There’s never been a better time for streaming videos on your phone. With so many options available (including a potential mobile-only Netflix tier) and so many new smartphones having large screens, there’s a good chance you know someone who mainly use their phone for videos. And if you looking for a gift for them, there are some great options.
While smartphones continue to get larger and more powerful, they haven’t surpassed the experience of a larger screen like a television. But for someone who wants the best experience, there are number of accessories you can purchase to compensate for this limitation, including audio quality and storage capacity.
We’ve tried to cover everything that could possibly enhance or compliment mobile video consumption. Because we don’t know everyone’s budget, we did our best to remain conscious of cost and list options in different price ranges so that you can find something that fits what you are willing to spend. The gifts are in no particular order, and each one will make a difference for a person who fits this category.
Before we jump right to accessories, let talk about the smartphones. Even with the best accessories, the overall experience of watching videos is predicated on the combination of components which create the smartphone. While any phone with a large screen and midrange or higher SoC can do an adequate job, for someone in your life who loves watching movies, they will probably want the best of the best.
Fortunately for you, we did the hard work for you by evaluating all the latest phones and created a list of the best smartphones for those who enjoy watching movies on the go. And for those on a budget, we created a separate list for you, so you don’t have to go out and spend $900+ for a phone.
Below, we’ll link the first and second place phones from both lists, starting with the budget phones. And if you want to see our complete review comparing the best phones for watching movies, hit up the “Don’t Miss” links right after the phone links.
2. Gift Cards
Many consider gift cards to be the crappiest gifts, but that’s not the case for movie and TV lovers. After the phone, probably the most important thing any cinephile will need is content, and gift cards are the easiest way to provide that. While not every streaming service lets you buy gift cards online, most of the major players do.
For those looking to the watch the latest movies and TV shows on the go, Google Play and iTunes are the best options. Unlike other streaming services, these operate more like VOD, allowing you to buy or rent content for a period of time. Here is where you’ll find all the latest movies, as soon as their physical copy is released. Putting money on these gifts cards also give them more options, as both cards also let them purchase books, music, and apps as well.
Prime Video is one of the largest streaming service available. It offers both a streaming service you pay for annually, as well as the ability to rent or own movies and shows. However, unlike Netflix and Hulu, it is tied to an Amazon Prime subscription, which means you also get free two-day shipping, discounts on video games, and much more. While you can’t buy a gift card specifically for Prime Video, you can gift a subscription so they can enjoy not only two-day shipping, but hundreds of hours of video as well.
Let us not forget about the movie theaters. For the latest movies, theaters are your best bet, and no gift guide for movie lovers would be complete without at least finding a way to gift that. One of the more popular websites for purchasing tickets online and on your phone is Fandango. Fandango lets you buy tickets in advance, select reserved seating, and receive rewards for purchases, making it a perfect gift for our list.
- Netflix Gift Card – minimum of $25 (Amazon | Walmart)
- Google Play Gift Card – minimum of $25 (Amazon | Walmart)
- App Store & iTunes Gift Card – minimum of $15 (Apple | Amazon | Walmart)
- Amazon Prime Subscription – $39.99 (3 months) or $119 (1 year) (Amazon)
- Sling TV Gift Card – minimum of $25 (PayPal)
- Fandango Gift Card – minimum $25 (Fandango)
Audio quality can be just as important video quality for the overall experience. But when it comes to watching on your phone, most phone speakers are just not powerful enough to accurately reproduce the audio of the show or film. This is why, for mobile users, the best option is a pair of headphones.
The problem is that the smartphone industry is determined to get rid of the 3.5 mm headphone jack. This means that either users have to switch to wireless or find a workaround for their wired headphones. While wireless headphones do have some advantages over wired (such as the ability to move freely thanks to the lack of tethering to your phone), they do lack the same audio quality.
We searched online and tried the best of best headphones when it comes to watching a movie. We focused on headphones with clear and strong bass, as many genres of movies leverage it to evoke emotions. We also looked for ones that are comfortable for at least 3 hours. At that point, you could either watch 3–6 episodes of a series or a very long movie, neither of which should irritate your ears while enjoying.
