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United Airlines to launch free inflight video streaming service for iOS devices, laptops

post #1 of 36
Thread Starter 
In April, United Airlines will begin rolling out a new inflight entertainment service that streams over 150 movies and almost 200 TV shows to passengers' iOS devices for free.

United


According to United, the system will be rolling out in stages starting next month, though the basic hardware is already on board much of the airline's fleet. At launch, the system will be limited to iOS devices and laptops, though support for Android is expected sometime in the future.

The service's hardware backbone, to be installed in United's Airbus A319, Airbus A320, Boeing 747-400 and certain 777-200 aircraft, will stream content from an on-board media server over Wi-Fi. By the end of 2014, the airline plans to have the setup running in most of its domestic fleet.

To view the various media, which is sponsored in part by the MileagePlus Explorer Card, users must first download the United Airlines iOS app, which will presumably stream content over United Wi-Fi. Users who do not have the app installed may do so for free while in the air.

As noted in the release, two types of media will be available for consumption. Laptop users may need to install a browser plug-in, while iOS device owners can simply watch content via the United app. Other programs will also be available through the United Portal without plug-in or app requirements.

It appears that the video offerings will act much like any other streaming app, complete with controls to start, stop, pause and rewind a movie or TV show at anytime.
post #2 of 36
cool, so airlines are getting away from the entertainment device in the seat model. great for weight, fuel, cost, and usability
post #3 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by schlack View Post

great for weight, fuel, cost, and usability

 

Don't doubt the first factors, but it's not very usable. The iPad isn't at eye level like the TV screens. Instant neck cramp after a movie.

 

No battery is going to last a 15 hour international flight. Even a transcon with a connection in between is pushing it. Now they're going to have to install in-seat power in every seat (as AA has done) losing a lot of the weight, fuel and cost benefit.

post #4 of 36

Airlines started doing that several years ago, starting with iPods with preloaded content, followed by iPads. Well, at least in business and first class, maybe not coach.

 

This is a logical progression of the model, to stream content to a passenger's personal device from an on-board media server, rather than preload everything on a number of devices owned and operated by the airline (which takes a lot of time and resources at the gate).

 

This doesn't eliminate the in-seat entertainment systems yet, it just complements them. In a few years, we may see some of the in-seat systems vanish, but not today.

 

In-seat power isn't a big deal, plenty of jets already have this (I know Virgin America does, most first/business class cabins have had it for years). My guess is that Apple can design a more power-efficient tablet than United's seat equipment vendors anyhow.

post #5 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by mpantone View Post
 

This doesn't eliminate the in-seat entertainment systems yet, it just complements them. In a few years, we may see some of the in-seat systems vanish, but not today.

 

The weight of the in-seat entertainment systems requires a lot of fuel to fly around.  I'm willing to bet that United will strip out all the in-seat video, at least from Economy and Business classes (it might possibly remain in First class) at the same time that they install the streaming system.

 

I agree with the other posters that in-seat power is both important and easy to provide.

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post #6 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by konqerror View Post
 

 

Don't doubt the first factors, but it's not very usable. The iPad isn't at eye level like the TV screens. Instant neck cramp after a movie.

 

No battery is going to last a 15 hour international flight. Even a transcon with a connection in between is pushing it. Now they're going to have to install in-seat power in every seat (as AA has done) losing a lot of the weight, fuel and cost benefit.


Each seat already has power going into it on some level to operate things like the TV control panel and the monitor.  They can remove all that hardware, and simply add a USB port on the armrest instead using the same wiring that was powering the display.  So yes, it will save considerable weight, fuel, etc...

post #7 of 36

This is really just to cover up the fact that United's long haul planes are some of the oldest and least equipped in the business.

