• Crackle

    Australia is abuzz with speculation this week as the local Hulu deal supposedly edges closer and closer to completion with or without the support of the commercial free-to-air networks. Meanwhile, Sony's Crackle app largely slipped under the radar when it was released just a short time ago, despite bringing a selection of more than a hundred shows and movies to the table. Perhaps it's because Crackle is one of the few online video services that legally works in Australia, and users have become so accustomed to geo-restrictions on video sites that Sony's iOS offering was left ignored by one of the few markets in which it is available.

    Crackle, as you may know, is Sony's online archive of some of its older television and film content (think Hulu if it was owned by Sony and was a big hit in the 90's). Originally known as a P2P service called Grouper, the site was acquired by Sony in 2006 and restructured to house their own videos. It was once available all over the world, before its owners got cold feet and decided to make the site a US only affair. Since then, they've added the UK, Canada and Australia to the green list of countries, with an annoying catch: available videos vary from country to country, meaning some of Crackle's marquee video such as Seinfeld episodes and the Ghostbusters franchise is still locked down. Any content at all is a start though, and Sony should be applauded for this.

    Of course, this is a review of the app rather than the service, so how does Crackle work on iOS? Not dissimilarly to a standard video streaming app. Just like Hulu, Netflix or Vevo (there are many, many others on offer for our friends in the United States) Crackle presents a featured section upon launch, along with a look at what is most popular on the site and a browse menu to see all available shows and movies. To be honest, the selection is small. Very small. And what's there is not that great anyway.

    The app behaves nicely enough (though it does crash occasionally) and I don't have any particular complaints about the interface, but you won't find anything special about the experience in Crackle. One thing that did impress me was the load time for movies. Over a decent internet connection, full length films start playing within just a few seconds and rarely stop to buffer. Video quality is not so impressive, but it's good enough to be watchable. Just don't expect anything in the vicinity of HD for now.

    Crackle isn't revolutionary. The range of video is, to put it lightly, poor and Sony doesn't make up for it with a beautiful interface. However, this is all free content, and even if there's only one or two films you find worth watching (I finally got to see Groundhog Day) there's no harm in giving it a try – and major kudos to Sony for actually bothering to arrange a content distribution deal in Australia (which, given the time it has taken so far for other video services to set up, must be difficult). What Crackle really provides is a tiny but very exciting preview to a world where movies and TV shows are ready to be watched with just a few taps.

    Version reviewed: 1.25
    Price: Free
    Developer: Crackle, Inc.
    Designed for: iPhone, iPod touch and iPad
    Size: 6.3MB
    App Store
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