Limited content, but unlimited potential
Crackle is one of the internet’s fastest-growing media resources, offering free, full-length movies and TV shows along with trailers, clips and edited programmes. The web service found at www.crackle.com is based on Flash video, and therefore inaccessible from iOS devices, but a free app for the iPad, iPhone 4 and iPod Touch has now been released.
It’s a universal application, so it’s optimised for both the iPad and the iPod touch or iPhone. It’s rated 17+ due to some of the streamed content, but it doesn’t have its own parental filter, something we hope will be remedied in the next version.
Crackle for iPad: Content
Crackle is owned by Sony Pictures Entertainment, so the company’s back catalogue features heavily in its movie and TV content. Material from Columbia Pictures, Tri-Star, Screen Gems and more also features. There’s some great material in there, and new films and shows are added regularly. At the time of writing, full movies on offer include The Hireling, Sex, Lies and Videotape, Godzilla classic spin-off Mothra and a couple of Three Stoogies comedies.
Look out too for popular TV shows such as S.W.A.T, What’s Happening, Samuri X, Dilbert and The Tick. There’s even original content produced especially for the service. Original shows are typically four to seven minutes per episode, with an entire series lasting up to 90 minutes.
Special ‘Minisodes’ are also available, consisting of 30-minute and one-hour TV programmes edited down to between four and six minutes. They’re somewhat pointless, and do little more than pad out the contents listings.
Crackle for iPad: Features
The app’s user interface is very straightforward. Available content is divided into movies and television sections, with highlighted shows also listed in a Featured section. You can filter content according to genre and opt to hide movie trailers, short clips and Minisodes. It’s easy to find what you’re looking for. If you sign up for a free Crackle user account, you can rate movies and programmes, subscribe to your favourite shows and queue material for later viewing. Content is streamed over WiFi, and also 3G, so keep an eye on your usage if you’re not on an unlimited data plan.
Crackle for iPad: Picture quality
Subject to a robust internet connection, Crackle's picture quality is very good. It hardly ever stutters (though occasional pixelation is evident), and its 360p and 480p videos are an acceptable resolution for the iPad. Over the Atlantic, Crackle movies are interrupted by adverts every 15 minutes or so, but here you're more likely to see a few seconds of blank screen instead. No doubt the commercials will arrive over time as UK partners are signed up.
Crackle for iPad: Verdict
Crackle was previously blocked outside the USA, but last year Sony made selected content available for viewers in the UK, Canada and Australia too. Unfortunately, licensing restrictions mean we don’t get everything that’s available in America. The UK service has very few full TV shows, and almost no full seasons. When you filter out the clips and trailers, the movie section looks a little sparse too. Even so, the application is free and growing in popularity. A wider range of content will surely come, and early adopters are risking nothing.
Crackle for iPad price: Free, available for iPhone and iPod
Crackle for iPad launch date: out now