 

Their 747 flies routes up to 12 hours long but in Economy there are no seatback TVs!

post #8 of 36

Most of United's fleet will have in-seat power by the end of 2014. (https://www.united.com/web/en-US/content/travel/inflight/connectivity/default.aspx)

post #9 of 36
😰poor Android users
post #10 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by mcarling View Post

The weight of the in-seat entertainment systems requires a lot of fuel to fly around.  I'm willing to bet that United will strip out all the in-seat video, at least from Economy and Business classes (it might possibly remain in First class) at the same time that they install the streaming system.

I agree with the other posters that in-seat power is both important and easy to provide.

I agree about the power outlets, but in service streaming isn't the same as internet connection which I'd prefer even more. I have a lot of flights this year and I see Delta are pushing a $20 surcharge on each leg to have wifi. Hopefully, one day soon, with savings from eliminating in seat entertainment systems airlines can offer the wifi at a lower cost or even including it for free where possible as well as streaming options. I assume wifi is limited to areas with satellite coverage. Watching the terrible news about the lost airline you realize how little electronic connection planes have with the outside world in many parts of the world.
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From Apple ][ - to new Mac Pro I've used them all.
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post #11 of 36
I think this is awesome! Makes whole lot of sense. Glad to see those Android users comes later :-) For people who do not have any devices - they can rent it for $2. Amazing, isn't it - from charging $2 for headset ages ago they can bring it back for charging for devices itself. At end of the day, it is a win situation for them. Maybe with loss of weight they can stop charging us the fuel surplus charges.
post #12 of 36
But... Samsung!
post #13 of 36
Let's see if I got this right. An airline that charges you extra to check a bag ... extra for enough legroom that your knees aren't jammed up around your ears ... is going to entertain you for free? Think about it.

"Charge 'em for the lice, extra for the mice
Two percent for looking in the mirror twice
Here a little slice, there a little cut
Three percent for sleeping with the window shut
When it comes to fixing prices
There are a lot of tricks I knows
How it all increases, all them bits and pieces
Jesus! It's amazing how it grows!"

- M. Thenardier singing "Master of the House" in the musical Les Miserables

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post #14 of 36

Really good way for NSA to track you, as they have been frustrated by "airplane mode" and people turning off their smartphones during flight.

My advice, before you get on the plane, wrap your cellphone in aluminium foil.  It works, try it!  This creates a "Faraday shield", where no radio emissions can get in or out of it (aka, "Security").  Or you can buy a protective sheath to put it in, which also work, usually (test it) from eBay or Amazon for 5-6 bucks.

post #15 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by sofianitz View Post

Really good way for NSA to track you, as they have been frustrated by "airplane mode" and people turning off their smartphones during flight.
My advice, before you get on the plane, wrap your cellphone in aluminium foil.  It works, try it!  This creates a "Faraday shield", where no radio emissions can get in or out of it (aka, "Security").  Or you can buy a protective sheath to put it in, which also work, usually (test it) from eBay or Amazon for 5-6 bucks.

And have you made it through TSA screening wearing your tinfoil hat? Inquiring minds want to know.1rolleyes.gif

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post #16 of 36
Oh man that'll be so great when they rip out those seatback systems and I'll get to enjoy a flight without some idiot stabbing me in the back for hours on end.
post #17 of 36

I usually put the tinfoil hat in the  basket with my shoes.

post #18 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by konqerror View Post

Don't doubt the first factors, but it's not very usable. The iPad isn't at eye level like the TV screens. Instant neck cramp after a movie.

No battery is going to last a 15 hour international flight. Even a transcon with a connection in between is pushing it. Now they're going to have to install in-seat power in every seat (as AA has done) losing a lot of the weight, fuel and cost benefit.

Are you saying you can sit on your rear end for 15 hours straight, watching movies? That never happens. People get up, walk around, go to the bathroom, chat with other passengers, etc. No one just sits for 15 hours unless they're severely disabled or dead.

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post #19 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


As noted in the release, two types of media will be available for consumption. Laptop users may need to install a browser plug-in, while iOS device owners can simply watch content via the United app. Other programs will also be available through the United Portal without plug-in or app requirements.
 

