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Amazon Prime and Me (a two-year review)

The holidays doth fast approach and people are, understandably, looking for gift ideas. A couple of years ago, my wife took advantage of the stupid-low prices for Kindles and the Fire TV box, and took advantage of the fact that I already owned an Amazon Fire phone–with the reasoning that it was also a good idea to subscribe to Amazon Prime not just for the deals and delivery services, but for the plethora or other services they offered.

It also made sense as I’d be able to sync all of my Amazon devices to one account.
I can’t say she was wrong. We’ve had Amazon Prime for just about two years now, and I feel I can give a pretty fair review of my experience.

First off… if you have a problem with Amazon Prime over any privacy issues, but use Facebook, Google, or own a smart phone… the privacy ship has sailed. This review isn’t about privacy. It’s about service. (Spoiler alert, I’m going to recommend Amazon Prime.)

Deliveries & Deals

Really, this makes the service pay for itself–usually in just a few months–depending on how often you order items through Amazon. Prices are often a little lower, shipping options are cheaper for fast deliveries, and deliveries all-over are pretty quick if you’re a “time is money” sort of person. I’ve heard it suggested that Prime inflates prices for Prime users to make up for the cheap delivery, but I’ve yet to actually see them do this. I’ve confirmed searches for items on separate computers both with and without a Prime account active and Prime is still cheaper all around.

It’s only a money saver if you use it, and when local options are limited, Amazon does seem to be a good option for looking for hard-to-find items.

 

Prime Music

There are loads of streaming music options out there, and Prime Music is another one. The selections are pretty good–easily on par with any other service short of iTunes. Free streaming is great. Free downloads are even better. What music there is that needs to be paid for is pretty affordable. While it can sometimes be frustrating to find that an album that was downloaded for free suddenly disappears when it’s no longer on the free list, it doesn’t happen too often.

I like the music mix channels myself. Sometimes I just hit a channel and let it play out the day as I’m working, or I Bluetooth it from my Fire phone to the car radio for long drives (the latter is made possible by an unlimited data plan I’ve managed to keep grandfathered into). I can also Bluetooth my saved music to the radio as easily as I could with iTunes.

So, pretty comparable.

 

Prime Video

Last four offerings I’ve viewed today on Amazon Video

Not bad. I like it. Movie-wise, they have a pretty large selection, but not a lot of blockbuster types are available for free viewing. Netflix is still probably the better service for movies and television, but Prime Video is no slouch… it’s just a bit more niche. Fan of cult movies? This is the place to go. Grindhouse? They got ya covered. Classic sci-fi and horror? Yep. Obscure foreign films? Oui. Their more popular movies aren’t much different from what Hulu offers in its movie section.

I think its strongest genre is documentary–loads of nature and history documentaries. It’s also a great spot to find weird documentaries on UFOs, conspiracy theories, secret societies, the occult, and so forth. They also have a great kids section–with a lot of PBS. Perfect stuff to sit my kid in front of while I make breakfast.

Aside from its standard offerings, you can also subscribe to specialized channels with additional content. These are fairly cheap–most running between $4 and $10 per month.

I subscribe to the Comedy Channel (standup comedy & comedy movies) and Seeso Channel (NBC Universal content, Britcoms, standup comedy, original animation, and my current obsession–HarmonQuest). I’m also trying a free week of Comic-Con HQ featuring panels, cult geek movies and television, and nerd documentaries. There are channels for movie snobs, channels for British television fans, martial arts movie fanatics, and more.
And then there is the original content. Easily better than most original content on Hulu, and pretty darn close to what you’d find on Netflix. Give them props. They convinced Woody Allen to do a TV series.

I love Prime Video. I’d pay for this even if no other service existed. If you have a Fire TV box, it integrates super-well, and gives you access to loads of other apps and services for viewing including all of the major cable movie channels, YouTube, and TV network offerings.

Oh, and you can rent/buy premium blockbuster titles around the same time–or earlier–than Redbox or Blu-Ray releases. Prices are pretty fair, and availability of purchased video is reliable.

Prime Cloud Storage

I like it. I don’t really need it as I have a business Dropbox account which is more space than I can foreseeably ever need. Still, it’s convenient for handling photos and documents between my desktop computer, Kindle, and Fire phone. I can also stream photos and video from it to the TV.

Prime Reading (free Kindle goodies)

Subscribing to Prime also gets you free e-books, six-month free trial to the Washington Post, Audible audiobook channels.

The free books aren’t necessarily best-seller titles, but I’ve read quite a few very good books I might have not read otherwise, and the Washington Post is a fairly decent paper as modern print media goes. I like it.

And the rest…

Jeez… there’s a decent amount of Prime stuff I’ve not even touched.

Lightning deals, Amazon Family, Amazon Elements, Twitch Prime, games, and more. There’s Amazon’s home AI creature–Alexa–that I’ve played with on the Fire TV and Fire phone, but not with the Amazon Echo device… yet.

Yeah, I know about the privacy issues. Really don’t care. If Amazon knows I’m out of Norwegian goat cheese before I do, I’m okay with that.


Cross-support

I hate my Fire phone. It’s one of those products that Amazon seems to no longer care about. There is still no ability to install from Google apps. No PayPal (which sucks for me, business-wise), no Tumblr (which sucks as an artist), and buggy Facebook.

I like how it handles e-mail and photos, and there are some decent games–but nothing I can’t already find on other devices, but with many notable absences (such as Words with Friends).

 

As soon as I can upgrade my phone for less than an arm and a leg, I’m getting rid of the Fire phone and going for a nice, sensible iPhone or Google device instead. I’ve checked, and it looks like anything I use Amazon Prime for can be done on a phone other than the Fire phone.

So yeah… I’m recommending Amazon Prime. I don’t get any kickbacks from them for saying this, but yeah… Prime is such a comprehensive service that the yearly $99 is well worth it.

Sure, there are some issues when supporting Amazon and their ever-widening tentacle reach across the globe–but until something better comes along, I’m okay with taking advantage of a good deal.

Now… time to cue up Captain America: Civil War on Amazon Video.

Cheers!

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