Watchlater Is Instapaper for Video on Your iPad

watchlater-feature

Even if you have a 3G-capable iPad and a mobile data plan, you might not always have access to a stable connection. That’s a situation Watchlater, a new iPad app that caches online video for later viewing, is hoping to make more bearable.

Watchlater isn’t just about caching, though. You can use the app to bookmark video from a variety of sites, either using your iPad’s Safari browser or from any desktop computer using a javascript bookmarklet. Once you do that, the video will be available for viewing from the Watchlater iPad app, with an option to cache depending on the site. Some sites, like YouTube, prohibit caching, and Watchlater can’t provide the functionality without risking expulsion from the App Store.

Even without caching, Watchlater is a good way to manage your online video queue. Say you see a trailer or review that you want to watch, but you’re at work or about to head to a meeting. With Watchlater, you can add clips you’re interested in to the app for viewing when you have more time later. The app also provides AirPlay support for bookmarked content, and automatically converts videos from sites which aren’t available for native iPad playback.

Watchlater currently supports over 20 video platforms, according to the app’s developers, including blip.tv, TED talks, Break.com and Vimeo. In my own tests, I ran into problems with some other sites, like FunnyOrDie and CollegeHumor. I also couldn’t get the Watchlater bookmarklet to work with broadcast TV sites here in Canada. Still, when Watchlater does work, which is mostly in the area of dedicated online content, it works well. For instance, I was able to line up a string of video tutorials from YouTube within a folder, which is a lot easier than hunting them down individually for viewing.

Watchlater has a $2.99 price tag when you download it from Apple’s App Store, but actually uses an in-app credit model in order to use its caching feature. It’s an interesting business model, and one that could not only make Watchlater’s model more sustainable than most, but might also pave the way for licensing deals with content partners in the future. Users buy caching time in 300 minute blocks, each of which costs $2.99 through Apple’s in-app purchasing system. Note that once you use some of your time to download a video, it can’t be reclaimed by clearing that clip from the cache, but you can re-cache videos you’d deleted for free if you’ve done it once. Some may find this a steep price to pay, but if Watchlater’s unique functionality is what you’re looking for, then the cost might be more than justified.

This app may not be a slam dunk, but it’s been designed with care and the developers are working on legitimate workaround for sites that don’t yet allow caching. Watchlater is definitely an app to watch when it comes to online video.

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