In the ever-growing online video streaming market, two names stand out as the principal platforms for gaining instant access to real-time content: Google Play Movies and TV and Apple iTunes. They’re different from services like Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant Video in that they’re not subscription based. Instead, Google Play and iTunes boast vast libraries of individual movies and televisions shows that can be rented for brief periods of time or permanently purchased in digital format. Although each offers much the same content at comparable prices, there are differences that could cause you to pick one over the other. Use this Google Play vs. iTunes comparison to evaluate your options.
Seekers of video content flock to Google Play and iTunes for immediate availability of freshly released titles. Both platforms enable viewers to access newly released home video titles without so much as having to sit upright, let alone having to leave the house for a brief drive to the closest Redbox. Google and iTunes users can also pre-order movies ahead of their official release dates, making them watchable the moment they’re available.
Both platforms give consumers the opportunity to view recently-aired TV shows, too – although there’s often a delay of one to two days before the content comes available. Although neither offers original programming the way Netflix and Amazon Prime do, deals with cable networks like HBO and Showtime make it possible for viewers to access currently broadcasting shows. Again, not all titles are made immediately available. For example, willing buyers can snatch up every past episode of Game of Thrones via Google Play or iTunes, but the show’s current season remains unavailable on either platform. The exception to this is the subscription-based HBO Now, which is presently only available to Apple TV and iOS users – although a recent announcement has indicated HBO Now will be available to Android and Chromecast owners via Google Play by summer 2015.
Offerings are competitively priced, with movies running the range of cost from a few dollars (for rental) upwards of $20 for digital purchase. TV shows average between $2 and $3 per episode, with entire seasons costing in the neighborhood of $25 to $45.
iTunes viewers will face some restrictions when it comes to cross-device functionality. It’s natively available on Macs, and PC users can download iTunes to watch movies on their computers, but Android devices require painstaking and complicated third-party workarounds to stream content. Mobile access to iTunes movies and TV shows is seamless with iPhones and iPads, and iOS users can stream content via data or Wi-Fi, as well as download it for offline viewing.
Google Play is the obvious choice for Android users and is also compatible with iOS devices, with some limitations. For example, Android users can easily buy and watch content from their smartphones or tablets via the Google Play Movies and TV app, but iOS users can only access previously purchased content on their mobile devices. In order to buy Google Play content for viewing on an iOS device, the purchase has to be made via computer.
Google Play Movies and TV is also available through Roku devices, while iTunes is available through Apple TV.
Ease of Use
Google Play and iTunes offer sleek, intuitive and well performing interfaces. Searching for content is easy on both, requiring minimal effort and no learning curve. Each platform displays thumbnail images of available movies and TV shows on its main page, prominently displaying the most recent and popular releases.
Standard browser functionality is limited with iTunes and requires installation of the software, whereas Google Play can be accessed via browser. A custom search box lets Google Play users find content by title or by an individual’s name. There’s also the ability to browse by genre. The iTunes interface also includes a search box, in addition to a sidebar for filtering titles by genre or category. Android mobile users can’t access iTunes movies and TV shows on their devices without third-party intervention, but iOS mobile device users do have access to a Google Play app.
Differences exist that make cross-platform functionality difficult for iTunes-curious Android users, and for iOS users interested in playing in the Google Play sandbox. In addition to the aforementioned inability of iOS users to purchase Google Play movies via the mobile app, they also cannot download these movies to their iPads and iPhones for offline viewing and instead have to stream them. Although this is an inconvenience, it’s not nearly as problematic as the fact that no iTunes app exists for use with Android devices.
After evaluating Google Play vs. iTunes, your decision depends entirely on what your connected ecosystem looks like. Those living in Apple-approved households, operating their digital lives on Mac computers and iPhones, will enjoy a more streamlined experience by sticking with iTunes. For those who live in technologically mixed households where iPads, PCs and Android smartphones co-exist harmoniously, Google Play may be the better choice.