Netflix launches Smart Downloads

Lawrence Kim
July 10, 2018

Smart Downloads will be particularly useful for users in developing markets, where many smartphones are entry-level devices with less storage available. The new feature will have your smartphone or tablet automatically delete an episode of a TV series once you've watched it, and quietly download the next episode of that series in the background.

Netflix resisted downloads for years, banking on the idea that streaming accessibility would eventually reach the point that downloading to watch offline wouldn't be necessary anymore. "Furthermore, if you don't have space and data constraints, you can always turn Smart Downloads off and download on Netflix the regular way", said Mr Johnson. In 2016, it began letting subscribers download much of its catalog. "We know how annoying it can be to go through all your apps and delete files you no longer need; we also understand that when it comes to Netflix, the faster you can get to the next episode you want to watch, the better".

The feature is part of an update to Netflix's Android mobile app this week. Netflix is "not yet sophisticated enough" to determine what movie you'll want to watch after finishing one you've downloaded, Cameron Johnson, Netflix's director of product innovation, said in a Q&A with reporters.

Smart downloads are one-for-one. So if you finish watching a season finale on your commute into work, you can connect to your office Wi-Fi and the next season's premiere will be waiting for you on your ride home.

Netflix is rolling out a new "smart downloads" feature created to make offline viewing just a little bit easier.

Netflix says the feature is mostly aimed at public transit commuters who may have limited or poor network coverage during their journey. The company has been fine-tuning its user interface to improve the process of discovering new shows, adding a "coming soon" feature to Android devices. "We're taking the point of view to not be presumptuous and let people choose for themselves".

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