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- Most streaming services, including Netflix, Hulu, Disney Plus and HBO Max, offer an iPad app.
- While these apps have a lot of the same features, some are easier to navigate than others.
- I use all four regularly, but Netflix has the most comprehensive and user friendly interface of the bunch.
Though a smart TV is still the best way to watch
movies and shows at home, many of us also watch content on tablets and smartphones. Aside from my TV, I tend to stream most of the series and movies I watch on an iPad Air 4.
I like to catch up on shows as I’m cooking or baking, so it’s easier to set my iPad up next to the stove than to turn around constantly to watch my wall-mounted TV. Using my iPad also makes it simple for me to stream no matter what room I’m in, and it even lets me watch content on-the-go.
Thankfully, every major streaming service has an app that lets me access my favorite programs on my iPad. Most of these apps are similar to what you’ll see on each platform’s web browser interface, which allows for easy crossover between different devices.
Netflix, Hulu, Disney Plus and HBO Max are some of the most popular streaming services, and I use all four on my iPad every week. That said, some of these apps are easier to navigate than others and mobile features differ depending on which service you use.
To help determine which streaming service delivers the best iPad experience, I compared all four platforms across several categories. If you’re someone who frequently streams content on an iPad, this comparison will help you prepare for using each streaming service on your iPad.
Netflix vs. Hulu vs. Disney Plus vs. HBO Max: iPad features compared to
Based on the data provided in the storage settings of my iPad Air 4, all four of these apps take up minimal space — just 341.1 MB total. Hulu takes up the least, at 56.5 MB, and Disney Plus takes up the most, 111.4 MB. The other two apps, Netflix and HBO Max, fall in between those.
These numbers represent the size of the app immediately after downloading it onto your device; what you do with the app after will affect how much storage it takes up.
For example, there was an additional 7.37 GB of storage stacked onto HBO Max because I had a full season of “Succession” downloaded to watch offline. Offline downloads, which every app offers to varying degrees, will make any of these apps take up more space on your device.
Though Hulu technically takes up the least space to start with, the differences here are too eligible to declare a winner.
Every streaming app organizes their homepage a little differently, but typically you should be able to pick up what you were last watching easily.
Netflix’s app is incredibly easy to navigate, thanks to the homepage being so comprehensive. The first category on the
homepage is “my list,” which includes all of the shows you’ve saved. Below that, there’s a category titled “watch it again,” which lists shows and movies that you’ve already watched in full. That feature has always been useful to me as a chronic re-watcher.
Netflix sticks a few categories that change from time to time in between the top two and your “continue watching” lineup, while all the other services have that toward the top. Those categories include shows that are popular at the moment and ones Netflix recommends based on your streaming history. Netflix also lets you access your list from its own section on the menu bar.
The other apps all offer some form of recommended categories as well, but I never have to scroll too far on Netflix to find exactly what I want.
Hulu doesn’t have a spot for your watchlist on their homepage, and they also bury the continue watching section under a few different sections. Above the shows you’re currently watching, Hulu has “TV for you” and “movies for you” sections that I’ve found aren’t always entirely tailored toward me based on what I stream.
To access your watchlist, there’s a section on the menu bar that’ll bring you directly to it.
Disney Plus places the “continue watching” fourth section on its homepage, below buttons for each major franchise on the service, a section with recommendations based on your streaming history, and a section with titles that have recently been added to the service.
Having buttons for each major franchise makes it easy to find what you’re looking for if you opened the app with a certain show or movie in mind.
Of all the apps, Disney Plus makes your watchlist the hardest to find. Like Hulu, it’s not on your homepage, but unlike
, there isn’t a button for it on the menu bar. To access the titles in your
watchlist, you have to hit your profile name on the menu bar, and from there, you can see an option for your watchlist.
HBO Max has one of the best “continue watching” features that’s missing from other apps: an edit button. If you’ve decided you don’t want to keep watching a show, you can delete it from your list.
“Continue watching” is the first category on HBO Max’s homepage, with “For You” recommendations below it; I’ve found these recommendations tend to be the most current or popular shows on the service rather than titles specifically geared toward my tastes. Below that, you can access your watchlist.
