Amazon Instant Video Hits iPad, but App Store Rules Complicate Things

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If you’re like me, your left calf muscle unexpectedly knotted up so horrendously while you were sleeping last night that you had to actually get out of bed and stand on your good leg to make whatever the hell was happening stop. You’re also an Amazon Prime subscriber.

You say to yourself, “Hey, $79 per year for two-day shipping on Amazon products seems like a fair deal even though most of those same orders would generally only take around three to four days otherwise. I’m better at not waiting than I am at waiting.”

Amazon has been slowly-but-surely sweetening the Prime deal over the years by adding a Netflix-like collection of free (with Prime membership, of course) movies and TV shows to be streamed as you see fit. You can also borrow a self-destructing Kindle e-book each month from around 150,000 available titles.

Amazon has just made its Instant Video app available for the iPad. Amazon videos have been available on the company’s Kindle Fire tablet, game consoles, certain connected TVs and streaming media boxes such as the Roku, Google TV and some Blu-ray players.

My two-word review after using the app for a bit this morning: It’s nice!

Any movies or TV shows you’ve purchased outright from Amazon (not ones available for free via Prime, that is) are available for streaming or can be downloaded for offline playback. There’s also a selection of featured Prime videos that you can watch when you first fire up the app. And you can find a Prime video you want to watch while on Amazon’s website and add it to your “Watchlist” which is made available inside the app as well.

However, there’s no way to search for or browse Amazon’s entire collection of for-pay and Prime content. So you’re stuck with stuff you’ve already ordered, stuff you’ve added to your Watchlist and Prime videos that Amazon recommends.

Says Amazon:

You can shop the Amazon Instant Video store from the Safari web brower on your iPad or from the web on a PC or Mac. Anything you buy or will appear in Your Video Library on your iPad, where you can instantly watch your video, or add to Your Watchlist. Buying and renting movies within the Amazon Instant Video app on your iPad is not currently supported.

Apple’s rules stipulate that it gets a cut of content sold from inside third-party apps, and linking to an outside site from within an app in order to sidestep such a payout is a no-no. That’s why you have to go to Amazon’s site directly first, pay for what you want to watch (or add it to your Watchlist if it’s a Prime title) then pull up your purchases and Watchlist content inside the app afterwards. Amazon’s Kindle app for iPad and iPhone works similarly.

It’d be nice if Amazon could make Prime content searchable and watchable from within the app similar to how Netflix’s app works. I’m guessing that’s a bit tricky since Prime content is also available for purchase by non-Prime members. But it seems that all Amazon would need to do is check your account credentials when you’re logged into the app to see if you pay for Prime and, if so, present you with the ability to search and browse the Prime catalog. I suppose Amazon would basically need to cobble together two different interfaces that way, though.

Still, it’s a solid effort given the circumstances and well worth the download if you’re an Amazon user. Now we just need versions for the iPhone, Android phones and Android tablets. Airplay compatibility for Apple devices would be a welcome addition as well.

MORE: Amazon Tops iTunes Match Offer with More Storage