Hulu.com is the freebie version of Hulu Plus, which offers a decent variety of streaming video entertainment at no cost. The only catch with Hulu.com is that users are limited to watching from their computer browsers, and the only supported way to watch Hulu on an iPad or iPhone is through the pay Hulu Plus app. So what are the workarounds available for iOS users who want to stream free Hulu content remotely?
Your first thought might be to navigate to Hulu.com via Safari, Google Chrome, or any other available browser. Unfortunately, Hulu’s a lot smarter than that and can detect if you’re accessing their site with a mobile device. The furthest you’ll get in that direction is an extremely limited (if not sleek) interface that gives you access only to entertainment news clips, trailers and short scenes from movies and TV shows. You can’t even watch an old episode of I Love Lucy. But don’t let that stop you. There’s one other way you might not have tried.
Using a remote desktop application, you can watch video content on your iOS device that’s technically streaming on a desktop or laptop computer. Remote desktop applications require software installation on your host computer as well as your mobile device, and enable you to access your computer via a mobile device or computer in another location. Using this solution, you can log into your home computer with your iPhone or iPad, launch the browser, log in to Hulu.com and get your entertainment on. It’s not the most convenient setup and it might be a bit clunky if you’ve let yourself get spoiled by mobile-friendly apps like Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant, but it can work.
The first thing to do is to find a remote desktop application that does what you want it do. The App Store is full of them, including the highly popular Chrome Remote Desktop from Google – the only trouble with this app is that there’s no audio support. There’s Teamviewer, which can handle an incredibly broad range of platforms including PC, Mac, Linux and all sorts of mobile devices, but this software is more geared for pro users running online meetings, and is a lot more complex than what you probably need. If you don’t mind paying a yearly fee, you can choose LogMeIn, which is free for the first 14 days but costs $99 per year to subscribe. But why would you pay $99 to avoid paying $96, the yearly cost of Hulu Plus?
If you’re looking to spend as little as possible, your best bet is an app called Splashtop 2 Remote Desktop – Personal. It’ll cost you a one-time download fee of $4.99 as of this writing ($2.99 for the iPhone version), but when compared to alternatives that charge steep yearly subscriptions, five bucks is chump change. The only catch to Splashtop 2 is that you’re limited to accessing your computer from within your local network. If you want to be able to access your computer from afar, adding the app’s Anywhere Access Pack lets you do that at a cost of $16.99 per year or $1.99 monthly.
When you download the Splashtop 2 app to your iOS device, you’re prompted to create a unique user ID and password. Next, you have to install the Splashtop Streamer software to whatever computer you want to connect to. Installation is quick and unobtrusive, and provides you with the main dashboard through which permissions are granted and connections are made.
After you install the software to your host computer, you’ll then log in with the same credentials you created when installing the app to your iOS device. This login credential is what’s used to link your iPad or iPhone to your computer, so you don’t have to worry about ports and other complicated things. You’ll also be directed to generate a one-time security code that will have to be keyed in via your iPad or iPhone the first time you access your computer remotely, but after that all you’ll need to connect is your login ID and password.
Since getting both video and audio is necessary to the experience of watching Hulu.com on iOS, you’ll have to make sure the computer knows to broadcast sound to your mobile device. To do this, access Settings on the computer dashboard and check the box next to either “Output sound to both this computer and mobile device” or “Output sound only to mobile device.” If you choose the other option – the one that reads “Output sound only to this computer” – you won’t be able to hear what you’re watching on your mobile.
Once you’ve got this all set up, it’s time to log in to your computer from your iOS device. From here, all you need to do to watch Hulu on your iPad or iPhone is to launch your browser and navigate to the website. Using your iPhone or iPad to get around on your host computer is as simple as tapping, dragging, and pinching and zooming. Numerous gestures are supported by the app, including single tapping to perform a left mouse click and tapping and holding to perform a right-click. Dragging a single finger pans your screen, and dragging two fingers operates the scroll bar.
Getting around on the Hulu.com website and searching for content from your mobile isn’t exactly a dream experience, but it will work. Audio is delivered clearly through the Splashtop app and video quality is also good, although you might sometimes experience a bit of lag between the two. By tapping the full-screen button on the browser screen, you can expand the video to fill your iPad or iPhone screen and watch it vertical or horizontal orientation.
Sure, the whole setup is a little clunky. It even costs a few bucks to set up. But in the end, paying a one-time app download fee (and maybe even a $17 yearly subscription for remote use) is far preferable to being forced to pay almost $100 per year for Hulu Plus.
On top of all that, Splashtop has other uses. Thanks to its nearly lag-free streaming, it actually enables you to play high-end computer games on your iPad or iPhone, provided the games are owned and installed on the base PC or Mac. A separate app, Splashtop Touchpad ($4.99 as of this writing), lets users create a custom and touch-based control scheme, and is essential to the process. But provided you have a decent connection (Wi-Fi, not data), it works well enough to be enjoyable.