With most Americans stuck at home to quell the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, many are turning to streaming services to stay entertained during these unprecedented times.
Thankfully, there are many bingeworthy TV series and movies between four of the more popular on-demand video platforms – Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+ and Apple TV+ – which you can watch on your television, smartphone, tablet and other devices.
But there’s a lot more than meets the eye with these services – if you know where to look, that is.
For example, Netflix Party is a free Google Chrome extension that lets those practicing “social distancing” to simultaneously watch the same content – yes, with friends and family in another location – and even chat at the same time.
For other lesser-known features, tips and tricks, the following is a handy guide to getting the most out of Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+ and Apple TV+.
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Quick tip: Type “Netflix” into the search bar to see a complete list of Netflix originals, like “Stranger Things” or “Elite,” all in one place.
Access subtitles, tweak its look: You probably know all programs on Netflix have the option to add English subtitles – handy if you’re watching a cockney movie or are have impaired hearing – and other languages are often supported, too. But you might not be aware you can change the color and font size of subtitles to match your eyesight. To do this, head to Your Account and select Subtitle Appearance.
Netflix recos: Show Netflix what you like or dislike with the thumbs up and thumbs down feature, and it will recommend personalized suggestions over time.
Know the Netflix ‘Secret Menu’: If you watch Netflix on a computer, take heed to these helpful shortcuts:
– F will give you full screen; Esc will take you out of it
– PgDn pauses, PgUp will play (or tap the spacebar)
– Shift + Right Arrow will fast forward; Shift + Left Arrow will rewind
– M should toggle your mute button, depending on your computer
– Skip Intro: “Enter” key
– Skip 10 seconds: Left and Right arrow keys
– For PlayStation 4 owners: Hitting the ‘start’ button on a PlayStation controller while a title is selected plays the video directly, without viewing the detail page.
Amazon Prime Video
Get fun facts with X-Ray: Did you know Internet Movie Database (IMDb) is an Amazon.com company? Perhaps, then, it should be no surprise to see clever integration with Prime Video, in the form of “X-Ray.” Access X-Ray on your favorite shows and movies for info on the cast and crew, behind-the-scenes footage, music, fun trivia, and more. If a movie or show supports X-Ray, you’ll see a small X-Ray icon in the player window, and once selected it will pause the main video until you’re ready to resume.
Use your voice to find something to watch: Those who watch Prime Video via Fire TV or Fire TV Stick can easily find something to watch – by simply asking for it. Both devices support voice control, allowing you to search, launch and control content by speaking aloud.
For this to work, you need either an Alexa Voice Remote (which may be included or sold separately, depending on how you bought Amazon Fire TV or Fire TV Stick) or you can pair Fire TV with your favorite Alexa-powered device, such as Amazon Echo or Echo Dot, for truly hands-free control.
Casting: Send video from your iOS or Android device to Chromecast and get access to the cast and crew details, trivia and more via X-Ray on your mobile device while watching on the big screen. How it works: Connect your Chromecast by clicking on the cast button in the lower-right hand corner. The mobile device should be connected to the same Wi-Fi as the Chromecast.
Cast and crew: Speaking of casting, see what other movies offered by Prime Video starring your favorite actor or actresses. On the web or Prime Video app, navigate down on a title detail page and you will see a row of titles from each of the main actors and the director of the title you are looking at.
More is good: Disney+ allows you to create up to seven member profiles per membership and allows for up to four concurrent streams. So if there’s a disagreement on what to watch, you can all grab your own device and stream what you want.
Download away: Like most other services, Disney+ subscribers can download content to watch offline, but here you have unlimited access to shows and movies, with no constraints on the number of times a title can be downloaded per year.
Lots of content: In addition to offering titles from its iconic brands – Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars and National Geographic – Disney+ also offers classic movies from the 20th Century Library, including “Avatar,” “10 Things I Hate About You,” “Home Alone 3,” “Rookie of the Year,” “The Sandlot” and “Cheaper by the Dozen,” to name a few.
Bundle it up: For $12.99 a month, you can upgrade to add Hulu and ESPN+ to your Disney+ subscription for even more movies, TV shows, and live sports.
Nighty night: Speaking of Hulu, for those who like to watch with the lights off, or just prefer the dark aesthetic in general, night mode is available on Hulu. To trigger the setting, click on your user profile and you’ll see a toggle bar for “Night Mode.”
It’s not just for Apple devices: Along with accessing Apple TV+ on the Apple TV app – on iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, iPod touch, and Mac – it’s also available on select Samsung and LG smart TVs, Amazon Fire TV and Roku devices, as well as at tv.apple.com
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Speak to me: English not your mother tongue? Hearing-impaired? Audiences worldwide can enjoy Apple TV+ originals subtitled and/or dubbed in nearly 40 languages, including Subtitles for the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing (SDH) or closed captions. Apple TV+ series and movies are available with audio descriptions in eight languages.
Share and share alike: Through Family Sharing, up to six family members can share one Apple TV+ subscription using just their Apple ID and password. Speaking of sharing, up to six family members can share one Apple TV+ subscription using just their Apple ID and password.
More to the app: Also on the Apple TV app you can directly subscribe to premium Apple TV channels like HBO, Showtime, CBS All Access, and Starz; connect to and keep tracking of what you’re watching from over 150 video apps, such as Prime Video, Disney+, ESPN+ and Hulu; and explore curated collections highlighting movies and TV shows such as “What to Watch” and “New & Noteworthy,” or in the dedicated Kids section.