The Google Play store is a one-stop shop for apps, games, books, music – and of course video too.
Google has a finger in every technological pie we can think of, so it’s no surprise that it also does films and TV shows. But this is no me-too offering.
Well equipped and effectively organised, this is a legitimate and very strong alternative to buying Blu-rays and DVDs.
It’s a straight-up on-demand service, so there’s no monthly obligation. You just buy or rent films and TV shows as and when you fancy.
Purchases are kept in your account ‘forever’, while rentals expire in 30 days (or 48 hours once you start watching). Prices are a little better than the average.
You can generally buy the latest HD films for £11.99, or standard definition ones for £9.99. Rentals are £4.49 HD and £3.49 SD.
There’s more variation in TV series. The newest boxsets (say the latest season of The Big Bang Theory) tend to be £24.49, but we found Bates Motel Season 2 for £16.49.
There are regular discounts: we found plenty of HD movies for as little as £4.99.
The library is pretty good. Recent films releases are made available on the same day as Blu-rays and DVDs.
Those are balanced out by a healthy number of older titles. The same can be said of TV series – Girls Season 3 made it out before home media.
There’s also a plenty of older content from BBC, Channel 4, Sky and HBO.
We’re quite happy with the number of devices supported. PCs and Mac computers are included, though we wouldn’t really expect otherwise.
Google Play forms the heart of every Android device (phones as well as tablets), so you won’t have any issues there.
It may be surprising to find a Google presence on iOS devices, but it’s true. Google Play movies worked just fine on our iPad Air.
The caveat: the iOS app has no shop front and only handles playback. Still, it’s a comfort to know that you can switch systems without ditching your purchases.
At present, Google Play doesn’t feature on smart TVs or games consoles.
If you want to use a TV, the Google Chromecast streaming stick will see you right. Alternatively you can hook up an HDMI cable, if your device allows it.
Content can be downloaded for offline viewing on Android devices.
Google recommends doing this for optimum quality, as 3G/4G data and wi-fi can cause the occasional stutter.
Purchases have a five-device download limit, while rentals are restricted to one.
Video resolution goes up to 1080p, and audio up to 5.1 surround sound.
Only one in ten of the films we flicked through offered 5.1 – the rest were stereo. There’s room for improvement in this department.
Specifications aside, the service is a joy to use. On each platform, it’s easy to find your way around the neatly organised catalogue.
Once you make a purchase it’s automatically shelved for you, showing up on any device with your account on it.
Streaming is just a matter of pressing play, or click on the neat little pin icon and it will begin download. Lovely. Google has nailed cross-device sharing.
This is pretty much everything we could ask from an on-demand video service. The catalogue is well stocked and easy to use.
There’s a good support for different platforms. And we love how easy it is to download purchases for offline viewing.
Maybe some things could do with a little more polish – but only a little.
Monthly cost: N/A
New HD film: £10.99
5.1 sound: Yes
Max picture resolution: 1080p
Platforms: Google Chromecast, iOS, Android