Now you can watch on the go without using your mobile data!
Millions of Australians have embraced everything about Netflix in the past couple of years – from its ever-changing smorgasbord of complete TV series and movies old and new, as well as its many high-quality original productions. It’s transformed how many of us watch television, letting us choose what we want to watch and when we want to watch it, then enjoy it in crisp HD with no ads, watermarks or distractions. And thanks to them having an app on pretty much every connected device under the sun, it’s possible to take the entire Netflix library with you wherever you go.
There’s only one drawback to taking Netflix on the road with you, though – streaming video uses mobile data when you’re out and about. A lot of mobile data. Watching one movie on your phone or tablet can take a huge chunk out of your monthly data allowance – and potentially lead to extra charges on your bill from excess use. Up until now, the only way around that was to find yourself a mobile plan with an especially huge data allowance.
That’s all changed this month, with Netflix springing a pleasant surprise on the world – the launch of a download feature for their iOS and Android apps.
What this means is that now you’re able to load up your phone or tablet with shows and movies to take with you on the road – where you can watch them all without using a single byte of your mobile data. It’s a huge bonus for those who’ve always wanted to ease the boredom of the daily commute on the train or bus by catching up on some Netflix. Now that’s easily possible – assuming, that is, that the content you want to watch is available for download.
To enable downloading in the Netflix app, you’ll need to update your app to the latest version, which adds the feature. You’ll know you have the latest one when the app announces to you that downloads are available, and you’ll find a new “Available for Download” item in the app’s menus. Pick a movie or series from the many that are offered, and you’ll see a new “Download” icon underneath the description (for movies) or next to each episode (for TV series). Tap that, and the content immediately starts downloading to your device.
Downloading your favourite Netflix shows is now piece of cake. Photo: Compare TV
You’ll want to make sure you’re connected to Wi-Fi, of course, before doing this – and also that you have enough free storage space on your device. By default, the app will download a “standard” quality video file (roughly equivalent to standard definition). But if you want some nice crisp HD on that high resolution phone or tablet screen, head into App Settings where you can change the video quality to the plainly-named “Higher”.
We tested this out with a two-hour movie, and found that the standard setting delivered a 550 MB file, while the “Higher” setting increased that substantially, to 1.6GB. The choice is yours – for many, the limitation will be free storage space on the device (as it was for us!) but you should also take your available home download limit into account if you have one.
Downloaded movies and shows do expire, by the way – the length of time varies, but Netflix says that all downloaded content has a maximum 30-day lifespan on the device. The movie we downloaded showed no expiry (you get a warning when it goes under 7 days) until we started playing it, after which is switched to a 48-hour expiry – similar to rentals on iTunes.
Not all of Netflix’s library is available to download – it’s a licensing issue with the various rights holders – but they intend to keep adding more eligible content. There’s plenty there to keep you busy in the meantime.
It’s worth mentioning that there are also some specific restrictions on the devices you use. For iOS devices you’ll need to have updated to at least iOS 8.0, and for Android you’ll have to have version 4.4.2 or later. “Jailbroken” or “rooted” devices may or may not work – but users of such devices will be used to that sort of uncertainty by now when it comes to copy-protected content! There’s no extra charge to use the new download feature – just pick your content, download it onto your device and remember to bring your headphones along on your next train, plane or bus trip!