for evening TV watching, so I wanted to pack some shows for the trip. “Daredevil” seemed the obvious choice, but for one major drawback: Netflix says it won’t ever allow its content to be downloaded and cached for offline viewing1. So if you’re getting on a long flight, going to a cabin in the woods, or even haunting a series of hotels with terrible Wi-Fi, you can’t count on Netflix to provide you with video entertainment.

If you’re an iOS or Android user you can now count on Amazon Instant Video to fulfill your offline video needs. (Previously this feature was just available for Amazon’s own Fire tablets, but now it’s available to everyone via an update to the Amazon Instant Video app.)

There are some caveats—not all content is available for download, due to rights issues. But there are plenty that are, including Amazon’s own originals, including “Transparent” and “Catastrophe.”

When you first play a video, the app warns you that you’ll be starting a 30-day offline viewing period, after which the file will be unplayable unless you connect to the Internet for reauthorization. So even if you’re taking a very long trip without any Internet connectivity at all, you should be able to stockpile plenty of videos.

I tried the app update that unlocks this feature this morning, and it worked just fine. My only quibble is that the app should probably have a second mode that displays when it knows it’s offline, and just shows you your offline video. Instead, an offline iPad still shows the entire Amazon Video library (along with a warning that it can’t connect). To see what you’ve downloaded, you have to tap on the Library tab, then tap Refine and choose On Device from the Display submenu.

It’s not pretty, but it’s a list of all your downloaded videos.

Okay, maybe it’s not elegant—but with one feature it has made Amazon my go-to service for when I’m traveling. I’m both a Netflix and Amazon Prime subscriber, so I have choices here. But as long as Netflix refuses to support subscribers who are traveling to places with lousy connectivity, it’s effectively pushing those subscribers into the arms of its competition.

  1. Yes, yes, I know pirates have ways of downloading Netflix stuff, but like the average Netflix user, I’m just not interested in going down that road. 

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