Netflix App Review for HTC Droid Incredible

Finally, the Netflix App for Android is here! Android phone users have waited quite a while for this to happen. I know that personally, I was getting tired of my iPhone using friends bragging about how they had the Netflix App for quite some time now, and I didn’t. We’re even now though! Well, sort of. There some controversy with this App, because it’s release for Android is incredibly limited. If you have one of these phones though, you’re all set:

  • 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

Judging from the title of this article, you’ve probably figured out that I’m fortunate enough to own an HTC Droid Incredible. Whew, close one! You have no idea how happy I am about this. Back when my wife called me, and said “There’s a deal right now, 2 Incredible’s for the price of one” last year, I was into it, but mostly because I like saving money. I didn’t realize we were getting one of the most popular Droid phones at the time. Thanks to that popularity, Netflix included it in the list of supported phones. I have no idea what their deployment plans are for other phones, but if you’d like to keep up, the official Netflix app page has some info, and I’m assuming they’ll keep it updated.

So it’s been out for a little over a week, and that has given me enough time to test it out. My first thought on this was:

How much data does the Netflix app use?

What better way to test that out then watch a show I like, and monitor the data usage? Step 1: I installed NetCounter, a very simple data usage monitoring app. It breaks down the usage between 3g, and Wi-Fi. Being that I’m trying to save as much cash as I can these days, I’m on Verizon’s 150mb a month plan (which has since been discontinued for new customers BTW), and not unlimited. So I connected to my Wi-Fi, as usual.

Step 2: Watch a show I like. I decided to go with season 1 episode 1 of Futurama: Space Pilot 3000. This is a half hour show, so about 22 minutes and 30 seconds without commercials from Netflix. This is from 1999, and is a standard definition cartoon. The final NetCounter measurement came out to 95.81 MB of data used. I figured the best way to see if this is average was to do another show. So I chose season 1 episode 1 of Parks and Recreation, which is a widescreen sitcom. This time data usage measured in at 90.35 MB.

What’s interesting is that the live widescreen sitcom came in at a little over 5 MB less than an old cartoon. I suppose this wasn’t an insanely scientific approach, because I had other passive apps running. Maybe the Yahoo app pinged to check for mail a few times, I don’t know. I think it’s safe to say that whatever encoding Netflix is using for its app comes in at around 90-95 MB or so for a half hour show. It’s safe to say that I’ll only be using this on my Wi-Fi. Even if you have a much larger plan, like 1.5 GB a month, you could easily hit that with this app. If you watched a half hour show every day on the way to work (20 episodes), you’d burn through over 1.8 GB! So yeah, it’s cool to be able to watch a show on the go, but just be aware it comes at a data cost.

But, how is the quality?

I’ll never claim to be a video quality expert, but I’m certainly no slouch. I’ve spent hours using various methods of encoding, and comparing results, on many occasions. At a minimum, I have a pretty decent eye for this sort of thing. In my opinion, the quality of both of these shows was pretty darn good. I can’t really see anyone complaining about this at all. In the past, I had encoded widescreen episodes of Farscape , which is an hour show, with h.264 and it came in between 220 and 250 MB. So if you take my examples from above, they would probably be around 180 MB for an hour. I can’t see any real quality difference even though whatever Netflix does is much more optimized than my efforts. Basically, don’t even worry about it, videos look great.

Features and ease of use

This app is pretty straight forward. It has four tabs across the top. Home, Genres, Search, and Queue. Home shows a small link right at the top to let you resume what you were just watching. This might be one of the coolest features by the way, cross device continuation! I started a show on my tv via TiVo, shut it off, and it was available to resume on my phone! That’s just really cool, no matter how you look at it. The rest of the ‘Home’ tab is a clear sectioned list showing top picks, and suggestions of various kinds. It’s very easy to use, no explanation needed.

‘Genres’ is what you’d expect, a list of ‘Television’, ‘Comedy’, ‘Drama’ and on an on, just like the main site. Clicking into any of them loads a vertical scrolling list, with a nice layout and thumbnails. Good stuff. ‘Search’ is very straight forward and works like any search you’ve ever used. It has an auto-suggest feature as you type, which is nice. Finally, ‘Queue’ shows all of your items in the ‘Instant’ queue. You can also add items to the Queue when viewing a shows details.

Overall, the Netflix App for Android, specifically on my HTC Droid Incredible, is really awesome. It’s straight forward, simple, fairly quick responding, and the ‘resume’ from other devices is just awesome. If you keep in mind that you’ll eat up some serious bandwidth, and take precautions (like using it on Wi-Fi) then you won’t have any issues. AND this thing is FREE, as long as you’re already a Netflix subscriber. Just install it now. I can’t even think of anything bad to say about it. Nice job Netflix.

I suppose if I had to say something negative, it would be in regard to the fragmentation of this Apps release. It’s on 5 phones, and that’s it. Owners of those phones are dancing in the streets, while the other Android users are just annoyed. I somewhat understand that the hardware differences of every Android device make it more difficult for Netflix to roll this app out to everyone, as opposed to an iPhone environment when all devices function the same way. Either way, hopefully this is something Netflix can overcome, and provide this great app to all Android users, regardless of phone. Hopefully it’s just a matter of time.

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