iTunes Movie Trailers: A Near Perfect Movie Companion

Most iPhone owners I meet are content with using the apps provided by Apple. Whether it’s from lack of interest or uncertainty about what’s available in the App Store, they stick with what’s provided to them and go about their business. I, on the other hand, only use a few of Apple’s apps for which alternatives are available and stash the rest away in a folder. There are many reasons why I opt for third-party apps, but anyone that visits an app review blog, such as yourself, probably doesn’t need must explanation why they’re often much better.

With iOS 7’s release, a few of Apple’s apps that I abandoned long ago got a reprieve; mainly due each app’s stark redesign from their iOS 6 predecessor. Of those apps, iTunes Movie Trailers is by far one of my favorites. Beforehand, I was using a combination Wigglehop, Fandango and Google for all my theater going excursions, but now Apple’s all-in-one movie app offers nearly all the information and features I’ll ever need.

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So Much More Than Trailers

For those already familiar with iTunes Movie Trailers, you’ll be quick to point out little has changed since its last update–short of the redesign. If you’re that person, then I acknowledge your astuteness. This review isn’t focused solely on the app’s redesign, which would, admittedly, be a very short review. Instead, I’m going to focus on the app as a whole for those individuals that may have never used the app before, or abandoned it long ago–like I had–and need a refresher.

iTunes Movie Trailers, as the name would imply, is first and foremost an app that you can use to watch movie trailers. Those familiar with Apple products may know that movie trailers have been part of the company’s bag for quite some time, and I often enjoyed firing up Front Row on a Mac and checking out trailers for new movies. Since Front Row was axed in Lion (10.7), I now use iTunes Movie Trailers and my Apple TV to get my trailer fix. With that being said, the app is no one trick pony, and offers a robust set of features.

Featured

The Featured (a.k.a. Trailers) view displays a grid of movie posters, that, when tapped, provides information that’s divided into two or three views: Details, Showtimes (available if the selected movie is in theaters) and Related. Details is where you’ll find most of the good stuff, such as a plot synopsis, MPAA rating, Rotten Tomatoes score (if available), trailers, gallery and film information (e.g. release date, genre, director, cast, run time).

Movie poster art pops in the Featured view.

Movie poster art pops in the Featured view.

Trailers can be streamed in either high or standard definition, and switching between the two is as easy as tapping the HD/SD icon next to the skip forward button and tapping your preference. In my experience, trailers streamed very well on Wi-Fi and LTE, and looked great on my iPhone and iPad regardless of being in HD or SD. Showtimes is a great way to find local showtimes for multiple theaters all at once, allowing to quickly determine which theater and what showing is right for your moving going venture (I’ll discuss navigating showtimes further in the In Theaters section).

Trailers look sharp, whether in HD or SD.

Trailers look sharp, whether in HD or SD.

You’d think the Related tab would display similar movies to the one selected, but in fact it lists content (e.g. movies, music, books, apps) related to the movie you selected, which can all be purchased from iTunes, iBooks or the App Store. For instance, if you’re checking out “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,” you’ll find options to purchase the first movie, any of the three books and the soundtrack. Isn’t it nice how Apple makes it so easy to spend your money?

Quickly find related books, music, apps or other movies in the series.

Quickly find related books, music, apps or other movies in the series.

At the top of the Featured view you’ll find options to filter by genre and search for a movie (depicted by a magnify glass icon). Genre filters are helpful if you’re looking for a particular type of movie, and often includes a mix of movie current in theaters, coming soon and/or available in iTunes. Searching for movies works as you’d expect, except the app doesn’t support auto-complete, which is a bit disappointing. Another miscue I found is that search can be annoyingly temperamental. Searching for “The Hunger Games” displayed both the first and second film, but searching “Hunger Games” (minus “the”) resulted in zero results. Also, if a search doesn’t return anything, there’s no indication–minus the spinning wheel being no longer present.

Be careful with your wording, as your results may come up empty.

Be careful with your wording, as your results may come up empty.

One downfall of iTunes Movie Trailers is that it’s not a archive of past movies, so trying to search for anything that was released before the mid to late 2000’s typically won’t get you far. I like the notion of being able to go back and view trailers for older films, but iTunes Movie Trailers isn’t a substitute for IMDb, which picks up the slack very well in this department.

