Netflix is the popular movie service where users can create a list of DVDs they want to watch, which are then mailed one at a time. In addition, Netflix has recently added a streaming component (“Watch Instantly“) where you can watch from your computer.
The problem with this, of course, is that the service simply isn’t obsessive enough. Sure, you can update your queue whenever you’re at your computer, but what if you’re out walking around, and you suddenly realize you need to watch The 400 Blows this week, or move Tommy Boy to the top of your list? What then?
Fortunately, there are a slew of apps for managing your Netflix account from your iPhone or iPod touch, and today I’m looking at three: two free, and one available for $0.99.
Dashbuster Free 1.1.5
Of the three apps, Dashbuster Free has the most going for it. It works for both Netflix and Blockbuster’s service as a queue management program. That is to say, you can view items you’ve already added, change their order, or delete items. You can also see which items you have at home, and which DVDs are on your “saved” (i.e. currently unavailable) list. You can also view info about the films, including the box art, plot, and who stars in it.
What you can’t do is search the Netflix database and add films to your queue—a feature in Dashbuster Premium, currently unavailable from the iTunes store.
I found Dashbuster to be my favorite of the three apps: it’s fast, stable, and with a lot of options. The minor annoyance of not being able to add new films is totally mitigated by the fact that it’s free. As the saying goes, “It does what it says on the tin.” The program mentions that it will carry ads in the future, but it’s unclear whether that means it will be an ad-supported version of the pro app.
Instant Queue Add for Netflix (v. 1.0)
There’s no shame in being a one-trick pony, provided the trick is cool. The problem with Instant Queue Add for Netflix (also free) is that while it lets you find and add movies from the “Watch Instantly” selection, the choices are limited. You’re presented with a list of the top 50 WI titles, as well as those that are new this week.
You’re unable to search the entire list of WI titles, something the developers promise will be made availble in the next release. You’re also unable to view or manage your own WI queue.
While I liked the idea of Instant Q+ (as its icon is titled), the product itself is so limited that it’s not especially useful. Still, it’s free and stable, and now that Macs can use Watch Instantly, I can see why fans of the streaming service would find it of value.
pFlix – Pocket Flix (v. 1)
pFlix is the only paid application I tested ($0.99), but the program in its current form is so bug ridden that its unusable.
Offering pretty much complete access to your Netflix account, pFlix allows you to view and alter your queue, add and search for films, get recommendations, watch YouTube trailers, and share your recc’s with friends (via email).
But the program is so unstable that not only is the response time sluggish (the screen often goes dim while waiting to respond to a tap), but the program frequently crashes, and once even froze my iPod touch, requiring a reset (the first I’ve ever done).
The developers state that they’ve submitted a bug fix to Apple early this month (November 2008) which will also add the option of sharing via Twitter. If that manages to take care of these problems, pFlix could well live up to its name of giving you Netflix in your pocket. As it is right now, the wildly unstable program wouldn’t even be worth it as a free download.