Why, as this statement seems to imply, is installing a browser plugin any harder than installing any other software?

post #20 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by d4NjvRzf View Post
 

Why, as this statement seems to imply, is installing a browser plugin any harder than installing any other software?

 

iOS users are actually competent to use the app store to install stuff, whereas droid users apparently can't even figure out how to install a plug-in?  Or are so afraid of malware that they won't?

post #21 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by mcarling View Post
 

The weight of the in-seat entertainment systems requires a lot of fuel to fly around.  I'm willing to bet that United will strip out all the in-seat video, at least from Economy and Business classes (it might possibly remain in First class) at the same time that they install the streaming system.

That's possible, but only if United strips out all the seat-back entertainment systems and revert to a cabin-based projection system for those flyers without a portable device (or who choose not to use one), at least for the economy cabin. They could also offer rental iPads for people who want the streaming content selection which might be free of charge in first and business class.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by sflocal View Post
 

Each seat already has power going into it on some level to operate things like the TV control panel and the monitor.  They can remove all that hardware, and simply add a USB port on the armrest instead using the same wiring that was powering the display.  So yes, it will save considerable weight, fuel, etc...

It would be an AC plug, not USB. You can't power notebook computers off of USB.

 

Virgin America has had AC plugs between each pair of seats from the beginning.

post #22 of 36
Wow, well that will only create a smogstorm of RF radiation in a moving Faraday cage.

Get ready to get off that plane feeling even groggier and dryer and more inflamed then ever. Lets just all sit in a microwave together and see how we feel after a few hours.

Making flying more and more unhealthy every day...
Edited by sweetseater - 3/13/14 at 10:59pm
post #23 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by sweetseater View Post

Wow, well that will only create a smogstorm of RF radiation in a moving Faraday cage.

Get ready to get off that play feeling even groggier and dryer and more inflamed then ever. Lets just all sit in a microwave together and see how we feel after a few hours.

Making flying more and more unhealthy every day...

Bah!

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post #24 of 36

I always travel with one of these:

 

http://www.amazon.com/20000mAh-Multi-Voltage-Portable-External-Camcorders/dp/B005NGLTZQ/

 

About the size and weight of a normal external hard drive.  It will charge an iPhone 5S about 10 times.  It will even charge an iPad.  That's a longer runtime than I ever want to spend on an airplane.

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post #25 of 36
Even if the planes are equipped with Wifi AC, there aren't any current gen iOS devices that have it (presumably 2014 models will) so there is no way in hell that using Wifi N are they going to be able to stream content to a plane full of people. Their expectations must be that use of the service will be very low on a per passenger/plane ratio. But I'm guessing either craptacular video quality or a ton of buffering until AC is mainstream for mobile devices - at which point one would also presume that interest in using the in flight streaming service would increase and challenge the system once again.
post #26 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by mpantone View Post
 

That's possible, but only if United strips out all the seat-back entertainment systems and revert to a cabin-based projection system for those flyers without a portable device (or who choose not to use one), at least for the economy cabin. They could also offer rental iPads for people who want the streaming content selection which might be free of charge in first and business class.

 

It would be an AC plug, not USB. You can't power notebook computers off of USB.

 

Virgin America has had AC plugs between each pair of seats from the beginning.

 

There is no way airlines are going back to projectors and cabin screens.  iPad rental is much more likely.

 

Some airlines offer AC power, some offer USB power, some offer both.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by sweetseater View Post

Wow, well that will only create a smogstorm of RF radiation in a moving Faraday cage.

Get ready to get off that play feeling even groggier and dryer and more inflamed then ever. Lets just all sit in a microwave together and see how we feel after a few hours.

Making flying more and more unhealthy every day...

 

Nonsense.  A faraday absorbs RF.  It does not reflect it.

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post #27 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by mcarling View Post
 

There is no way airlines are going back to projectors and cabin screens.  iPad rental is much more likely.

I think iPad rental is likely, although I'm not sure about the lack of some sort of cabin-wide projection system whether it be a drop-down screen or individual units.

