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Apps Of The Month – November 2012 : Google Play Movies & TV, NavFree for iOS

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Google Play Movies & TV operated as a window into the Google Play store, allowing you to rent movies, which can be streamed or downloaded via a web page, Android phone or tablet, and view video from other sources on the same devices.

Google Play Movie & TV is as important to Google as its Nexus 7 tablet. The Nexus is, as we know, a loss leader from Google aimed at generating more revenue via the Google Play Store. It’s why Google is giving away $22.5 of credit with each Nexus 7 purchase, and why the products costs little more than the sum of its parts.

Getting to grips

The app us compatible with Android 2.2 phones and 3.2 tablets or later, and comes preloaded on most. It is a video player, meaning you can play own video files through the app. More importantly, alongside Google Play Music (not yet available in the UK) it is Google’s answer to iTunes, in that it purports to be a consumer-friendly one-stop shop for movies and TV.

Google Play is different, however. This app is principally a player for movies you rent and a means of helping you to find new movies to watch. The movies themselves can be found on Google Play, and then downloaded to or streamed and viewed with the app.

Opening up the Google Play Movies & TV app on our Nexus 7, we find two tabs at the top: Movies and Personal Videos. US users will find a third tab for TV Shows, but here in the UK we are not yet so blessed, due to licensing restrictions.

The Personal Videos section displays videos you create using your Android smartphone or tablet, as well as any videos that you copy over to your device. Unfortunately, it’s by no means the most versatile video player for Android. You’ll need another third-party app to play QuickTime movies, for instance.

More fun can be had via the Movies tab. Here you’ll find self-explanatory sections entitled My Rentals and My Movies. These display all your recent Google Play movie rentals, as well as any films you’ve purchased from the Google Play Store (although the latter is not currently possible for UK users).

Each movie entry includes artwork and information, as well as whether you have downloaded it and how long you have left to watch it. Movie rentals cost from $2.5 to $5.5 in standard-definition form, going up to around $6.9 for new high-definition releases.

Movies, movies, movies

There are lots of movies in the Google Play store, including recent Hollywood releases and a good number of classic. Once you’ve rented a movie you can view it on various devices – an Android phone or tablet, or even via the website on any web-connected Windows PC, laptop or Mac. Watching online is straightforward; simply sign in to your Google account and you can watch just as you would on your Android device.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

The rental system could be confusing to some. You have to watch rented movies within 30 days of making the purchase, and once you start watching you have 48 hours in which to finish it. During this time you can watch the film multiple times.

We tried streaming Transformers: Dark of the Moon on our Nexus 7 over Wi-Fi and found the quality perfect adequate on the tablet’s 7in display. Our office’s flaky Wi-Fi was a problem, however, and playback was occasionally a little jerky. You can also stream over 3G, so truly mobile movie watching is possible, although the signal would have to be robust.

TT: Closer to the Edge

TT: Closer to the Edge

We were more successful when we downloaded TT: Closer to the Edge, a movie that then played seamlessly. The rental purchase system is simple, too: if you are already logged into a Google account with either a debit- or credit card attached, you simply hit rent and the movie is yours. We’d recommend the download option for the reasons outlined above. It took around 25 minutes to pull down ‘TT’ to our Nexus over Wi-Fi.

Verdict

Combined with the large numbers of Hollywood releases now proliferating the Google Play store, and hardware such as the Nexus 7, Google Play Movies & TV is a game changer for Google. It offers a seamless and consumer-friendly way for Android users to watch high-quality movies, and the ‘TV’ part of the app’s name is currently a misnomer, but both are licensing issues and should be resolved in time. This app is great resolved in time. This app is great news for Android

Details

·         Price: Free

·         Contact: play.google.com

·         System requirements: Android 2.2 smartphone/Android 3.2 tablet or later

·         Ratings: 4/5

NavFree for iOS

NavFree is a free satellite-navigation app for the iPhone and iPad. It operates just as a TomTom or Garmin satnav would: you enter a postcode or an address, and it provides a quick and effective route to get you where you need to be. You can also carry out a Google search for a business name, then navigate to that business based on the results fed back to the app.

NavFree for iOS

NavFree for iOS

You’ve got a choice of two voices – Kate and Dave – within the UK & Ireland version, and they do a good job of keeping you informed along your route. You can substitute these options with one of 15 alternatives, most of which are available free of charge. If you want Snoop Dog directing your car than you’ll have to pay $4.5, though.

Satnav apps need not cost a fortune, and NavFree is an example of a free app that performs well. You can remove the banner ad at the top of the window for $3, although it didn’t interfere with the operation of the app in our tests.

Additional street maps for France, Germany, Austria and other European countries cost $3 each. Also available for $3 is a speed-camera database, which can help you to maintain a safe, legal driving speed. Remember to regularly update the database if you plump for this add-on.

Verdict

NavFree is a fully featured satnav app that will allow your iPhone or iPad to replace a dedicated satnav. We tested the app with an iPhone, however, and worry that a much larger iPad might obstruct your view of the road too much to be useful.

Details

·         Price: Free

·         Contact: navmii.com

·         System requirements: iOS 4.0 or later; 443MB storage; also available for Android 2.2 or later; 14MG storage

·         Ratings: 4.5

 

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