United Offers Passengers In-Flight Movies and TV Streamed To iOS Devices Starting In April

The so-called friendly skies are about to get a little bit friendlier for United fliers... that is, until everyone in your cramped economy row pulls out an iPad and goes arm-to-arm in a battle for space. The airline has this week announced that its app will soon see an update in order to transition in-flight entertainment from the plane to your own personal device. It's a shift that has been a long time coming, and one we're thrilled to see. Many older airplanes have yet to be updated with seat-back LCDs, and at this point, our guess is that most other airlines will follow United's lead here and place the entertainment burden on the passenger. If you want customized entertainment, BYOD.

Starting "soon," and definitely before the end of 2014, United passengers should bring along their laptop, iPad or iPhone, load up the latest United app prior to boarding, and then launch the app once the plane is above 10,000 feet. You'll then be able to choose from "over 150 movies and nearly 200 TV shows and watch them free of charge on your personal device." It's actually quite astonishing that they're rolling this out as a free service, but they'll almost certainly attempt to squeeze a few dollars out of it once the novelty wears off.

For example, Alaska Airlines and JetStar have offered personal in-seat tablets with entertainment for some time now, but for a fee. Interestingly, only Apple devices (and all laptops, it seems) are supported initially. In other words, BlackBerry, Android, and Windows Phone users are out of luck, but that speaks to just how many passengers end up toting iOS products. It'll also be interesting to see how the networks hold up and how the streaming is conducted; we're assuming the content will be stored locally onboard and streamed via a private network instead of access the Internet. Either way, we sure hope it's a scheme that other airlines follow.