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United Airlines to launch free inflight video streaming service for iOS devices, laptops

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In April, United Airlines will begin rolling out a new inflight entertainment service that streams over 150 movies and almost 200 TV shows to passengers' iOS devices for free.

According to United, the system will be rolling out in stages starting next month, though the basic hardware is already on board much of the airline's fleet. At launch, the system will be limited to iOS devices and laptops, though support for Android is expected sometime in the future.

The service's hardware backbone, to be installed in United's Airbus A319, Airbus A320, Boeing 747-400 and certain 777-200 aircraft, will stream content from an on-board media server over Wi-Fi. By the end of 2014, the airline plans to have the setup running in most of its domestic fleet.

To view the various media, which is sponsored in part by the MileagePlus Explorer Card, users must first download the United Airlines iOS app, which will presumably stream content over United Wi-Fi. Users who do not have the app installed may do so for free while in the air.

As noted in the release, two types of media will be available for consumption. Laptop users may need to install a browser plug-in, while iOS device owners can simply watch content via the United app. Other programs will also be available through the United Portal without plug-in or app requirements.

It appears that the video offerings will act much like any other streaming app, complete with controls to start, stop, pause and rewind a movie or TV show at anytime.