Derek De La Cruz | Feb 05 2013 08:55 PM
It has been a little over 5 months now that Redbox and Verizon introduced Redbox Instant by Verizon
, a streaming service set to rival the likes of Netflix
, and Amazon Prime
. At the initial announcement, Redbox Instant
was in alpha testing and about a month ago entered beta stage. One Month Free Trial access codes have been arriving to those that signed up for the beta program. Mine is just about to expire, so it's time to weigh the experience and see if Netflix and others like it have anything to worry about.
The first thing that caught my eye about Redbox Instant is that it designed to be the one stop shop for both physical and digital movies. Its streaming side is very similar to Netflix, but Redbox Instant offers you the opportunity to purchase or rent digital content much like Amazon Prime & Google Movies. The nice thing about Redbox Instant, and where it provides good differentiation from the other services, is the ability to rent DVDs at their kiosks as oppose to waiting for them in the mail.
Registering is no picnic, they give great detailed instructions but registering and logging in is a bit redundant; there's no carry-over in experience from the mobile app to the website. Redbox and Redbox Instant have two different websites & applications to access Redbox content. Redbox physical DVD rental on Redbox Instant is subpar compared to the regular Redbox website and application. I found this to be cumbersome, as since it should be using the same underlying data and structure. The filter and presentation of the content is different and annoying on Redbox Instant. There have been times where I have found DVDs available at a kiosk through Redbox but it does not show up at the same exact kiosk through Redbox Instant. It's probably just a wrinkle, but until it is ironed out it can be frustrating having to use two different apps when one should suffice.
Redbox Instant is also a subscription service and they offer three different plans. For $6 (Basic subscription), you get only streaming and the ability to buy or rent digital content. $8 gets you Basic subscription and four credits for DVD rentals at Redbox kiosks. For $9, you get Basic subscription and four credits to rent Blu-ray discs. If you use Redbox kiosks three or four times a month then the $8 might pique your interest. At $1.20 per rental per day for DVDs, four credits (credit = free rental for one night) are worth ~$5 after taxes. While four credits for Bluray is worth ~$6. Ultimately, you will be paying an additional $3 to gain access to stream free or rent/buy from Redbox Instant's library of movies, assuming of course that you already spend $5/$6 on Redbox kiosk rentals. I used Redbox kiosk rental well before Redbox Instant and at these prices with the credits make these subscriptions very intriguing. The big question, though, is how good is the free streaming selection?
Redbox Instant offers movies for rental, purchase, and for free. I found it to be weird that you had to pay a subscription so you can buy or rent content. Their price varies in comparison to Google Play; for example, The Bourne Legacy can be rented at the same price on both services, but Redbox Instant has it for $1 more expensive for to purchase. I have seen other titles for purchase only without an opportunity to rent, or vice versa. The majority of the titles I tested in comparison to Google Play are more expensive on Redbox Instant making it a very unattractive service to purchase or rent content through. Redbox Instant does a nice job separating content you can view for free, rent or buy, and content that is available at the kiosk, but the content available for free is seriously lacking. There are absolutely no TV series available for streaming; Redbox Instant only offers movies. When your “Top Subscription” movies include Catwoman & Muppets in Space, you know you have a problem. In addition, a vast majority of their movies are old titles and their newest movies can be found on Netflix as well. The only positive I found is that the streaming was great on my Nexus 4 over Wi-Fi and HSPA+ and it works great on computer browsers.
I unfortunately had a billing issue that lead to frustration with Redbox Instant. I forgot to cancel my subscription before renewal. My fault and I took responsibility and had no problem paying for it. After further investigation, I learned you could cancel your subscription so it will not charge your credit card the next cycle. When I cancelled, I got the following, "If you select 'Cancel Now', your monthly subscription billing will end before the next billing cycle, and you will be able to continue using your subscription until the end of your current billing cycle." I went ahead and cancelled it and got ready to enjoy my last month of Redbox Instant, which is supposed to end on March 4. To my surprise, my access to the streaming content was disconnected and my four credits (part of my paid subscription) disappeared. I was annoyed by the fact that I was misled and paid for a service that I could no longer use. The frustration festered until the Redbox Instant customer support representative had no true solution, then it flat-out exploded. The streaming content could not be reinstated without charging me full price again, so I was pretty much out of luck. His solution was granting me five rental credits ($6 worth) and crediting my bank with $2-$3 to cover the streaming costs. This solution should not be the way to fix this billing issue but I was in no mood to continue. This is definitely not a way to gain customer support because it is a recipe for disaster.
Unfortunately, Redbox Instant will not work on rooted devices. Mike Lewis, a fellow writer for Rootzwiki, received his own code and attempted to use the new service but instead was greeted with an error message. He immediately reached out to Verizon through their contact portal but received no comment from them as to why this application will not allow him to stream or order videos from their kiosks. As many of you may know, we have no problems streaming movies and television shows from Netflix or Hulu Plus. It's yet another negative with the Redbox Instant by Verizon experience.
In its currently state, Redbox Instant is just not ready for prime time. The best part of the Redbox Instant is the credits you get from the subscription, but until Redbox offers more subscription content Netflix has nothing to worry about.