The world's most anticipated streaming video service began its beta rollout recently, providing an unknown number of customers with the chance to stream films from Redbox Instant for free. Created by Verizon (NYSE: VZ ) and Redbox owner Coinstar (NASDAQ: CSTR ), Redbox Instant provides subscribers with unlimited streaming and four DVD kiosk rentals for $8 per month. New subscribers get a one-month free trial by just entering their credit card information in order to access the account.
Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX ) employs a similar policy. Hulu Plus, which sells pre-paid cards at retail, has offered consumers the chance to try the service without entering any payment information.
When BetaNews reporter Alan Buckingham tested the service, he found that playback was "incredibly smooth, especially given that I was using a wireless connection."
"There was no stutter and no buffering," he said.
Other users were not nearly as lucky.
"Good movie but streaming was horrible," Redbox Instant user Movie4Stream wrote in his review of Thor. "Buffered every few seconds. I have wideband 40 mbps internet so this is just ridiculous. Fix this Redbox or the service is dead!"
Movie4Stream's problems are not an isolated incident, but they might be tied to the browser or the app that consumers are using. Buckingham was only able to successfully stream Redbox Instant after switching to Firefox. Internet Explorer would not work at all, and when he tried Chrome, he received error messages.
On iOS, Redbox Instant has a 2.5 star rating for the current version of the app. Users have complained that the app crashes.
"The content selection is so poor I have yet to finishing any of the movies I have started online," Google Play user Blake Richards wrote. "Service works fine on my Samsung smart TV & Xoom tab. Just have to see more choices than a whole bunch of B Horror Movies no one has ever heard of and Transformers...ROFL!"
"You earned your one star rating because we don't have a zero-star option," Paul Danger Kile wrote.
Many users also complained of Verizon's decision to block rooted devices.
"Quit being like an old person afraid of change, Verizon," Steve Bachmeier wrote. "Rooting will continue to happen whether you want it to or not. You are vending an app here and whether rooted or not should not matter one bit. And shame on Redbox...I thought you were more forward thinking than this!"
In his hands-on assessment of the new service, TechCrunch's Ryan Lawler took note of the weak content options. "The first thing you should know is that the number of options under the streaming subscription is pretty limited, especially when compared to companies like Netflix or Amazon, which have been doing this for much longer," he wrote.
It seems that Redbox has a long way to go before it will catch up to Netflix or Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN ).
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