Because of the low percentage of phones come with a headphone jack, we started first with Bluetooth options. They are arranged in order of price, giving you different options depending on your budget.
If they happen to have one of the few phones that still include a headphone jack, these next options are all wired headphones. Once again, they are arranged in order of price to help you find the right headphone at your budget. The Audeze SINE is the only one on our list which has the option of using a Lightning cable instead of the standard audio cable. This allows you to use it as a wired headphone with newer iPhones (starting with iPhone 7) and avoid the inconsistency (and poorer audio quality) of Bluetooth headphones.
More than likely, the person you are buying a gift for doesn’t have a headphone jack. Early on in the switching process, OEMs like Apple include the dongle that let you connect a pair of traditional headphones, but this practice is less common on more recent phones. Even if the person happens to have a dongle, because of how small this part is, it’s easy to lose and usually pretty rudimentary.
Because of the importance of audio, we recommend looking into buying a dongle as a gift. Sure, it’s a pretty lackluster gift on the surface, but you can provide that person a better listening experience thanks to some dongles sporting top-notch Digital-to-Analog Converters (DACs) for hi-fi sound. We also included Bluetooth options which turn wired headphones into wireless headphones, allowing them to skip the need to purchase a wireless headset.
While headphones are a better option when enjoying a movie, they aren’t always the preferred method. Not everyone wants to have a pair of headphones on for a long period of time. Since phone speakers should be a last resort, the next best option is to connect your phone to external speakers for clear, powerful sound.
Bluetooth speakers offer superior sound to phone speakers. They use much larger drivers that deliver a higher quality of audio not possible with most phone speakers. And if you want to fill your room with the sound from the video, accessories such as the UE Boom 3 let you connect multiple speakers and sync the audio together.
Other speakers, such as the Oppo Sonica Wi-Fi Speaker, include AirPlay. AirPlay makes pairing to external devices easy and uses a higher quality connection than standard Bluetooth. Several other speakers on our list also support Wi-Fi connections, which offer a better connection than Bluetooth by limiting disconnecting issues and allowing for higher bandwidth for audio. And, except for the UE Boom 3, all the Bluetooth speakers on our list include an auxiliary port for physical connection and the highest quality of audio.
6. TV Accessories
While the portability of the smaller screen is ideal in some situations, it can’t replace the experience of enjoying a movie or TV show on the big screen. The problem is not all TVs are “smart,” limiting your ability to watch the same content from your phone on the TV. There are also times when you want to continue watching the same program on TV. Well, there are a few ways you can do this.
With the Chromecast or Chromecast Ultra, you can mirror the content of your smartphone to your TV. The former is limited to 1080p resolution (hence its lower price), while the Ultra can output up to 4K. When apps have native support (such as Netflix and YouTube), you can literally start a video on your phone and transfer it to your TV, exactly where you left off. However, even if the app doesn’t support it, you can still “cast” (or mirror) your screen as long as you’re on Android. The difference is your phone will remain on, and both screens will show the same content.
Another option besides Chromecast (or Chromecast Ultra) is the NVIDIA Shield. This is a standalone box that runs Android TV, a version of Android built for larger displays such as a television. It not only has many of the same apps found on your phone, but has native Google Cast support. Therefore, you can cast your screen using the NVIDIA Shield in the same manner as the Chromecast Ultra (it also supports 4K). However, unlike the Chromecast Ultra, you can use the device separately with a remote so that you don’t consume any additional power on your phone at all.
Another gift possibility is Apple TV and Apple TV 4K. Both operate similarly to the NVIDIA Shield except for using tvOS, the operating system created by Apple for television. With this device, you can use AirPlay to mirror your screen in the same way as you would “cast” your screen with Google Cast. However, unlike the Google’s developed technology, this is exclusive to iOS so iPhones and iPads only. Just like the Chromecast, the inexpensive one only outputs to 1080p, while the higher end model outputs up to 4K.
The ambiance of the room can also provide a more immersive movie watching experience. With smart lights, you can sync the lights to what is displayed on your screen and matching accordingly. The result is a truly immersive experience where your surroundings act as an extension to what’s being displayed on the screen.
8. Extra Storage
Many streaming services let you download content for offline viewing. The thing is, as you increase the resolution, the file size increases a lot. If you plan to binge watch an entire series of a show, this will quickly eat up your storage.
