Cord cutting is not just a trend — with more and more Americans now eschewing traditional cable TV in favor of streaming their media over the Internet, online entertainment is fast becoming the norm. The lack of a conventional cable “cord” tethering them to their house means that cord cutters can watch their entertainment wherever they want, whenever they want, and on whatever device they want. These days, a popular way to watch movies, television shows, and sporting events is on a smartphone.
Our busy lives mean we don’t always have time to sit down on the couch, and when you cut the cord, you don’t have to. Here, we’ll look at what you need to know before cutting that cord and show you how to make the most of your new entertainment adventure with your smartphone.
Evaluate Your Viewing Habits
Before cutting the cord, make a list of your favorite television shows, networks, and channels, plus sporting events that are on your “must watch” list. If that list covers more than one page, cord cutting might not be for you. Since you can’t get everything in one place, you will need to subscribe to multiple services to get all your entertainment.
However, if most of your viewing is already online through popular streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and YouTube, and you just watch the occasional “regularly scheduled program,” cord cutting will be right up your alley.
Choose a Streaming Service (or two, or three)
Streaming services are divided into two main categories:
- Streaming Subscription Services include YouTube TV, Sling TV, Hulu Live, and DirecTV. You’ll get options similar to cable, such as live programming on local channels and cable services like CNN and The Disney Channel.
- Streaming Services include Netflix and Amazon. Along with their video content, you can also get access to premium cable services such as HBO and Showtime for an additional fee.
All of these services charge a monthly fee that can range from $8 up to $40, but they offer free trials. Sign up for a few and find out which you like best.
Choose a Streaming Box
If you want to watch shows on your television (rather than just on a computer or smartphone), you’ll need a streaming box. This is a small device that plugs into your TV’s HDMI port and connects it to the Internet so you can stream the above services. Your television may have apps for some of the streaming services installed, but it won’t have any for the streaming subscription service.
Some good options are Apple TV (which is the only one that offers iTunes movies), Roku, and Fire TV (from Amazon). Google’s Chromecast is the least expensive option, but you need your phone to operate it as it doesn’t come with a remote.
Consider Your Internet Speeds
To cut the cable cord, you need high-speed Internet. Netflix and Hulu require speeds of between 1.5 Mbps and 6 Mbps per stream, but you’ll need to multiply that by the number of streams if you have more than one person watching on different screens. For a family of four watching three to four different streams on various devices, you’ll need a minimum of 18 Mbps. Sling TV recommends a constant speed of 25 Mbps for multiple devices.
Consider Your Mobile Data Plan
All the major streaming services offer smartphone apps, making it easy to access your content on the go. However, watching a standard Netflix stream will use about one gig of data an hour. To get the most out of cord cutting, you’ll want to choose an unlimited data plan for your mobile phone so you can continue to watch even when you’re without WiFi.
Most basic unlimited data plans will reduce your speeds to unwatchable levels once you hit between 22 GB to 50 GB in a month, depending on your cellular provider. Look for a robust unlimited plan with the highest data cap and consider a provider with free access to WiFi hotspots so you can be sure to catch every minute of your favorite sporting event or must-watch TV show, even if you’re away from home.
While cord cutting isn’t for everyone, the on-the-go conveniences it offers are excellent. Consider all these factors, including your viewing habits and type of mobile plan, before making the leap.
Jennifer Pattison Tuohy is a freelance writer and contributor for Xfinity Mobile. She writes about the smart home, mobile phone technology, consumer tech, small businesses, and green living for a variety of newspapers, magazines, and online publications.