It is exactly two weeks since I wrote that Kenyans can hardly afford to watch YouTube, let alone ShowMax content. A few days after publishing the article, I received an email from ShowMax explaining to me how those who watch ShowMax content can effectively save mobile data (hence money) yet still enjoy high quality of ShowMax content. To test the mobile data saving settings, they offered me 5GB of data and a voucher for three months of ShowMax premium access. After carrying out the test for about 10 days, I can now authoritatively state that for Kshs 3,000, you can effectively watch one movie or two episodes a day on ShowMax.
As explained in the earlier article, the reason Kenyans can’t afford to watch ShowMax and YouTube is the high cost of data. As long as the mobile operators are unwilling to offer unlimited Internet, then whatever the amount of data they want to let consumers access for a given amount of money cannot be the solution to video viewing, video downloads and TV streaming. To work around this problem, content providers such as ShowMax, Facebook and even YouTube have enabled video contents to be available to viewers at different qualities. With YouTube, this quality can be as low as 144p – although good enough quality that is pleasant to the eyes for big screens like PC monitors start at 360p.
On ShowMax, the qualities you can watch have been demarcated in terms of data rate per hour. The highest quality (no capping), which offers content at 720p, promises to utilise 1.4GB/hour – and if the content is available on full HD, then the data consumption can be as high as 2GB per hour. Unless you are on free WiFi or some form of unlimited Internet, this is the data setting that you must avoid, at all times. The problem is that the setting on ShowMax is that by default data consumption is at this uncapped bandwidth.
To watch ShowMax on a rather pleasant quality but not spend too much on data, you may want to set the data cap at 0.7GB/hour, or 480p video resolution. With this setting, you will be able to spend approximately 21GB per month at one hour per day viewing rate – which is either a one hour movie or one episode plus 18 minutes of the second episode of a series. If watching one hour of ShowMax daily satisfies your entertainment needs, then the medium bandwidth cap should work just fine.
For the majority of us who really care about data, then your best option is to set the data cap at 0.3GB/hour which will deliver to you video quality at 360p. As mentioned above, video quality below 360p even on YouTube is unwatchable. At 360p and on small screen like a mobile phone, you shouldn’t notice much quality change, especially if the movie or series is thoroughly entertaining. The other advantage of watching at 360p is that the streaming will be smooth all the way, and if you are on Safaricom’s 4G, you should experience zero lag time. If you watch ShowMax on uncapped bandwidth however, you may experiences momentary stops way too often and this may get into your nerves, especially if your data access is not anything near 4G Internet.
The question that I need to answer now is how to set your ShowMax bandwidth at either medium bandwidth cap or low medium bandwidth cap – given that by default ShowMax will deliver content at uncapped data. If you are to watch ShowMax on PC (generally via PC browser like Chrome), then the bandwidth capping setting is at the right end of the progress bar indicated by the infamous gear icon (see image). After clicking the gear icon, you’ll click at the Bandwidth capping and choose your preferred bandwidth rate – either 0.7GB/hour or 0.3GB/hour.
If your device of choice for watching ShowMax is a mobile device thus via the ShowMax mobile App, then the setting for capping the bandwidth can be found under Settings Menu. To get there, you will press on those three lines found at the left side of the Home label then press on settings at the bottom of the drop down list, and press on Bandwidth capping. From there you’ll be able to select your medium or low bandwidth options.
What ShowMax could have done, especially for the mobile App, is to set the data cap at low bandwidth by default.
As you may have realized, to watch ShowMax even at low bandwidth via mobile data only makes sense if you will restrict your viewing time to one movie or two episodes of a series max per day – that is, only one and a half hours of streaming each day. However, for maximum entertainment, I guess you will want to be able to watch ShowMax at over 5 hours every day, and this may mean you’ll spend over Shs 15K on data. To have the experience of watching ShowMax for 5 hours a day, then you need to opt for the downloads.
ShowMax allows subscribers to download up to 25 shows per month, and I am pretty sure that within the month you should be able to get access to some free WiFi from where you can download your 25 titles. Once done, you can go back home and watch your approximate 1 show per day without spending a dime on data.