Verizon's 'Free' Mobile Video Streaming Is No Binge On

Like its rival T-Mobile, Verizon offers a way for its subscribers to watch video without it counting against their monthly data plan. But with Verizon limiting that offer to its own mobile TV app, that's where the similarities end.

Verizon's go90 app uses the carrier's FreeBee Data 360 sponsored data service, which lets providers offer sponsored content such as video or music streaming as well as app downloads. Through FreeBee 360, companies can pay Verizon to make their content free to subscribers. Watch any videos on go90, Verizon says, and it won't count against your monthly data allowance.

MORE: FAQ: What Is Sponsored Data?

However, that free streaming offer doesn't extend to other services such as Netflix, Hulu or YouTube. As a result, Verizon subscribers might be tempted to opt for go90 for their video streaming, especially if it means reserving their data for other uses. Unfortunately, go90 doesn't appear to have a wide variety of shows. Titles include The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, The Elite Daily Show, go90 originals such as Guidance and LA Story and already-free video channels of news sites such as Huff Post Live. If you want to watch some of the popular TV shows and movies on your mobile device, you'll still have to turn to Netflix or Hulu, with the streams eating into your monthly data allotment.

go90 app does offer the ability to clip specific parts of its available videos to share with your friends. So if a certain 10-second segment of The Daily Show reminds you of a friend, you can clip it and send it to your pals. Neither Netflix nor Hulu offer this yet, while YouTube only lets you share a full video starting at a specific time.

With go90, Verizon has taken a different approach from T-Mobile, whose Binge On program features video streams from more than 40 services, including Netflix and Hulu, that don't count against monthly data limits. Video delivered through Binge On does come in at a lower quality, though subscribers have the ability to turn the service on and off when they want higher-quality video streams.

Unlike T-Mobile, Verizon doesn't downgrade video stream quality from non-participating providers. Because it's available through one specific app, Verizon's service does not need to analyze all incoming video streams to see if it is from an eligible partner before discounting the data used.

Binge On has come under fire from some critics, who claim that it violates the FCC's net neutrality rules by favoring the content of select providers over others. (T-Mobile counters that it's not charging streaming services to participate in Binge On and that the program merely lets subscribers maximizing their data if they opt to use it.) With Verizon's go90 favoring paid content, look for net neutrality advocates to take a dim view of Big Red's data-free streaming offer. The FCC has yet to make a ruling on how programs like Binge On and FreeBee square with net neutrality.

Cherlynn Low

Cherlynn is Deputy Editor, Reviews at Engadget and also leads the site's Google reporting. She graduated with a Master’s in Journalism from Columbia University before joining Tom's Guide and its sister site LaptopMag as a staff writer, where she covered wearables, cameras, laptops, computers and smartphones, among many other subjects.