Many Android phones have the option of adding an microSD card for extra storage, including storing videos from Netflix. Because not all phones include this ability, we recommend checking out our compare tool to see if the device of the person you are buying the gift for accepts microSD cards.
For iPhone users, there is no native support for microSD. However, it is possible to add additional storage. SanDisk’s iXpand Flash Drive is a Lightning drive which comes in storage capacities ranging from 32 GB to 256 GB.
For Android models that don’t have microSD card slots, SanDisk has similar solution to iPhone. Using either USB Type-C or micro USB connector, you can additional storage ranging from 16 GB to 128 GB.
9. Battery Packs
Watching video consumes a lot battery, but the last thing someone wants to do is pause the video to charge their phone. This is where power banks come in, and we’ve listed some of the larger ones. Each one of these power banks will provide at least 5 charges before the power bank requires its own charge, ensuring you always have enough battery life for however many videos you plan on watching. We arranged them by price from lowest to highest, with the most expensive using a ridiculously high 50,000 mAh power cell (roughly 20 times larger than an iPhone battery).
10. VR Headsets
Another way to enjoy videos is using a virtual reality headset. While it isn’t for everyone, it can offer one of the better movie watching experiences. With the screen inches from your eyes, movies are much more immersive than a display further away from your face. And when videos are shot for VR, things only get better as you gain the ability to move the camera. As you move your head, the camera will move with you, giving a complete 360° view of the video.
The problem is VR is pretty tasking on technology. There are only a few options available, and only one works with iPhones. The other two have limits in terms of which devices are compatible.
The Samsung Gear VR is only compatible with Samsung Galaxy devices. Specifically, only Galaxy S9, S9+, Galaxy Note 8, S8, S8+, S7, S7 Edge, Note 5, S6, S6 Edge, S6 Edge+, A8 Star, A8, and A8+. The latest model (linked below) is also the only version compatible with the Galaxy Note 9, but it needs an adapter to work, which you must request from Samsung’s tech support.
The Google Daydream View also supports a limited amount of devices; however unlike the Gear VR, it covers more than just Samsung devices. If you have Google Pixel 3, Pixel 3 XL,Pixel 2, Pixel 2 XL, Pixel, Pixel XL, Samsung Galaxy S9, Galaxy S9+, Galaxy S8, Galaxy S8+, Galaxy Note 8, LG V30, ASUS ZenFone AR, Moto Z2 Force, Moto Z, Moto Z Force, ZTE Axon 7, Huawei Mate 9 Pro, or Huawei Mate 9 Porsche Design, you can use Daydream View.
But what about iPhones? The only option to view VR content is to use Google Cardboard. Google Cardboard supports nearly all Android or iOS phones with screen sizes between 4 to 7 inches. While you can get the generic Google Cardboard from the Google Store for $15, there are additional models from other companies which have different styles and durability. Some models are better suited for certain screen sizes, especially when using larger phones.
Another great gift idea for movie watchers is a phone case. There are several cases and attachments that make it easier to hold your phone for a long time or position your phone on a table. For example, PopSocket is an attachment which lets you carry your phone comfortably with only two fingers. It also acts as a stand when aligned on a flat surface.
Another great gift is an alternative to another gift we mention, the battery case. Instead of a power bank, you attach a case to your phone which comes with its own battery. The case charges your device and dramatically increases battery life.
12. Bed Mounts
Even though we know we shouldn’t do it, many of us will spend an excessive period of time on our phones right before bed. For media consumers, this is even more common, as you’ll try to watch a few more minutes of a video. Instead of awkwardly holding it in your hand, positioning your neck in a way that puts strain upon it, you can help your friend or family matter with an accessory.
The Tryone Gooseneck Bed Mount attaches to the bed using a clamp. On the other end is a place to hold your phone which expands to fit larger devices. You can then move the bed mount to a position within your eyesight while you rest your neck properly on your pillow.
The GoWith Magnetic Phone Stand makes it even easier by using magnets to hold up your phone. And instead of clamps, it has a harness which you use to hold the attachment upright or place behind your neck, allowing you to watch your video laying down or while walking.