Hulu Plus First Impressions

Remember how big of a deal it was that Flash wasn’t available on the iPad? You know, we need that to watch TV shows and stuff. Like on Hulu. Well, Hulu has finally come out from behind the curtain with its answer: Hulu Plus. The universal app just went live, and we’ve got the first impressions.

The app, as expected, is free, but the content is not. Hulu has rolled-out its $9.99/month subscription service…well, sort of. Right now, to gain full access, you have to request (and receive) an invitation. We’ve requested ours, but have not yet heard back. That being said, we don’t know how long it will take before everyone who wants access can have it immediately. We assume that Hulu is wanting to test the bandwidth waters before allowing full-blown access. Quite frankly, though, launching an app that is hardly useful right now is off-putting.

The app is well organized and easily searchable.

To tide you over, they are offering some free content. 10 TV episodes, one full movie (Super Size Me), and a handful of excerpts are available to watch. This has allowed us to test the speed, quality, and interface.

Even though this will be a pay service, content is still interspersed with advertisements, just like Hulu has always had. We can’t say we’re not disappointed; most of us are already paying for advertisement-laced TV either through cable or satellite. Still, you are getting TV on-demand, complete with a queue, and you can skip around inside shows (after watching more brief ads) just like on a computer.

As a universal app, Hulu works both on your iPhone and iPad. Much like with Netflix, if you are watching a show on one device and leave, it will pick back up where you left off on the other device. Snazzy. The iPhone version also supports iOS 4.0’s backgrounding. As such, we look forward to this implementation on the iPad later in the fall.

The quality over Wi-Fi and 3G both are phenomenal. We can see this eating into our limited bandwidth with AT&T far too quickly, if we aren’t careful. There are more visible artifacts over 3G, as expected, but nothing to get upset about, and shows load quickly. The software adjusts the quality of the video feed depending on your connection, so those with great 3G reception should expect better results.

The quality is unsurprisingly good, given what we’ve seen with the Netflix app.

Hulu is promising full seasons of popular shows on the major networks (as opposed to limited seasons on the free browser experience) and entire series catalogs for many popular TV shows.

We’ll continue to toy with the free content while we wait for our subscription invitation, so check back soon for a more detailed review.

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