Netflix App for iPhone and iPod Touch Hands-on Review
The much anticipated Netflix app is here, which means that iPhone and iPod Touch users can now stream Netflix movies to their hearts content (or as much as their monthly bandwidth allows). After enduring years without an official Netflix app, iPhone/iPod users can now quickly pull up movies from their instant queue for their viewing pleasure. Of course, few apps are perfect right from the get go, and with after only a few days of being featured in the app store, there are a few minor complaints. But overall, the Netflix iPhone app does (almost) everything we had hoped.
Pros of the Netflix app for iPhone/iPod:
- Streams movies over WiFi or 3G
- Let’s you search all available “Watch Instantly” titles
- Resume let’s you pick up where you left off if you leave the app
- Very good picture quality, sound and load times (subject to network coverage)
Cons of the Netflix app or iPhone/iPod:
- Can’t add, remove or manage DVDs in queue
- Can only search by title
- No Android equivalent (yet)
There are four screens for the Netflix iPhone app: Home, Genres, Search and Instant Queue. The Home screen lets you see some recommended movies (similar to the Netflix Wii disc) and Resume from where ever you left off, if you were watching a movie before. The Resume feature works regardless of whether you started watching on your computer, on your phone or another device. The Genres screen is fairly straightforward—it lets you browse available Watch Instantly titles. Alternately, you can search for a title. Unlike the Wii Netflix disc, the Netflix iPhone app lets you see every single available title, rather than just the recommended titles and the items in your Instant Queue. However, you won’t see anything that’s not available for instant play, such as DVDs and upcoming releases. As such, you can’t add to or organize your DVD queue (or even view it), which is the Netflix app’s biggest drawback. As you can see from the screenshot, searching for “Avatar” doesn’t bring up the James Cameron fim, which is indeed available on DVD through Netflix (but not on Watch Instantly).
You can, however, add or remove titles to or from your Instant Queue. And, unlike the current iPad version of the Netflix app, you can choose whichever episode from a series you’d like to watch.
We tested out the iPhone app on both 3G and WiFi, and the quality and load time is impressive on both (good news for anyone who still has an unlimited data plan from AT&T). Obviously, it’s a little bit better on WiFi, but the difference isn’t nearly as drastic as it is with the YouTube app. The play controls are quite nice as well—you get the typical “scrubber” seek, plus volume control. You can also skip back 30 seconds at a time, which is perfect if you get interrupted momentarily (i.e. flight attendant asks you if you want a drink or you reach your bus stop).
All in all, the Netflix iPhone app does almost everything it should do. There’s no support for queue management (though you can do this from Safari…), and you can only search for titles by name (rather than by director or actor), but the browse by genre and recommendations should provide you plenty of opportunities for finding new titles. And, as is often the case, there isn’t yet an Android equivalent—but rumor has it that one is in development (Netflix had a job posting for an “Android video playback expert” earlier this month).
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