Top Charts

Previously dubbed “Top 25,” the Top Charts view offers four lists: Popular (most popular trailers), Box Office (top box office performers), Rating (movies in theaters with the highest Rotten Tomatoes scores) and On iTunes (top performing movies available on iTunes). Compared to its previous iteration, Top Charts is much improved. First, I like the removal of the 25 limit, which offers more choices (typically capping off at 50). Second, the switch from a horizontal grid of movie posters to a vertical list is a big improvement because you can see a great deal more information about a movie (e.g. rating, cast, genre and run time) without actually having to tap a movie.

Quickly find the top and highest rated movies.

Quickly find the top and highest rated movies.

Calendar

The Calendar view (a.k.a. Releases, for whatever reason), is where you can view a list of movies divided by release dates. By default, you’ll be shown the closest release date to the current date. For instance, if you’re using the app on a Saturday, the first list you’ll see is movies that were released the previous day. Lists are set up similarly to the Top Charts view, but isn’t as well suited in my opinion. I still like being able to see a lot of information about a movie, but find it difficult to distinguish the release dates while scrolling. The dates themselves scroll along with the lists, and it would be far more beneficial if the dates remained static below the header and were replaced as you scrolled (scroll through your contacts in Contacts.app to get a feel for the effect).

The iPad version of the Calendars view is better laid out.

The iPad version of the Calendars view is better laid out.

In Theaters

Sometimes there’s a specific movie I want to see, where other times I’m just curious as to what’s currently showing. In either case, the In Theaters view is where to get the job done, as you can switch between two tabs–Theaters and Movies. When searching for theaters, iTunes Movie Trailers displays theaters that are closest to you, but you can select a specific location or theater by tapping the Change option and then entering a zip code, city or theater. Previously, this view displayed the theater’s name, address and phone number, but now opts for drive time, distance and general directions. I’m a fan of the change because the new information is much more valuable.

It's easy to find local theaters and change locations.

It’s easy to find local theaters and change locations.

Tapping a theater transitions you to the Showtimes subview, which displays a list of movies currently playing. If need be, you can easily toggle between dates at the top. Each movie showtime is indicated by the green or blue line on a timeline, which usually includes the actual showtime. If a movie is available for 3D and 2D, a separate timeline is used for both options. Newly released movies often have a lot of showings, which makes it very difficult to differentiate in this setup. Those wonderful Apple developers thought as much, which is why you can tap a timeline to view a full list of showings, which is where you can also get options to purchase tickets (opens Fandango app or website) or add a showtime to your calendar.

If the timeline is too crowded, tap it to view a list of showtimes.

If the timeline is too crowded, tap it to view a list of showtimes.

At the top you’ll find the same theater information as the previous view. When tapped, you’ll get full details about the theater (e.g. address, phone number), a map preview of the theater’s location along with your own, and options to get directions, call the theater and/or add it to your favorites (more in this in a bit). Choosing the direction option will open Apple Maps, and if you’re a Google Map, Waze or other third-party navigation app user, you’ll be disappointed by the fact you can’t copy a theater’s address.

The map preview is a handy way to see where theaters are located.

The map preview is a handy way to see where theaters are located.

If you’re browsing by movie, you’ll find the same showtime dates at the top, followed by a list of movies in alphabetical order. Typically, I’d say sorting in this manner is a smart choice, but the developers have put all the movies beginning with “the” together in the “T” section, which is both odd and confusing. Unfortunately, you can’t sort or search for movies in this view, but that’s available in the Featured and Top Charts views. Tapping a movie will take you to the same view you’d find when selecting a movie in the Featured view, expect you’re shown the Showtimes tab instead of the Details tab. Similarly to the Theaters tab you’ll find a timeline of showtimes, this time divided by theaters. You can tap the timeline to view a full list of showtimes, or tap the theater listing itself for more information (e.g. getting directions, calling the theater).

Sorting options would be beneficial, but aren't a deal breaker.

Sorting options would be beneficial, but aren’t a deal breaker.

