Watching Movies and Video on the iPhone

Small Video Has Come a Long Way

Teenager watching video on phone
Iphone Video. Strauss/Curtis Creative #: 523138468 Getty

With the introduction of iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, Apple increased the screen sizes on its phones to 4.7 and 5.5 inches, which made watching movies and videos on the iPhone much easier on the eyes. The larger size and the Retina HD display deliver video quality that is as good as you can get on a small handheld screen. Portable video in your pocket now seems a much more appealing entertainment option.

Locating Movies and TV Shows

The iPhone ships with a Video app, which is where you'll find any movies or TV shows you put on the device.

You can copy movies and TV shows you have on your computer to the iPhone by syncing them in iTunes, or you can download them directly to the phone: Just tap the iTunes Store app and select the Movies tab. Scroll through the featured selections or do a search for a particular title. If you aren't sure about a movie selection, tap a preview to watch it on the iPhone and make your decision. When you are ready, purchase or rent a title with a simple tap. Tip: Download movies when you have a Wi-Fi connection to avoid maxing out your data limit.

In the case of movie rentals from the iTunes Store, you have 30 days to begin watching a movie before it expires and disappears from your iPhone. Once you begin watching, however, you have only 24 hours to finish viewing the movie, so don't start it unless you plan to finish it within a day.

The Video App

When you begin watching your movie or TV show in the Video app on an iPhone, the screen automatically changes to a horizontal orientation to provide the best display of video, replicating the horizontal format of modern TVs.

There are controls for volume and fast forwarding, and options for closed captioning.

Video looks and sounds great on the iPhone. Of course, this is determined in part by the encoding of the video, but anything purchased or rented from the iTunes Store ought to be pleasing to the discerning eye.

Other Video Sources on iPhone

The Video app isn't the only place you can find videos on your iPhone.

Apple offers a couple of free-to-download apps that also support video: iMovie and Trailers. IMovie is for your own home movies or short films that you make using your camera and the iMovie app. Trailers is an always-on source devoted exclusively to new and upcoming movie trailers. If you are an Apple Music member, you have access to music videos in the Music app. 

Best for Travel

The situation most suited to watching video on the iPhone is travel. Bringing a movie or two along with you on your phone for a long bus, plane or train ride seems like a great way to pass the time.

Hand Cramps Holding the iPhone?

Holding the iPhone in your hand long enough to watch a full TV show or movie can be a little taxing. With a long movie, you’ll be holding the iPhone a few inches from your face and at just the right angle—a little tilt in one direction of the other can make the image too light or too dark—for quite a while. 

Some iPhone cases include built-in stands but if you are watching a movie or TV show on your iPhone, you probably aren't around a flat service. If you’re home, you'll watch the movie on a computer or TV, with the aid of  adapters, cables or an Apple TV.