The Pros and Cons of FandangoNOW

When I was approached over the summer to review FandangoNOW, my first reaction was: do we really need another video streaming site?

I have iTunes and AppleTV; I have Amazon Prime and a Roku; I have Flixster and an app to screenshare to my television. And of course I have Netflix. In other words, my movie streaming is pretty well covered.

Well, it was.

Suddenly, and presumably not coincidentally, Flixster Video shut down, and Flixster’s parent company, Fandango, launched FandangoNOW. I won’t pretend to know the history there, but needless to say, FandangoNOW suddenly became much more important to me – Flixster had been my streaming iPad app of choice, and with a September trip to Europe, I saw an opportunity to test the platform out.

Note: I personally find the Vudu web interface to be extremely dated, cluttered and cumbersome, and try to avoid it at all costs.

Movie selection

As you’ve probably discovered by now, most streaming platforms offer approximately the same big releases to buy and rent for approximately the same cost. Without doing deep analysis, FandangoNOW doesn’t deviate from this format.

That said, because I tend to see a lot more movies than most, I had some more specific queries:

  • The Survivalist – just released, this one is available to rent/buy on iTunes and buy only on Amazon, but is unavailable on FandangoNOW
  • Wakefield – recently released, this one is available to rent/buy on both iTunes and Amazon, but not on FandangoNOW

Of course, neither of these titles are ones most people have heard of or ever care to watch; FandangoNOW’s coverage of major releases seems to be pretty good, but there are clearly some differences in library availability.

iPad App

I rarely watch movies in my Ultraviolet library on anything but my iPad, for a variety of reasons, so the iPad app is critically important. Thankfully, the app is pretty slick, boasting a modern interface and simple navigation.

The library conveniently separates out your downloads from your full cloud-based library (something that Apple’s Video app frustratingly doesn’t do), and upon clicking on any movie you’re given basic details presented in a visually pleasing way.

Upon play, the videos look good and feature the convenient “skip ahead/back by 30 seconds” functionality that is a mainstay in Amazon Video’s app. Interestingly, to fast-forward or rewind, you’re asked to swipe rather than rely on traditional buttons.

Overall, I am very pleased with the iPad App.

There are only two things that need improvement, one major, one minor:

  • The minor nit – In the Watchlist tab, it would be great if the app visually highlighted which movies are available for purchase, and which ones aren’t. For example, I have Wakefield on my Watchlist, but I have to click into it to see that I can’t buy, rent or watch it.
  • A major pain – allow me to browse my library alphabetically, dammit! If you have a large Ultraviolet library, like I do, it’s very frustrating to scan a screen full of movie posters that are in seemingly random order. There is no search option.

Website

The website is less important to me, but FandangoNOW.com mirrors the app in visual appeal and works pretty efficiently. Both browsing and searching are pretty easy.

The website does have a few quirks:

  • When I click into my Library, I get to choose between Movies, TV Shows, and Ultraviolet. From a user’s perspective, Ultraviolet doesn’t matter – my library should be segmented into those first two designations.
  • As with the app, you can’t search or filter your library to find the specific movie you want to watch. Again, the order is completely random, which means I have to visually scan through my entire collection. It’s a pain in the ass.

Overall, the website looks good and is easy to use, but suffers from a few glaring usability issues.

AppleTV

As far as I know, there is no AppleTV app. I watch almost everything on my main TV through the AppleTV, which basically means that unless I want to screencast from my iPad, I’m never going to use FandangoNOW in my living room. I could play it through my Samsung TV, I believe, but who wants to do that?

Roku

FandangoNOW is available as a Roku app.

Conclusion

FandangoNOW is a prettier, sexier version of the defunct Flixster Video, and serves all of my needs as an Ultraviolet player. With significant market penetration by Amazon Prime, iTunes and Netflix, I’m still not convinced there is a lot of room for another streaming platform to purchase films, but as is, it’s worth checking out.

By Erik Samdahl
Related categories: Miscellaneous, Movies

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