Favorites

In a nutshell, the Favorites view is where you can easily access your favorite theaters and movies. Theaters are added in the theater details subview (described in the previous section) and a movie can be added by tapping the share icon and choosing the Add Movie to Favorites option. Interestingly, the Theaters tab displays content in a horizontal grid of movie poster icons, separated by theater, instead of making a switch to the vertical list. But, I quite like it because you can see theater and movies currently playing all in a single view.

While not consistent, the horizontal list in Favorites works well.

While not consistent, the horizontal grid in Favorites works well.

The Movie tab separates movies that are in theaters and in iTunes, and seeing the same movie in both sections isn’t uncommon in my experience. For instance, both “Iron Man 3” and “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” are available in both sections. I know for a fact that “Iron Man 3” is in iTunes, and could possibly be available in a few theaters around the country. “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,” on the other hand, was just released. Upon investigating further I found that the movie is listed in iTunes for pre-order. Confusing, but good to know.

Movies are often displayed in both the In Theaters and In iTunes section.

Movies are often displayed in both the In Theaters and In iTunes section.

Speaking of investigating, it took me a few minutes to figure out how to access a movie in iTunes from Favorites. If you tap a movie in the On iTunes tab in the Top Charts view, the iTunes Store view automatically pops up with options to buy and rent (if available). While in Favorites, you’ll have to navigate to the Related tab in the movie info view and select the movie in question. It’s bit more complicated than it should be, and would make more sense to call out the fact that a movie is available in iTunes–perhaps with a banner of some sort.

You'll find iTunes movies in the Related tab while viewing favorites.

You’ll find iTunes movies in the Related tab while viewing favorites.

Within the iTunes ecosystem I keep a wish list of movies I’d like to rent, and would love to see iTunes Movie Trailers get implemented into in some manner. Specifically, if I add a movie to my favorites, it’d be neat if it was immediately added to my iTunes wish list once it became available.

A Unique iOS 7 Design

As you switch between iOS 7’s default apps, you’ll notice that share a similar trait–nearly of them feature a stark white design. iTunes Movie Trailers, on the hand, is presented in a black design (a trait shared with apps like Compass.app and Stocks.app). Why black was chosen is somewhat of a mystery. Granted, iTunes Movie Trailers had a dark theme in iOS 6, but so did Podcasts and it received a white makeover. Regardless of reason, I rather like the dark theme, which provides a window into how apps like Mail.app, Messages.app and others would look with an alternative theme.

The iconography has also changed a great deal. Each icon meshes well with Apple’s sense of design in iOS 7, though some of the changes aren’t necessarily better. Take the In Theaters icon in the bottom navigation, for instance. Previously, it was a movie ticket stub and is now represented by a location icon. Between the two, I find a ticket stub to be a better representation of a theater, but perhaps that’s just me. Featured, on the other hand, uses the star icon well to represent the view, but the I disagree with the change from its previous moniker–Trailers. It’s the first view you see when firing up the app, but I find no reason why for the switch–especially when the view is still labeled “Trailers” in the header.

Navigation in iTunes Movie Trailer remains relatively unchanged, short of the lack of physical buttons metaphors stripped away in iOS 7 (as a whole). The bottom navigation bar allows you quickly jump before views, and feature the translucency effect I’ve become quite enamored with. Swipe navigation is also available, but only to return to the previous page. Overall, there’s nothing complicated about iTunes Movie Trailers, and I found it to be a breeze to browse and watch trailers, check what’s coming to theaters soon and find times for local showings.

The Bottom Line

iTunes Movie Trailers, in my opinion, is the best overall movie companion app available on iOS. Granted, I’m a big fan of IMDb, which I use frequently–but I don’t find the app to be as nicely laid out as iTunes Movie Trailers (perhaps that will change when the app receives its iOS 7 refresh). For me, iTunes Movie Trailers is the first place I go when I know there’s a trailer I want to watch. Having that ingrained in me already, it’s now become my de facto app for all things new movie–unless I want to see a cast list, in which case it’s back to IMDb.

If you haven’t done so already, I recommend giving iTunes Movie Trailers a trial run as your movie companion. Likewise, if you previously used the app and deleted it at some point, this may be an opportunity to revisit iTunes Movie Trailers. If anything else, it’s a great app to check out some awesome movie trailers now and again.


Summary

Watch trailers, view top movies, check what's coming soon, get local showtimes and more.

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