Blockbuster owns the brick-and-mortar movie rental business (or what's left of it), while Netflix claims the online realm, but who will rule the mobile screen? With the debut of its movie-watching application on T-Mobile's new media-centric HTC HD2 smartphone, Blockbuster has staked its mobile fortunes on Android-powered phones rather than that other device from Apple.
People can use the service to rent or buy films from its catalog of 10,000 titles, with rentals starting at $1.99 but going up to $3.99 for newer releases. Purchases prices are comparable to in-store prices. While the initial Blockbuster app is exclusive to the HD2, which boasts having the biggest smartphone screen on the market, the company plans to expand to other Android devices as well.
In launching a movie-rental mobile app, Blockbuster is already a step ahead of digital rival Netflix. The company that's eviscerated Blockbuster's traditional business is said to be considering an iPhone app based on a survey it recently sent some customers asking if they would use a Wi-Fi version of Netflix on their iPhone.
That's something Blockbuster isn't looking at right now. Scott Levine, the company's vice president of digital, told The Times' Bits blog that the iPhone was "a little challenging," referring to the strain the device's heavy data use has placed on AT&T's 3G network. Most of all, he said Blockbuster wants to provide a good user experience through the app. And obviously, the company doesn't think AT&T can handle the extra burden of millions of iPhone owners streaming and downloading Blockbuster movies.
But if Netflix does introduce an iPhone app, it could provide an intriguing match-up between Android and the iPhone over which provides the best mobile movie emporium. The Google operating system, of course, powers smartphones from a variety of manufacturers and carriers, so making an apples to apples comparison, as it were, could be tricky.
But if iPhone owners wind up having a bumpy experience watching movies via a Netflix app, Blockbuster executives would surely feel a long-awaited sense of schadenfreude. At the same time, they're probably eagerly eyeing a spot on the freshly unveiled Android-based HTC EVO from Sprint, billed as the first 4G smartphone and scheduled to roll out this summer.
If Netflix does go with Apple, the ace up it's sleeve could be an app geared to the iPad, sporting a 9.7-inch screen that would blow away any smartphone for watching movies. If AT&T's network doesn't ruin the premiere.