Having ABC's entire catalog of programming stowed away in your iPad is a great trick that gets you within earshot of Hulu
-level awesomeness. Granted, that's not quite what the free ABC Player
provides -- we're only finding a handful of episodes for most shows -- but it's a start, especially considering how great the content looks. Flipping the iPad on its side automatically takes you to a full-screen view that streams almost instantaneously over a fast WiFi connection, though we've found one annoying bug -- triggering the orientation lock immediately pops it back to portrait, effectively rendering the lock useless within the app. Connected to a Verizon MiFi
with good EV-DO Rev. A signal strength, we were pretty blown away by how good the video still looked; it took only a few seconds longer to start streaming, but otherwise, it's a fantastic option (of course, your 5GB monthly cap might be bruised and battered to a pulp within a few days if you're a heavy user).
Netflix looked great, too, though the interface isn't as slick as ABC's -- it's clear that these guys threw the app together in a hurry. The first thing you see when you open it, for instance, is the company's standard web-based login -- it's literally just the Netflix website. Don't get us wrong, it works just fine, but there were definitely plenty of opportunities for iPad-specific customization here. The trend continues after you log in, where you see the same view you're already familiar with when you peep your queue and Watch Instantly selections from a browser on a PC. Streaming worked quite well in both orientations; it appears to just use the iPad's in-built video player, and that's fine with us. We noticed some stuttering over 3G after we stopped filming our demo, but the good news is that it only happened once, and the footage looked just as good over the MiFi as it did connected to our cable modem. Follow the break for video of both ABC and Netflix in action.
iPad ABC Player hands-on over 3G
iPad Netflix streaming hands-on