 

The reason for this would be some sort of mandatory safety video communication/demonstration by the FAA and other air agencies throughout the world. Not sure if relying on passenger-owned equipment (tablets, smartphones, etc.) would be acceptable to the FAA at this point.

 

What if you don't have an iPad and neither does your neighbor? What if I have an iPad, but I don't care to install the airline app (maybe I have my own content) or if the device is in airplane mode?


Edited by mpantone - 3/13/14 at 11:28am
post #28 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by mpantone View Post
 

I think iPad rental is likely, although I'm not sure about the lack of some sort of cabin-wide projection system whether it be a drop-down screen or individual units.

 

The reason for this would be some sort of mandatory safety video communication/demonstration by the FAA and other air agencies throughout the world. Not sure if relying on passenger-owned equipment (tablets, smartphones, etc.) would be acceptable to the FAA at this point.

 

The safety demonstration is mandatory, however, it does not have to include a video presentation.  Many airlines still do their safety demonstrations without a video.  Many airlines have no video entertainment system onboard.

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post #29 of 36

I see.

 

Well, then perhaps the demise of the seat-back and cabin-based video entertainment systems is coming sooner rather than later, at least for some aircraft and some cabin classes.

 

Are these sort of cabin upgrades typically performed in sync with new seats? If I recall correctly, airlines often keep their seats for many years.

post #30 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by mpantone View Post
 

Are these sort of cabin upgrades typically performed in sync with new seats? If I recall correctly, airlines often keep their seats for many years.

 

Yes.  Airline seats typically last about four to six years, then the whole cabin gets torn out and replaced.  Seat cushions are replaced as needed.

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post #31 of 36

Well, then this makes good sense.

 

Remove a lot of the weight and maintenance issues that come with seat-back entertainment systems. If the airline has rental iPad units and one is busted, they can simply exchange it for another one. Not the case with a malfunctioning seat-back system.

 

I believe some airlines offer rental iPads to their premium cabin passengers already; I know that previously iPods and MiniDisc players with preloaded content had been loaned to passengers of some flights (again typically premium cabin).

 

The actual United announcement does not mention any plans to offer rental/loaner units initially though.

post #32 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by TeaEarleGreyHot View Post
 

 

iOS users are actually competent to use the app store to install stuff, whereas droid users apparently can't even figure out how to install a plug-in?  Or are so afraid of malware that they won't?

Uh, the browser plugin refers to laptops. Like computers running OS X.

post #33 of 36

United has actually had this on some of their planes since the first of the year but they aren't doing much promotion of it yet. I've tried to use it on three flights and it hasn't worked well on any of them. After one flight where passengers could call up the list of movies but couldn't get them to play, the Captain apologized over the intercom. He said United is aware of the problems and still trying to work out the bugs. They don't seem to consider this a beta, however, since we all got 10,000 bonus miles for our "inconvenience."

 

Regardless of bugs, I already have an iPad loaded with my own books, magazines, movies, TV shows etc. so I don't think I'll be viewing much of this streaming content from United.

post #34 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by mcarling View Post

 

Nonsense.  A faraday absorbs RF.  It does not reflect it.

 

Clearly you don't know what a faraday cage is. They don't absorb, they partially block and partially reflect. And that would be great if the source of the RF was outside the cage and the humans were inside it, but in airplanes that is not the case so instead we get to swim in it.

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faraday_cage

post #35 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by sweetseater View Post

Wow, well that will only create a smogstorm of RF radiation in a moving Faraday cage.
 

 

You realize that at altitude you're exposed to around 5x the radiation from cosmic rays you'd get otherwise? It's about 1/2 a chest x-ray worth per transcontinental flight. During a solar flare at high latitudes, this can increase to 20-60 x-ray equivalents per hour.

post #36 of 36

Quote:

Originally Posted by Kibitzer View Post


And have you made it through TSA screening wearing your tinfoil hat? Inquiring minds want to know.1rolleyes.gif

 

The more awkward question may have been why his phone required a prophylactic.

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