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How to Watch Amazon and Netflix Offline

In the olden days of a few years ago, downloaded movies and TV shows were transferred from the PC to devices like iPods for on-the-go viewing. But the ubiquity of streaming services means all the entertainment you could ever want is at your fingertips, provided you have a solid internet connection.

But what if you don't? Wi-Fi isn't everywhere and dead zones are real. Ask anyone whose commute involves a tunnel or packed airplane. When you're approaching the end of an episode and you run out of buffered video, it's a hair puller.

Thankfully, many streaming services now have the option to download content for offline viewing. That means you can finish that film or TV season finale even as you enter the tunnel, drive across the plains, or take to the skies.

Netflix

In the US, offline viewing arrived on Netflix in November. It's far from the entire Netflix catalog, but you can have your fill of Netflix original programming (Stranger Things, 13 Reasons Why, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) to start. To find something, tap the hamburger menu () > Available for Downloads.

How do you download a show or movie? Go to a movie and look for the download icon under the description (an arrow pointing down at a line, similar to this: ); if it's a TV show, scroll down and look for the arrow next to the episode(s) you want. Tap the arrow and your selection will download to your device; when you want to want to watch, tap the hamburger menu () and select "My Downloads."

Netflix Downloading

On Android devices, you can select where to send downloaded content, namely an SD card if your phone or tablet supports them. Give the app permission to access the card, and you're in business—downloads to the card won't take up precious storage space on the phone's internal drive. Playback is limited to the device that downloaded it; the app essentially puts DRM on the file, locking it to the device where that app that downloaded it resides. So you can't swap cards with friends or even your own devices (like a PC).

Android? Users – You can now download to your SD card so there's always room for more. pic.twitter.com/Uqt2GSjPw5 — Netflix US (@netflix) January 24, 2017

If space is a concern, make sure Netflix is set to Standard Video quality, which downloads faster and uses less storage. Tap the hamburger menu () > App Settings > Video Quality > Standard. In Settings, you can also set your app to only download over Wi-Fi, see how much phone storage you have left and how much is currently used by Netflix videos, and delete all downloads at once.

To selectively delete downloads, go to My Downloads > Edit and click the X in the red box next to movies or episodes you want to ditch.

Amazon Video

Select movies and videos streaming on Amazon Video—available via Amazon Prime for $99 a year or separately for $8.99 per month—can be downloaded to a phone or tablet running iOS, Android, or Amazon's Fire OS.

Note that you have to be the paying member to download; it doesn't work for Amazon Household members.

You'll see a download button () on eligible videos in the Prime Video app.

Amazon Video downloads

When a download is complete, a "Downloads" tab will appear in the app on iOS. Tap that to access all your downloaded videos. On Android, tap the hamburger menu to find them.

Amazon Video downloads

If storage is an issue, go to Settings > Streaming & Downloading > Download Quality and select Good, Better, or Best, which are described by how much space an hour of video uses up (Best is 1 hour using 0.9GB of data and storage on iOS or 0.46GB on Android).

Android users get a Data Saver setting for really small, low-res versions. Set it to only download on Wi-Fi to spare your carrier or your phone data charges.

Amazon Prime Video - download options

As far as availability, there are limits. Oscar-winner Manchester by the Sea can be downloaded—because Amazon owns all the rights as the distributor; you can probably expect the same download option for Moonlight (winner of Best Picture, not La La Land) when it begins streaming via Amazon on May 21.

Amazon Original TV shows like Bosch, Catastrophe, Man in the High Castle, and the Emmy-winning Transparent can also be added to the download queue, as can flicks like Spectre, 10 Cloverfield Lane, Caddyshack, Creed, Room, and every episode of Doctor Who since the relaunch in 2005.

Add-ons from premium channels like Showtime and Starz do not allow downloads (sorry, American Gods fans).

Of course, Amazon is more than willing to rent or sell you individual movies and shows that are not streaming on Prime. Apple iOS users will have to buy or rent on Amazon.com via a browser and then return to the app to watch (so Amazon does not have to give Apple a cut of the purchase price). Just tap the "Library" option on iOS (hamburger menu > Library on Android) in the app to find your purchases.

YouTube Red

Downloading videos from YouTube is a cottage industry all its own. Vendors inundate PCMag all the time hoping to get a mention in our our tutorial. But even if they're not explicitly breaking YouTube's terms of service, such options may prevent people from making money on YouTube (aka, their livelihood).

YouTube download (Red Trial)To be on the up and up and still get YouTube video downloads, subscribe to YouTube Red, which axes commercials and allows for video downloads.

Click the Save icon () on a video on your iOS or Android phone or tablet and select your video quality: Medium (360p video) or High (720p)—some offer a Low (144p) option. Grab a whole playlist if you desire. The icon turns blue after the download is complete. Access them from the Library tab, under Saved Videos.

Naturally, YouTube Red restricts playback to a device signed into the same YouTube Red account and downloads disappear after 30 days. After the free trial, you'll only see the download button when you subscribe to Red for $9.99 a month. Once you are down to only 5 percent or less storage on a device, you can't download videos with YouTube Red until you clear some space.

Downloads work for all YouTube Red Originals. None of those shows are exactly household names, but that may be because you're not under 18. As for the rest of the videos on YouTube, it's at the discretion of the uploader if they're available to download. But with 300 hours of video uploaded every minute, you can probably find something to download and watch

Try it soon. Some pundits believe Red is already dead.

Hulu

Hulu—which is owned by a conglomeration of TV network owners—is a bit paranoid about illegal downloads, but it actually promised in January that downloading options are coming to the service.

Hulu is in the process of revamping the look of its service (it's already rolled out on some devices, like gaming consoles). That's in anticipation of its $40-per-month Live TV streaming service. Chances are, downloads will arrive with that in late 2017 or early 2018.

Purchases: iTunes and Google Play

Like with Amazon above, if you buy or rent a movie or TV show on a service, you are generally given the right to download it to your mobile device. The primary ways of doing so remain as they have since time immemorial (in internet years): iTunes Store on the iPhone or iPad and the Google Play Store on Android.

iTunes Store appApple fans can shop on the computer desktop using the downloadable iTunes software for Windows or macOS. Purchases or rentals can then be transferred to an iOS device on the account. But the iTunes Store is also an app; Apple has such deep deals with studios that it'll allow pre-orders of flicks just arriving in theaters.

Note that Apple will usually display the HD price. But standard definition is often a dollar or two cheaper and takes up less space on your iOS device; tap SD on the far right for that option.

iTunes movie downloads

Keep tabs on your download progress via the Purchased tab on the bottom right in the iTunes app. When you're ready to watch, fire up Apple's TV app (available on iOS 10.2+ devices).

On Android devices, purchases from the Google Play Store can be found in the Google Play Movies & TV app, via the hamburger menu () > Library. While in that menu, set it to only show your downloaded media as desired. Media that is not downloaded will have a download button much like you see on YouTube videos. Click it to pick if you want an HD or SD version.

Google Play - download deletion

After the download button turns to a checkmark, tap it again to remove the video from the device. You'll get a warning that to watch it in the future, you'll need to be online. Or you can simply download it again.

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