I love Netflix. I think it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread (even better than sliced bread!). One thing that Android users have been longing for is a way to stream Netflix on their device — especially since the advent of Android tablets. This is also something that iOS users I know like to hold over my head when rattling off the list of reasons iOS is “superior” to Android…until now. Last week Netflix started rolling out their official streaming app to select Android devices.
For those of you who don’t know what Netflix is, it’s a rental service that you subscribe to monthly. While you can choose to have them send you DVDs, they also have a vast collection of TV shows and movies that you can stream right to you computer or Netflix enabled device.
There are a ton of devices you can stream to: Xbox, PS3, Wii, Google TV and other Internet enabled TVs, iOS devices, etc.
Netflix for Android introduces the ability to stream right on your device, a feature as I said before that Android users have been waiting on for a long time. So…how does the app measure up? Let’s take a look!
One thing to note is that the app requires an Internet connection to work, which makes sense since you’ll probably use it primarily to stream videos. That means that your Queues are not stored locally.
If you don’t have an unlimited data plan, you should be careful about streaming since doing so requires a lot of data.
There are four tabs in the Netflix app: Home, which shows anything streaming that you have paused as well as Netflix’s top picks for you; Genres; Search; and Your Queue. As far as the design of the app goes, it’s a nice looking app — it’s clean, functional, and easy to use. What I do find interesting is that there’s no secondary functionality; that is, there’s no Settings/Preferences/Options to change anything, not even your username and password. I actually do not know if I can change my account information in the app itself.
You can do this by deactivating your Android device on the Accounts page at netflix.com, and then rerunning the Netflix app on your device.
On the Home page of the app are two things: a Resume button for when you’ve paused something you’re streaming, and a list of recommendations from Neflix, organized by what the recommendations are based on. From what I can tell, all of the recommendations are ones you can stream.
Finding Movies and TV Shows
The Genres screen is pretty straight forward: it’s a list of genres by name, where choosing one brings you to a list of movies and shows. I’m not sure how they are sorted, but it seems to be by the likelihood that you’ll enjoy it. Again, it looks like the only movies and shows listed are ones that you can stream.
The Search screen is equally straight forward. Type in a title and the results will show up. The search results return both streaming and non-streaming titles, though you can’t do anything with the non-streaming titles, not even view details or add them to your Queue.
The search also only searches by title, not actor or director like on the main site or other third party apps. While this is not a huge deal to me, it does seem like something that’s easy enough to include. I also suspect that when searching for any title, it will only bring up non-streaming content if it’s close to an exact match. When searching “House,” House, M.D. didn’t show up until I added the “m.d.”
The Queue tab brings up your Instant Queue, where you can manage (remove titles of) or watch movies or shows. From other areas of the app, you can also select a title to add to your Instant Queue.
Missing from the app is any trace of your DVD Queue; you cannot view or manage it from within the app. This is the most disappointing part of the app for me — not that I manage my DVD Queue often, but if I wanted to on the go, I’d need two apps to do so, since the Netflix app does not do it all.
Streaming: the crux of the matter! Maybe it’s because I’m using a cell phone and not a tablet, but the resolution streaming on 3G was not nearly as bad as I thought it would be. Of course, it looks much better when streaming from Wifi (I have not tried 4G since it’s not available to me). With a good connection, what I was streaming loaded pretty quickly, and I didn’t experience a lot of lag or stoppage, if any at all.
Streaming works exactly like you’d expect, as it does on any other device. There is a full screen mode, the controls appear when you tap the screen, and you can play/pause, or drag the slider to fast forward/rewind. All in all, I was pretty happy with how streaming worked.
Other App Notes
One thing I noticed with the Netflix app was that when you go back to your home screen, the app will reload the next time you open it; there is no maintaining state (which would mean that if you were on the Search tab when you closed it, it would go back to the Search tab). I also find that if your phone’s screen is off for a certain amount of time, the app will reload itself when you turn it back on, even if Netflix is still up. This can get a little annoying (especially when you’re writing a review for the app).
It’s also worth noting that currently the Netflix app is only supported by an handful of devices:
- HTC Incredible with Android 2.2
- HTC Nexus One with Android 2.2, 2.3
- HTC Evo 4G with Android 2.2
- HTC G2 with Android 2.2
- Samsung Nexus S with Android 2.3
These are the devices that Netflix has tested to make sure they work. I am using an HTC Incredible, however I’ve rooted my phone and am using Cyanogen Mod 7 RC4 (I should really update). The app is working fine on my phone.
Netflix has delivered what Android users have been looking for a long time: the ability to stream content to their devices. This is a pretty solid app for managing and viewing streaming content; with that being said, I’d like to see features added to manage your DVD Queue so I don’t need to have another app to do so. I trust that the fine folks at Netflix HQ will push that functionality out in a later update. I would also like to see some sort of saved state so I can leave the app and go back to it without the app refreshing. But I think I’m in good company with other Android users when I let out a sigh of relief that we finally have streaming!