HBO is one of the leading premium subscription services in the U.S., and much of that’s due to its high-quality original documentaries, movies and series. Not just any service holds such series as Deadwood, Game of Thrones, Sopranos and The Wire, let alone all four. Hence the age-old phrase, “It’s not TV. It’s HBO.” Now, with three HBO apps to choose from, it can prove a little confusing to differentiate one from the other.
HBO Go is an extension of HBO’s cable subscription service offered by your cable or satellite TV provider. You’ll also get HBO Go if you purchase HBO on Amazon Prime Video as one of its add-on channels. In 2019, Statista reported HBO had around 43 million U.S. subscribers, which also included HBO Now — HBO’s standalone app. And in 2020, HBO unveiled its latest streaming service HBO Max which packs in even more AT&T content like Adventure Time, Friends, Rick and Morty, South Park and plenty of others.
Let’s take a look to see how HBO Max vs. HBO Go vs. HBO Now stack up side-by-side.
Compare HBO Go vs. HBO Max vs. HBO Now plans
Before choosing between HBO Go, HBO Now and HBO Max, there are a few takeaways to keep in mind. All of HBO’s apps may have similar price points, but HBO Max delivers the most by way of content, offline downloads and sharing screens. More on that below.
|HBO Go||HBO Now||HBO Max|
|Monthly price||Free with provider||$14.99||$14.99|
|Free trial length||7 day||30 day||7 day|
|Number of titles/channels||1,300+||1,300+||2,000|
|Number of simultaneous streams||2||3||3|
|Cloud DVR storage||N/A||N/A||N/A|
Which streaming service is right for you?
When it comes to choosing the right HBO streaming app, it really comes down to your personal preference. And, in fact, if you already have HBO Go or HBO Now, you may have noticed a few changes.
HBO Go delivers a supplementary experience for your HBO premium subscription. This means if you already have HBO through your current TV provider, then you’ll get the HBO Go app to supplement its service.
HBO Now ($14.99/mo.) is a standalone app that’s best if you want HBO but in app form. This works well if you don’t have a traditional provider. However, AT&T intends to rebrand HBO Now as simply HBO to clear up some confusion. That said, if you already had HBO Now prior to the launch of HBO Max, you may have noticed that you’ve been upgraded to HBO Max. Although, at the time of this analysis, there have been no upgrades if you use an Amazon Fire TV Stick or Roku device.
The recently launched HBO Max service ($14.99/mo.) serves as a direct competitor to Disney Plus and Netflix. HBO Max has all of HBO’s catalog plus exclusive originals as well as its parent company AT&T’s most popular programming. Let’s take a look at how each service stacks up against each other.
Depending on which of HBO’s services you’re subscribed to, you won’t have complete access to every device. For example, the HBO Max app isn’t available on every device at launch, whereas HBO Go isn’t long for this world.
HBO’s supplementary app is available on all the major apps. However, there’s a clear note in the top sideway-scrollable playlist reminding you that its service is set to end on July 31. Its interface is cluttered with content that’s new to HBO rather than your favorite titles. This can make it difficult to find what you’re looking for. Also, live series don’t appear on the app until the following day. This proves inefficient for viewers who would prefer to find the show elsewhere rather than wait the extra day.
HBO Now’s interface is essentially identical to HBO Go. The top menu has your Browse, Search and Settings features, followed by Featured, My List and Continue Watching options. The majority of the app consists of curated playlists starting with Featured and descending to Coming Soon, Obsession-Worthy Drama Series, Must-Watch Comedy Series, Celebrating Black Voices, Just-Added Movies and so on.
The HBO Max app has the most aesthetically pleasing interface of the three. Its backdrop, unlike black and gray of its predecessors, uses a textured purple. Its menu bar is similar to HBO Now with the Browse, Search and Settings features. Right away, you’ll notice many more titles available across its side-scrollable playlists. HBO Max’s playlists are smartly organized, beginning with Featured content but then descending to Continue Watching, My List, Featured Series and more.
The quality of your personal experience hinges on features like multiple user profiles, curated playlists and personal recommendations.
HBO Go doesn’t offer much by way of customization. As an extension of your HBO account, it feels more like a one-size-fits-all experience. You can either go to the search tool to find exactly what you want to watch or navigate to your Continue Watching tab. Since there aren’t any additional user profiles, your household will have to share the My List feature.
Similar to user experience, there’s little difference between HBO Go and HBO Now in personalization. There’s the Continue Watching and My List features, but, again, you’ll have to share with whoever else uses your subscription.
When you open the HBO Max app, you can choose between users or opt to add an additional profile for an adult or kid. Your HBO Max account will allow you to create up to five separate profiles. This will allow you to have your own recommendations and create personal watchlists. HBO Max also thrives with kid-friendly content. There’s plenty of kids programming like Adventure Time: Distant Lands, Harry Potter, classic Looney Tunes, Sesame Street, Spirited Away and many more.
HBO’s apps provide extras in the form of behind-the-scenes (BTS) clips, commentary and interviews.
HBO Go includes parental controls that you can access from the Settings in the top menu. But to actually alter your controls, you’ll need to visit HBOGO.com. This means that you can choose the maximum ratings for Movies and TV permitted to watch on your account. If there are any BTS or commentary extras for a movie or series, they can be found on each title’s page. Simply click on the title and navigate down to the Extras section.
Just as we referenced in the above user experience and personalization sections, there’s little to no difference between the HBO Go and HBO Now interfaces. For example, to access additional videos for Game of Thrones, choose the season and episode, then scroll down to the Extras section. So, if you choose Season Two and select an episode, you’ll find interviews with Jon Snow, Joffrey Baratheon, Daenerys and Robb Stark.
HBO Max lets you toggle your parental controls directly in the app. Simply navigate to the top menu, select Settings and find the Parental Controls tab. Just be sure to create a “Kid” profile first. From there, you’ll just need to enter a specific pin, and you’re all set. Video Extras work pretty much the same as they do with HBO’s other apps. After you choose a specific episode, for instance, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, scroll down to find additional content.
There are a few key disadvantages, particularly for HBO Go, that you’ll need to consider before starting a subscription.
With the release of HBO Max, AT&T announced that it’ll eliminate its HBO Go app on July 31 and then the HBO Go website on August 31. But on the bright side, this news should make HBO’s apps less confusing.
For better or worse, HBO Now is strikingly similar to its soon-to-be-retired HBO Go app. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to create any personal profiles, so personalization features are limited.
Compared to HBO Go and HBO Now, any disadvantages would seem nonexistent to the naked eye. However, if you’re using an Amazon Fire TV Stick or Roku device, then you won’t find the HBO Max app — at least for the time being.
Our hot take
There are more than a few differences between HBO’s apps. However, each app grants you access to HBO’s coveted catalog of exclusive content. If you’re someone who already enjoys an HBO subscription, then HBO Go is a great supplementary app for when you’re away from home or traveling. Just remember, HBO Go expires at the end of August. Any streaming junkie will find HBO Now to be the most ideal app since you won’t need a TV subscription. However, with the recent launch of HBO Max, you’ll receive far more content for the same price as HBO Now, making it the best option for all of HBO’s apps.
If you’d like to learn more about HBO and its apps, then we’ve got you covered. We reveal all the latest features and updates with our HBO Max review. Or, if you’d like to glean the key takeaways of HBO Now and HBO Go, we review all that and more to help you pick the best HBO service to fit your needs.