Disney+ hands-on tested in South Africa — Smooth playback with plenty to watch

MyBroadband has sneaked an early look at Disney+ a day before its official launch in South Africa.

The eagerly-anticipated video streaming service is officially going live in the country on Wednesday, 18 May 2022, two and a half years after its US debut.

We managed to sign up early after noticing the Disney+ app had become available on the Google Play Store on Tuesday.

Once downloaded, we launched it and had to agree to terms of service on a privacy policy before signing up.

One significant difference between Netflix, Showmax and other streaming services is that a Disney+ account is passwordless.

Instead, creating and logging into the account required a cellphone number that we had to verify via a one-time PIN (OTP) through an SMS or phone call. This proved to be a quick and straightforward process.

Once the account was created, we had to make a user profile and choose a preferred language before being directed to the Disney+ main page.

As promised by Walt Disney Africa, we could scroll through the library without subscribing to the service.

To start watching, we had to choose between paying R119 per month or R1,190 per year. We opted for the former.

Subscribers who registered for the discounted 12-month R950 pre-launch offer will likely have to sign up via an email that will only be sent from launch day.

The mobile app was smooth, fast, and user-friendly, with simple navigation making it a breeze to find titles we wanted to watch.

Screenshots from the Disney+ mobile app

To test streaming to a larger screen, we switched to the Disney+ website on a Chrome browser running on Windows 11.

After typing in the cellphone number we registered with and entering the OTP, we were in.

The homepage here also had a clean and logical layout, with a similar design to the mobile app.

Front and centre was a big banner at the top that ran through some popular titles on the service.

On the left-hand side of the dashboard was a column with six tabs — My Space, Search, Home, Series, Movies, and Originals.

At the bottom of the Home page were dedicated tabs for each of the distinct Walt Disney properties from which the service draws its content — Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, National Geographic, and Star.

Scrolling down the home page revealed some of the titles available on the service, sorted in horizontal rows under categories like Only on Disney+, Drama Series, and Action and Adventure.

Hovering over a title presented a short synopsis, the year of release, the studio that produced it, and the number of seasons, where applicable.

There was also a “Watch Now” button which let me jump straight into a chosen movie or series.

Clicking anywhere else on the title tile would present a dedicated page with more information, other similar titles on Disney+, and a list of seasons and episodes if it was a series.

I was also able to hit a “+”  button to add titles to a watchlist for viewing at a later time.

Once I had opened up a title, I found the video playback was very similar to Netflix or Amazon Prime Video.

At the bottom was a timeline bar which let me jump to different timestamps in the title.

Buttons at the bottom of the video frame included pause/play, skip forward 10 seconds, jump back 10 seconds, a volume dial, and a full-screen toggle.

There was also an “Episodes” tab for TV series that would slide up when clicked, showing all the available seasons and episodes.

At the top-right of the video window, I could adjust the video quality settings between Auto, Low (Data Saver), HD (up to 720p), or Full HD (up to 1080p).

The lack of the 4K option was likely due to this resolution only being available on specific smart streaming devices, TVs, and gaming consoles.

Playback and jumping around on the timeline in full HD was seamless while using a 100Mbps Internet connection with numerous users in an office environment.

We also delved into the “My Space” page — a dashboard providing account details and settings.

From here, we could add and manage up to seven personalised profiles to use Disney+ with their own names and pictures.

We could also set parental controls for specific profiles and disable whether they were able to see content with certain age restrictions.

Under the Help and Settings section, we could manage and change several settings, including subscription, contact, and other information.

We could also view which devices had logged into our Disney+ account and log them out individually.

Other settings we could change included preferred communication methods, languages, and parental controls.

It is important to note that the site was being worked on while we were testing it.

As a result, there were titles we could not find that were confirmed to be part of the official launch slate for South Africa, like Star Wars: A New Hope.

Consequently, we could not verify whether Han shot first.

Overall, however, the user experience was excellent, and the title selection appeared vast, with many movies and TV shows quickly added to my watchlist.

One annoyance was that the search feature was its own tab, and we could not simply type a query in a box that was available regardless of the page we were on.

The Watchlist was also placed among the rest of the categories on the Home page or in the My Space tab. For quick access, it would have been preferable if it had its own tab.

Below are images showing some of the titles under the main properties on the Disney+ streaming service set to launch in South Africa on Wednesday.

Disney title selection
Pixar title selection
Marvel title selection
Star Wars title selection
National Geographic title selection
Star title selection

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Disney+ hands-on tested in South Africa — Smooth playback with plenty to watch