Netflix launches offline viewing for mobile apps

Posted: 1 December 2016 8:10 am News

Netflix tablet

Your monthly mobile data limit is now safe from the tyranny of Netflix streaming.

There's good news for travellers and mobile users with limited monthly data allowances this morning as Netflix has launched offline viewing for its iOS and Android mobile apps.

The feature allows users to download episodes of their favourite shows to their device's internal storage over Wi-Fi, and then watch later without needing a mobile data connection.

This isn't an iTunes-like solution though, and downloading isn't a case of suddenly owning a licence to the program. You still require an active Netflix account in order to watch the shows.

The range of programs on offer is dominated by Netflix originals, though there are plenty of non-Netflix shows available to watch offline. Similarly, Netflix's Marvel properties appear to be missing from the lineup. Expect the list of offline shows to grow with time, but for now there's no shortage of entertainment available.

There are two quality settings for offline viewing, with "standard" aimed at fast downloads with smaller file sizes and "high" taking up more space. You can download on a 4G signal, though the app defaults to Wi-Fi only downloads.

Perhaps the biggest disappointment in the app is that there's no option to download to a MicroSD card for Android users – the app only lets you store files on the device's internal storage. For many Android users, that could be problematic, as the phones tend to ship with smaller internal capacities but offset that with the expandable memory slot.

Why has it taken Netflix so long to launch offline viewing?

While offline listening has been a feature of music streaming apps for years, historically Netflix hasn't exactly been keen on the idea of letting users download shows to watch in areas they don't have mobile coverage. Instead, Netflix put pressure on others to build public Wi-Fi infrastructure, and improved its streaming algorithms to reduce the amount of data needed to binge watch Luke Cage on the train.

But after going global at the start of the year, Netflix's opinions softened slightly, given the sheer number of countries that don't have a robust 4G network. The fact that Amazon Prime, which launched offline viewing last year, is expected to go global shortly may have helped Netflix's decision as well.

For customers using other Australian streaming services, there are currently no plans for offline viewing. If you are a customer of either Stan or NetflixOptus does offer unmetered streaming on certain mobile plans, which solves half the problem of mobile streaming.

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