Wednesday, February 05, 2014


This evening, I rented a computer-animated movie ON my cell phone using funds I earned WITH my cell phone. I rented it from my phone and sent it to my TV in a wireless fashion. It took about 30 seconds and I was watching the opening credits by 35 seconds.

No wonder Blockbuster went out of business.

To be a bit more specific...

There's an app for my Android phone called Google Opinion Rewards that pays you in small credits to Google's digital content store. Every now and then, it pops up a consumer survey like "Do you own a car?" and assorted questions that are related. In exchange, you get up to $1.00 in credit, usually about $0.50. I built up enough of these credits to afford a $3.99 HD rental of "How to Train Your Dragon."

After renting this movie, I used the Google Play Movies app to send the rental to my Google Chromecast. The Chromecast is a little thumbdrive that plugs into a USB and connects to your WIFI network. It allowed me to use my phone to send and control playback of the movie.

I put my hot food on the table, I sat on the couch, and with a few clicks, I was watching a movie. Because it's a rental, they give 30 days for you to start watching. Once you start watching, you can see as much or as little as you care to in 48 hours. Then the digital bits vanish from my account, and there's no trace I ever saw it, save for my memory and a digital receipt somewhere in my account.

This was the first thing I've ever "rented" online, even though it's been available for years now. Mostly, I felt like it was expensive, but then I remembered that I used to rent tapes from Blockbuster for $3.99 two decades ago. Inflation alone suggests that this is a lot less expensive than it used to be.

But the reason I was driven to this is because it snowed. And I'm trapped at home. And frustratingly, I tried to plan ahead. Knowing the storm was coming, I went to my local Best Buy looking for Blu-Rays of "How to Train Your Dragon" and "Despicable Me." I even had $20 in credit in my hand.

And I left empty-handed. Neither movie was available. I prefer the discs to the digital versions, but primarily because of the extras. I'm a bit of a commentary-track junkie because I love listening to the creators talking about their projects. But Best Buy didn't have either one. So even though I had planned ahead, I still got snowed in with no new movies.

So I made the decision tonight to rent digitally, even knowing that if I liked the film, I'd probably want to buy the disc. And I did enjoy the movie, so into my buying queue it goes. But probably from Amazon, because at least I know that if I see it, I can order it. I'll save my BestBuy dollars for something else.

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