We’ve decided to compare two more apps as part of the ‘versus’ challenge we’ve started over here at Webonise’s NYC office. This time, our co-founder and Senior VP of Delivery, Bhuvan Khanna, is taking a look at the mobile apps of two major brands that stream shows and movies online.


HBO is one of the oldest and most well known cable companies and has kept up with its competitors during the shift away from users strictly watching shows and movies on their television watching, to watching online. Netflix is arguably the company that started the revolution from watching show and movies on television, to watching online. We’re comparing the two.

In this comparison, Bhuvan focused on three major parts of the app: user experience (UX), content, and overall app strategy.

Starting with searching for the app in the app store, the Netflix app had one to choose from which was easy enough to find. There were two HBO apps in the app-store and neither easily conveyed to users how they differentiated, so it was up to Bhuvan to download both in order to find out what the difference was (which is highly annoying). After downloading both HBO apps, he decided to review the HBO Now app and not the HBO GO app.

Netflix’s mobile app has more than a 100 million downloads with 2.5 million 5 star ratings. That's intense! No wonder they use 37% of the internet’s bandwidth.

HBO A few pain points noticed in the HBO Now app were the search functionality and the ability for users to resume viewing shows and movies that they had started and did not finish. It’s common for users to pause midway through a show or movie, and come back to it at a later time. In the HBO Now app, to get back to the point where they left off, the user has to search for the show, then choose the episode they were on and go from there. There’s no way that we could find for users to easily resume what they had started.

Another crazy thing noticed was when searching a common genre in the search bar. The assumption was that the word entered would search all movies and series on HBO. The search queries, “action” and “Julia Roberts” both showed up with zero results. This has us conclude that the search functionality is not nearly robust enough.

HBO has so much great content, but in Bhuvan’s exercise it was realized that there’s a major lack of opportunity for users to discover new shows or movies based on the user’s history which is another downfall of the HBO Now app.  

Netflix Right away when getting into the app, there’s a noticed difference compared to HBO Now. The search in this app worked like a charm and had great functionality. It also showed Bhuvan’s recent watching history so he could pick up exactly where he left off when watching last time he was signed into Netflix. There really weren’t any complaints when using Netflix’s mobile app.

Overall the Netflix app trumps the HBO app when it comes to the UX of on-boarding. We’re aware that HBO started as a cable service company and is still tied to many of the providers, so they may have red tape to get around (which could be reflected in the onboarding process where users have to enter their zip code, for example). The Netflix app is pretty seamless and gets the users through the signup process quickly.

The HBO app seems to be built around supporting their existing TV customers whereas the Netflix app is a whole experience in itself.

There was a noticeable difference that HBO is trying to maintain its current customer base while Netflix is leading in innovation and customer acquisition. As it is 2016, we really expected more from one of the most well known household names. When streaming from the Netflix app, Bhuvan didn’t have a problem. Unfortunately, the HBO app was a little spotty (which is never fun).

All in all, Bhuvan says he would still most likely use both services. But time will tell if HBO can maintain its status over the competition if they don’t put more effort and thought into key parts of their business, that is mobile.