I have been messing around with the new Netflix iPhone app for about a week now. My initial impressions are below.
Why Do I Care:
I donâ€™t typically watch much video on my iPhone unless I am traveling. Since Netflix requires a network connection, I figured this service wouldnâ€™t fill the important â€œbored on an airplaneâ€ need, and consequently be of little use. With that in mind, I was a bit curious to see if I would actually use the app. As it turns out, itâ€™s been great.
I share a TV with my wife and young daughter. My viewing preferences often conflict with theirs. Last night while my wife was watching cooking shows, I watched a documentary on the Rolling Stones. I could have done this on my computer of course, but I sit in front of a computer all day at work, and donâ€™t really care to be desk-bound at home. I took my documentary outside and watched by the pool. Later, I watched Black Adder in bed, then in the bathroom, then outside while walking the dogs (OK, I was just listening to it at that point). Iâ€™ve never had this kind mobility before!
Itâ€™s also been nice to have a huge library available instantly, wherever I am. A friend sent me a few Big Lebowski quotes at work the other day. 90 seconds later I was watching the film on my iPhone. (Netflix is blocked on my work network). I could get used to this.
How does it work?
Pretty well actually. It takes me a few seconds longer than Iâ€™d like to get the browser up and loaded, but I am still poking along on a crippled iPhone 3G w/ iOS4, so thatâ€™s probably the culprit. The search function works quickly, and my instant queue loaded right away as well. As far as the playback, Iâ€™ve not had much trouble watching video on either wireless or 3G, which actually surprised me. I found that hitting pause for a few seconds at the outset built up enough buffer to keep playback smooth. I even started a movie at home, left it on as I got in the car and drove to work. I had one little skip in the middle, but otherwise, it kept right on playing, suggesting a further use of the app; piping emergency road-side Elmo videos to a fussy passenger. When I leave the app, it remembers where I stopped a film, and picks right back up when I come back.
The video quality is fine for me. Iâ€™m sure some folks would like it to be better, but if Hi-Definition is really important to you, youâ€™re probably not going to be watching stuff on your phone anyway. Streaming video on 3G does kill the battery (especially since my iPhone is almost 2 years old).
Iâ€™d like to be able to manage my Netflix DVD Queue in the app (yes I still watch those). I currently have to use a different app for that, or *gasp* my computer.
I donâ€™t expect that Iâ€™ll be using the Netflix iPhone app every day, but it certainly looks like it will be a useful alternative to the cumbersome process of loading video to my iPhone, or the expensive process of buying video from iTunes.