Now that Netflix has finally brought their streaming video experience to the iPhone, it seems like a Hulu Plus versus Netflix client comparison is in order (via my 3GS). We’ll save the content selection and video quality comparison for another day, but some quickly comparable metrics are related to app launch time and battery usage. And, actually, launch time wouldn’t have been on my radar… except that Netflix comes up surprisingly slowly.
On average and while on WiFi, from a cold start the Hulu app fully loads it’s first screen in about 5 seconds as opposed to the ~8s Netflix requires. On my 3G connection, Hulu came up in about 10 seconds, whereas Netflix took 18 seconds… or more. Ouch. Of course, your connections and coverage will differ from mine but the relative comparison stands: Hulu launches significantly faster.
Winner: Hulu Plus
For a quick and dirty battery comparison, I played the first five minutes of Arrested Development Season 3, Episode 1 in landscape mode over 3G. At whatever volume and brightness I was on, probably a bit south of 50%, both Netflix and Hulu Plus drained about 2%-3% of the battery. In even less scientific testing, I watched an entire Netflix episode of Arrested Development on the gym cardio gear and it seemed to consume a couple percent more than episodes on Hulu Plus. However, episode length is probably variable and Hulu Plus does insert commercials. So for now, I’ll say the two apps are nearly equivalent when watching shorter form content… even though Hulu Plus is probably a tad bit less taxing on battery life.
Odds & Ends
While I’ve noticed some Hulu Plus app quirks and annoyances, it’s never crashed on me. Whereas, the Netflix app has already imploded in only a short amount of usage. Additionally, over 3G Hulu Plus does a much better job keeping the video stream going. Netflix video, on the other hand, takes a longer time to spin up and introduces video pauses. I don’t know what codecs, resolutions, and bitrates these guys are utilizing, and those could certainly pay a part in the differing 3G experiences. Regardless, for the moment and ignoring content options, Hulu Plus provides the better experience.