In an event held on 2nd September, Airtel announced the launch of hardware devices Airtel Xstream and Airtel Stick. The news came close to the heels of the announcement of Reliance’s JioFiber for broadband and DTH industry. Airtel being Jio’s biggest competitor expanded its Xstream digital entertainment play platform for its DTH subscribers. In a bid to stay in the competition, Airtel TV app has also been revamped keeping the focus on content-based search.
What does the launch of Airtel Xstream and Airtel Stick mean to a common user? In simple words, Airtel Xstream services become device-independent from now onwards. All you need is required hardware to connect to. You can continue to watch streamed content on mobile handsets using the app and on PC via the Xstream website. Now Airtel is offering a streaming box where you can install apps, and watch content using Google’s Android platform. The change has facilitated its subscribers to access streaming services on TV which can be connected to the new Airtel Xstream Stick, a plug and play device.
With Jio Fiber commercial launch set on 5th September, many are drawing comparisons between Airtel’s new offerings and Jio’s upcoming services. If you are planning to opt for one of them and cannot decide which one to go for, let us try to understand what Airtel is offering, the features and price of Airtel Xstream Box and Xstream Stick.
Airtel Xstream Box- Specs & Features
It is an Android TV set-top box. In other words, it runs on Android TV OS by Google. It merges the Direct To Home (DTH) services as well as the streaming apps in one package.
Airtel Xstream Box runs on Android 9.0 Pie and offers access to the Google Play Store and Google Assistant.
This also means that you can download and stream content from all popular OTT platforms.
Comes with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity to connect to Internet services. Since it’s using Android TV OS, it supports built-in Chromecast which will aid connectivity with Android phones.
The company is offering a universal remote which has Google Assistant-based voice search functionality.
Apart from this, remote features dedicated hotkeys for Netflix, Amazon, and YouTube.
Multi-device access, single login up to 5 for all is also an important feature for the family.
Subscribers can access their favourite content from a bouquet of 500+ TV channels, and preloaded Airtel Xstream app (said to feature over 10,000 movies and shows).
OTT content partners include ZEE5, Hooq, Hoi Choi, Eros Now, HungamaPlay, ShemarooMe, Ultra, and Curiosity Stream.
Music lovers will have access to a catalogue of 6+ million songs from Wynk Music’s library.
Set-top box comes with a 4K Hybrid Box offering satellite TV and OTT channels together, somewhat similar to what it was offering in 2017 Internet TV box.
It comes pre-installed with Airtel Xstream app, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube and Airtel Store.
To counter the much-touted Jio Set-Top Box, there are a couple of features which you can look forward to. One is for the gamers – access to the Airtel Store for “advanced gaming with high-end graphics” on the Xstream Box.
The other one is a support to streaming in 4K.
Key differences are highlighted to make it easier for you to decide
1) Xstream 4K Hybrid Box is absolutely different from what Jio is extending in its Set Top Box. They are from two different segments
2) Jio Box needs JioFiber broadband connection to stream content. It will come pre-installed with all Jio Apps but will also support other third-party OTT services.
3) Jio Box supports video calling involving 4 participants simultaneously. This feature is not supported in Airtel Box.
4) JioFiber will be able to host console-quality games and mixed reality services. The latter will need an MR headset.
5) The pricing of Jio Box will be revealed on September 5. There are no details on the complimentary offers as well. On the other hand, Airtel is offering the box for Rs 3,999 for new customers.
Summing up, Jio is offering a comprehensive package of free broadband with the set-top-box, free voice calling all over India, TV video calling and video conferencing facility, a smart home connectivity platform, a dedicated gaming service, AR and VR capabilities, subscription to all streaming apps and more.
If your requirement is a simple Android TV Box with streaming in 4K, lots of online content, then the Airtel Xstream Box is a better bet. But if you are looking for more multimedia features, then the JioFiber seems to be a better alternative.
Though the comparisons are obvious since the products are coming from the biggest rival operators but the offerings are in completely different segments. As can be seen, Airtel is offering only a part of a larger service that Reliance Jio is aiming at. The interesting aspect that needs to be looked at is the pricing plans from Reliance.
Airtel Xstream Box-Pricing & Plans
Existing users of Airtel Digital TV connection need to upgrade the box by paying a discounted amount of Rs 2,249 only. For the rest, Airtel Xstream 4K Hybrid Box is priced at Rs 3,999. The freebies offered include one-year’s worth all-access subscription for Rs 999 to Airtel Xstream app content, as well as a one-month subscription to an HD DTH pack. If you are an existing Airtel Platinum or Airtel Gold customer, you are eligible to get complimentary access to all content.
Airtel Xstream Stick-Specs & Features
Xstream Stick is based on Android 8.0 Oreo unlike Xstream Box and as per the company’s claims, it has a built-in Chromecast too. It extends most of the features of Box, but Stick user doesn’t have access to DTH channels. It is designed for plug & play experience on any TV screen. Users are limited to viewing digital streaming services with the preloaded Airtel Xstream app. Going by its specifications, it brags of “best-in-class” 1.6GHz processor. Keeping up with smart home alternatives, voice search-enabled remote with Bluetooth v4.2 connectivity is also provided. It is somewhat similar to already available Amazon Fire Stick in the market.
Airtel Xstream Stick-Pricing & Plans
A single content subscription plan is being offered with Xstream Stick as of now. This includes content from multiple OTT partners like ZEE5, Hooq, Eros Now, HungamaPlay, ShemarooMe, Ultra and Curiosity Stream. The users also have the benefits of access to Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and other Google Play applications. There are offers doled out by Airtel on these with its plans. Additionally, it has a music catalogue of over 6 million songs from Wynk Music’s library.
Coming to the price and subscription plans, Stick is priced at Rs 3,999 only. For Airtel Thanks Platinum and Gold members, the single content subscription plan is free. Others can avail at a fee of Rs 999 annually with a free trial period of 30 days.
Offline, the Xstream stick and 4K Hybrid Box can be bought from Airtel retail stores and chains like Croma and Vijay Sales. Online, the Stick is available for purchase exclusively via Flipkart, in addition to Airtel.in.
Airtel Xstream-App & Website
Xstream app has undergone a revamp with the focus shifted to content-based search. The new version of Airtel app will assist its users to identify the right kind of content and give recommendations too. Some of the existing users spotted the rebranding as early as last month.
It has retained the features except for changes in the user interface. “Live TV” assists in making a choice of video quality you intend to watch. You can watch Live or even save data. Improvisations have been made in the Live TV backbone to ensure a smooth experience with no buffering and no bugs.
It comes with an optional viewing of more than 350 channels. Also on offer is a collection of 10,000+ movies and 100s of TV shows from multiple content partners like ZEE5, Hungama, Eros Now, HOOQ, Alt Balaji, ShareIt, YouTube.
A feature that needs mention is “Catch up on Live TV.” In case you have missed a Live Telecast, you can record it and view later which is as good as the Live.