The 15th annual Pocket-lint Gadget Awards are nearly upon us, which means in just a few weeks we will be celebrating the best devices across a number of categories including smartphones, TV, laptops and cameras.
There are 18 main categories this year, with a newbie joining the party and a couple of last year’s categories seeing a merge. As usual, we have been, and will be continuing, to give you a rundown of each category’s nominees and why they have been selected.
In this feature, we are focusing on the nominees for best streaming service 2018, a category that was separated from the best home entertainment device category last year.
Amazon Prime Instant Video
Amazon has a heads up over some competition in the quality of the films on offer through its Video service. Although there might not be more films as such, the amount of more recent movies in comparison to Netflix is apparent. They are still plucked from the release window nearer the end of a film’s cycle, but from a seemingly better pool.
The user experience for many devices has dramatically improved over time too and although there are no profile options as yet, you can still mark shows or films for later viewing. The Amazon tie-in also means that content especially commissioned in the US for its version of Amazon Prime Instant Video will also be exclusively available in the UK too.
Apple Music is a service with access to tens of millions of songs. It has been designed to combine music you have bought with music you’ve saved from Apple’s cloud services in the Apple Music library. Siri has also been programmed to work with Apple Music so you can ask her to play the best songs from 1994… and she will do just that.
Once you’ve started playing a song, you can swipe up to reveal the next songs in the playing queue or lyrics to the song that is currently playing. Apple Music is a single app that combines your music, a streaming service and a worldwide live radio station. Everything lives in one place, so you can stream anything choose or you can let Apple Music choose for you, making it very convenient.
The BBC has responded to changing viewing habits in recent years, not only being one of the first services to offer on-demand content, but also offering the ability to stream live content, with that expanding to include 4K HDR for the recent World Cup. It’s a great experience that spans across TVs, mobile and tablets, as well as online, making BBC programmes accessible anywhere.
Increased access to older content – for a boxset style service – has seen BBC iPlayer widen its appeal; it’s no longer about catch-up, it’s about viewing quality programming from the BBC. The recent push to establish login for user IDs not only tailors recommendations, but enables resume play across different devices. BBC iPlayer, for those in the UK, is a tremendous service.
Netflix offers a wide selection of movies and TV shows, with several series being exclusive to the platform or even made and funded by Netflix itself. The user interface of Netflix is also pretty much standardised, offering a similar experience no matter the platform. Almost all of the portals offer the ability to set up different profiles too, meaning you can store favourite shows and films for future viewing, and get personalised recommendations for each member of the family individually.
Most of the films and TV episodes are presented in HD, which means they are 1080p and have 5.1 surround sound where applicable. 4K video streaming is also available for some content, in HDR and Dolby Vision for supported devices. Netflix also offers the ability to download movies and TV shows to your mobile device, so you can watch them offline, which is an excellent feature.
The Sky-owned Now TV is a service offered by the broadcaster and provider for those without access to a satellite dish or want something more simple and flexible than a conventional TV package. It offers content to view live and on demand that would normally be broadcast by Sky on one or more of its many channels.
With Sky being higher up the movie release window list, the films on offer through Now TV are excellent. The service is also speedy in use, with films playing quickly after selection. Now TV also uses adaptive streaming, meaning the bitrate can be altered depending on internet speed and its quality is very stable over a half-decent connection for an overall great experience.
Spotify is the current King of music streaming, with over 70 million paying subscribers and 160 million users overall. You can add your own music to your Spotify library and this streaming service can be accessed on a wide range of speakers, soundbars and other home entertainment equipment via Spotify Connect.
Spotify gives you access to millions of tracks and ready-made playlists, along with Spotify radio. It will learn as you listen and through associations, will make recommendations based on your tastes. Spotify also offers Facebook integration so you can follow your friends to see what they’re listening to and it teamed up with Google to offer Chromecast and Chromecast Audio support allowing anyone to turn any speakers into smart connected players.
Voting in the 15th annual EE Pocket-lint Awards is now open, so you can let us know which one of the great streaming services above you think should win the Best Streaming Service award for this year and give us your verdict on all, or some, of the other tech across the 17 categories.
Winners will be announced at the exclusive event in London on 13 November in association with EE. Voting closes on 2 November.