All four apps offer English closed captioning on all of their titles. Depending on the title, captions may be available in different languages. The size, color, and font style of the captions varies per app, but none of them let you customize the captions. This is a shame, since HBO Max’s web browser player actually does offer this feature.
None of the apps have an edge over the others here, as they all have the same feature and it’s well done and easy to read on all four of them.
All four apps support offline streaming. You can download titles while connected to Wi-Fi and then watch them anywhere without an internet connection.
Not every title on the Netflix app is available to download for offline streaming. There’s a filter when looking through the selection that allows you to see which programs are available for download. You can have up to 100 downloaded shows and movies on a single device at one time, and un-watched downloads expire after 30 days.
Smart downloads is a feature Netflix offers that will automatically delete a movie or episode from your device once you’ve finished it, and then it will download the next available once you’re connected to Wi-Fi again..
Like Netflix, you can’t download every title Hulu has on the service. Certain titles, including some series that are currently airing on cable, do not include the download option. Additionally, users can only have 25 downloaded titles across all profiles on the account. Downloads are available for 30 days, but expire 48 hours after you begin watching.
Disney Plus gives their users unlimited downloads for offline streaming, and users can download the same title on up to 10 devices. Their entire content library is available to download, and downloads won’t expire as long as you log into the Disney Plus app with an internet connection on your mobile device at least once every 30 days.
HBO Max says that most “most shows and movies” are available to download, but this feature is only available to subscribers of its ad-free plan ($15/month). The ad-supported plan ($10/month), does not support offline viewing.
Users with an account that supports downloads can have up to 30 titles across all profiles. Like Hulu, the downloaded content is available for 30 days, but expires after 48 hours if you’ve hit play.
Winner: Disney Plus
Disney Plus is the only one of these streaming apps to have a group watch feature on mobile. While Hulu also has one, theirs is exclusive to the web browser. All Disney Plus titles can be turned into a group watch by clicking the button on the page of whatever movie or episode you’re trying to watch. While the feature doesn’t allow for chatting between group watch participants, you can still watch in-sync with your friends.
Winner: Disney Plus
Like most mobile streaming apps, Netflix maxes out at 1080p high definition (HD) on a table. Though Netflix doesn’t support
streaming on mobile devices, it does support high dynamic range (HDR) playback on some models.HDR gives videos enhanced contrast and a wider range of colors.
The iPad Air 4 only streams in up to 1080p in standard dynamic range (SDR), but most iPad Pro models will stream content in HDR using the Dolby Vision or HDR10 formats. Most newer iPhones will also stream in HDR.
Out of all the streaming services on the market, Netflix has the largest selection of HDR titles to stream, so it has a slight edge in this department
You can see full video quality details for each iPhone and iPad model here.
Hulu does not support 4K or HDR streaming on mobile devices. Instead, playback maxes out at 1080p and SDR.
Disney Plus supports up to 1080p playback on mobile devices. Like Netflix, however, it does support HDR with HDR10 and Dolby Vision on select tablets and smartphones. Additionally, Disney Plus offers IMAX Enhanced streaming on all devices for certain Marvel Cinematic Universe titles. This automatically adjusts the film’s aspect ratio to take up the full height of your screen, letting you see even more action on your tablet.
HBO Max supports up to 1080p streaming in SDR on mobile devices. Though the service does support 4K and HDR for select titles with its ad-free plan, this feature is not available on iPads or mobile devices.
The bottom line
As one of the newer major streaming services, Disney Plus has a comprehensive app with a lot of great special features. Though they don’t have a homepage that is as personalized to your tastes, the unlimited downloads of every title on the service is a huge plus for people who like to stream on the go, and features like mobile group watch and IMAX Enhanced are unique to the service.
However, Netflix sets the standard for streaming, and its app is best if you’re looking for an uncomplicated and easy to navigate experience that feels personalized to you. Netflix will also offer you the best streaming quality across a range of mobile devices, and it currently has the largest library of HDR titles.