Netflix has announced that offline play is now available. A widely-demanded feature, Netflix now joins competitors like Amazon Prime Video and Google Play in allowing users to temporarily cut the cord. It is now available for all iOS and Android devices. This new feature comes at no additional charge.
Previously, Netflix had required a constant internet connection. This lead to problems for travelers and consumers with sporadic connections. The connection may weaken, or the stream might downgrade to compensate for a lower speed.
However, different content will have different limits. The content owner can set limits on playback time and number. There is also the option to disable it entirely. Netflix says that this will show on the “My Downloads” page during the download. Initial tests on an iPhone 5S, Nexus 6P, and Pixel C seem to indicate all downloaded videos are 720p resolution, even if the device has a higher screen resolution. It will also download all available languages and subtitles.
Polygon has confirmed that Disney titles cannot be downloaded at this time. This includes titles from subsidiaries such as Pixar, Marvel, and Lucasfilm. When asked about adding content from Disney to the offline mode, Netflix responded to Polygon with the following, presumably hinting at the possibility of Disney downloadables in the future:
Netflix is working with lots of partners globally to get downloading rights for the bulk of the content on our service. This is an ongoing effort as we know consumers want this capability and we are working to provide it.
Video streaming uses large amounts of data, often leaving to shock when monthly bills were received. Some providers such as T-Mobile specifically exempted Netflix and other streaming services as an attraction to their service, noting the popularity of online streaming. With offline viewing, users can directly plan their data usage and avoid the shock.
This has been an oft-requested feature for Netflix for years. Competitors such as Amazon Prime Video and Google Play, as well as services like Plex have offered this for years. However, Netflix has a much higher market share and accounts for nearly a third of the overall bandwidth used in North America. I suspect that this will increase use as consumers no longer need to worry about mobile data. I also hope that it spurs Android device manufacturers to pay more attention to SD card slots, a feature that has become less common in the past two years.