Amazon Prime Instant Video and Prime: what you need to know
21st Feb 2014 | 08:03
Here's what you get for £79 a year
Amazon's Prime service started off as a way to get everything from soap to furniture shipped to your door faster and cheaper, now it has expanded to offer Prime Instant Video and more.
Over the years Amazon's company strategy changed, and the e-tailer shifted its gears from being the world's internet warehouse to a digital storefront in the vein of iTunes and the Google Play Store. With that, Prime added free access to its virtual library, which includes movies, TV and books.
Amazon has announced that Lovefilm is now part of Amazon Prime, with its name changed to Prime Instant Video. But what exactly are you getting?
On the surface, Prime seems to offer a lot for a yearly fee of £79. But what do you really get for that money, and do the costs even out in the end?
If you're curious about Prime and considering signing up, we've put together a full rundown of what you expect out of the service, if it's worth the fee and if it's right for you, plus how it stacks up to competing offerings.
What is Amazon Prime?
Amazon Prime lets you order practically anything from its gigantic web warehouse and have it shipped next day for free.
It doesn't matter what the item is or its size - screwdrivers, a fancy new DSLR camera, power tools, or a big HDTV - your order will get to you in 48 hours without an additional charge.
A membership will also give you free, unlimited access to 41,000 streaming movies and TV shows via Prime Instant videos. Kindle owners meanwhile receive the added bonus of borrowing one of 350,000 books from Amazon Kindle's Lending Library. Unlike an actual library, there aren't any due dates.
How do I get it?
Getting an Amazon Prime membership requires a simple sign up process and an annual £79 membership fee.
If you're on the fence about putting down almost £80 on something you wished you could just try out first, you can. There's a 30-day trial period that offers a test run that's absolutely free.
How does it save me money?
Just about any purchase you make on Amazon comes with free shipping, but if you want it any sooner it can cost a real chunk of change. For express delivery you are looking at £4.49 per item. If you want an evening delivery then this will be £7.48 per item.
Prime is great if you buy a ton of stuff online, and the service could end up paying for itself in the end. In some cases, your £79 may pay for itself with a single purchase if you buy something particularly big and heavy.
That said, if you're not a big Amazon or online shopper, you may want to skip a £79 fee that will only add to your bills.
Internet TV and movies
Now this is the big change that the UK has been waiting for some time now. Lovefilm from a streaming point of view always seemed second best to Netflix - and as it was bought by Amazon some time ago, it was only a matter of time that the Amazon logo would take over and that's why it is now called Prime Instant Video.
With Prime, you can watch 15,000 popular movies and TV episodes stream movies and television show episodes. A few things you will be able to watch in an instant include: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Hangover Part II, One Direction: This Is Us, Friends with Benefits and Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked, as well as TV shows such as The Walking Dead, Dexter, Vikings, Downton Abbey, Desperate Housewives, and children's favourites Peppa Pig, Fireman Sam, and SpongeBob SquarePants.
Now, this is where it gets interesting: if you already have a Lovefilm account, the disc rental side of things will stay the same. But if you have a Lovefilm Instant account then you can still subscribe to this for £5.99 - the difference you will see is a new look version of the app, complete with Prime Instant Video branding.
The library of free content Prime viewers can see isn't quite there compared to dedicated streaming services like Netflix though. Plus, you will have to pay to rent or buy newer titles.
The real problem with viewing Prime Instant Video is that it doesn't work with every device out there. There's an Amazon Instant Video app for most Apple iDevices, media apps for the Xbox and PS3 as well as the Roku, but surprisingly - or not - there's no support for most Android devices other than Kindle Fires.
Free books! (If you have a Kindle)
The free library of borrowing books that Kindle or Kindle Fire owners can access with Prime is similar to Instant Streaming in that it has big titles like the Harry Potter series, but it's mostly filled with older or indie titles. So you might be hard pressed to find something you actually want to read.
What's even more limiting is the Lending Library is only accessible through a Kindle device; which means borrowing books won't work if you just have the Kindle app on any old device you want.
Is Amazon Prime right for me?
Amazon Prime's most attractive bonus is still the loads you could save on express shipping, which in turn makes impulsive buying online an easy trap to fall into. If you're strictly looking for something to deliver digital entertainment to your living room though, you would probably be better served with a streaming service like Netflix.
Kindle owners, meanwhile, get the full breadth of advantages that Amazon Prime provides, complete with mobile access to the Instant Video streaming and free monthly books.
Putting it all together, the combination of delivery, unlimited streaming and free Kindle books makes Amazon Prime a tantalizing buffet of physical and digital stuff all packed into a single subscription. But ultimately, it's all up to you to decide if it's really worth your yearly £79.