Hulu Plus on iPhone and iPad Impressions: Hello, Future of Television

Why pay for cable to watch stuff on my television when I can stream most of the TV I care about to every screen I watch for $10/month? That's what I'm thinking after using the awesome Hulu Plus iPhone app.

Here's some of our lightning impressions of Hulu Plus app on the iPhone and iPad. We're lucky enough to be using Hulu Plus, but you can still grab the app for free to get a taste, with a smattering of free stuff like episodes of The Office and Super Size Me:

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• Oh, I wish the Netflix app on iPad felt this smooth. It's a real app on the iPhone, not a hacky web page that pushes content into iOS's native h.264 stream player.

• On an iPhone 4, videos look pretty good over 3G. Not great. But pretty good. More than good enough. Over Wi-Fi, they look marginally better. On an iPad, Joel says it's "roughly on par with the 480p streams on the web."

• Ads. Yes, there are ads. Yes, even though you're paying $10 a month. Yes, they're more annoying on a phone, since they're still 30 seconds, and occur at roughly the same intervals as they do with the normal free Hulu. (Plus on app consoles like the iPad and Xbox, you can't just switch over to another window while you wait.)

Clicking a button on the top right takes you to a web page for the ad using the in-app browser.

• Subscriptions to particular series are nice. Every time there's a new episode of 30 Rock it'll push it into your queue. (It may even send you a status update. We haven't tested that yet.) The queue is helpful, since browsing on here is slightly more annoying than on a computer, and it's linked to your Hulu account.

• Movies, oddly, are buried under the 'More' tab on the iPhone. (There's a proper tab for them on iPad.) But did I just start streaming High Fidelity over 3G? Yes I did.

• When you return the app it asks you if you'd like to resume watching what you were last watching. Lovely.

• There's a built-in search that works just as you'd expect.

• The standard Hulu player interface remains intact (which is nice), minus the thumbnail previews when you're scrubbing through a clip.

• On the iPad, it feels more or less just like Hulu.com. A clean, simple design has always been one of Hulu's strengths; that's a plus. On iPhone, it's more like an app, and there's a bit of a struggle to pack all of Hulu into such a small screen. Though it works, mostly. For instance, there isn't a great way to skim through episodes yet other than by air date, recently added or popular. When you get to the Buffy show page, you have to scroll through all 143 episodes, or go back to the search tab to find the one you want. The show splash pages are pretty, though.

• Which is all to say, this is powerful stuff. Hulu won't kill the traditional cable model today or even tomorrow (there are huge content holes, even as it offers 120 seasons and 2,000 episodes of TV, like every episode of Buffy ever). But you can start to see, more clearly than ever, how it might. The app's slick, and it's the full, undiluted Hulu experience. You can get to the TV you want nearly instantly. That's kind of a big thing.

Hulu's library of TV shows and movies is only going to grow, and instead of paying for a service that pipes content to a screen or two simply in my house, I'm suddenly streaming tons of TV and movies to every screen I use—TV (through PS3 and Xbox 360), computer, iPad and iPhone. (You can also see why Apple was supposedly negotiating hard to make this happen for iTunes. It's totally compelling.)

Combined with Netflix, Hulu Plus forms, like, the Voltron of internet video. And the only thing that can kill it are the TV and movies studios that created it. Hopefully they won't, as much as the cable industry might want them to. We'll see how long it lasts. [iTunes]