Stop me if this sounds familiar… You have a WiFi-only iPad or are going to be in an area where you have no internet access but you want something to watch. You already subscribe to loads of streaming content services like Netflix, Amazon VOD, or Hulu Plus, so why should you pay to buy a TV show episode or movie from iTunes (or worse) an in-flight movie that you may already be able to get from your paid subscription service?
With a little pre-planning and a copy of PlayLater for your PC, you wont have to.
PlayLater, which comes from the same folks that brought you PlayOn, allows you to use your PC as a DVR to record TV Shows and movies from over 40 different providers like Netflix, Amazon, Hulu Plus and a number of Network’s own websites. Then you can take these recordings and watch them on your iPhone and/or iPad whether or not you have an internet connection.
Sounds almost too good to be true, but it’s not and better yet, it is all perfectly legal!
The recordings can be saved in either PlayLater’s proprietary format or as a genuine MPEG-4 file that can be played via the free PlayLater Player iOS app, or just about any media player app available for iOS. To keep things legal, you will see that the recording contains any/all ads that would have been displayed when viewing the content on the provider’s web portal. It also contains a title placard at the beginning and the end of the video which shows the name of the individual who registered the copy of PlayLater and the IP address of the computer which recorded the video to help deter illegal sharing of content on the internet.
Finding shows to record is easy thanks to a nice clean interface and some fairly robust search routines, plus you have the ability to queue up multiple shows to record and it will just step through each one, saving it off for later use. One really nice thing for Hulu Plus subscribers is that you have the ability to record content that is normally web-only for viewing on your iPad/iPhone as well.
Now the downsides…
First, there is no guarantee that content providers wont make some change to the way their content is displayed, rendering PlayLater incapable of recording the content. Another thing to consider is that this is not something you’ll be using to quickly load content onto your device before heading out the door. You’ll have to wait for the content you want to transfer via PlayLater to record in real time before you can transfer it to your device. In contrast, TiVo’s Stream box only takes about 15 minutes to transfer a pre-recorded show to your iDevice. Lastly, the content may not always be perfect, if your internet connection is sub-par, or you have processor intensive activities running on your PC during recording, there could be some blips and artifacts that appear in the recording.
However, overall, I’d have to say that this is definitely a case where the benefits certainly outweigh these minor setbacks. In my experience, I found that it was best to queue up my shows to record overnight, that way I didn’t have to worry about it interfering with whatever I was doing on the computer. To select a show to record, just navigate to the provider/network of your choice and search for the program of your choice. Setup a queue of programs to record and PlayLater will just step through each, one by one and record them (in real-time). The one feature that I’d really like to see added in a future update is a ‘season pass’ type thing that would allow you to tell PlayLater to automatically record new episodes of shows as they become available.
In my tests I was able to successfully record programs off Netflix, HBO Go, Amazon and more. Of the channels I tested, only Hulu Plus seemed to give me some grief, constantly stopping very shortly after starting a recording. I contacted support about this and they were able to assist me in getting this working properly.
The video quality of the content looked great on the iPad and iPhone, but if you plan to try to blow it up to watch on your home television (via AirPlay Mirroring) then you might be a little disappointed as it will probably look slightly worse than DVD quality.
While certainly not as quick or convenient as just purchasing content from iTunes or download from some other nefarious means, PlayLater will help you get more mileage from the premium streaming services that you are already paying for, possibly even keeping you from re-buying content that you’ve already paid for once, and at the same time, keeping you honest. If you are someone that flies a lot or are on a train with no internet access for hours a day, you should definitely consider checking out PlayLater for yourself.
How can you get your own copy of PlayLater?
Unfortunately it looks like they no longer offer a free trial version of the software for direct download, but instead offer a risk-free 30-day money back guarantee. The current pricing model is a yearly subscription fee of $19.99 (a sale price) or a lifetime subscription for a one-time payment of $39.99. You are also responsible for paying the normal subscription fees to your premium streaming services (Hulu Plus, Netflix, etc).
The desktop software is only for Windows (Windows XP, Vista, or Windows 7 and requires 100GB of storage to save your shows)
For more details or to download the software head hit up the official playlater.tv website.