The INSIDER Summary:
- Netflix has a feature which allows you to download TV shows and movies onto your mobile devices.
- It’s easy to use and handy if you’re going on a trip and don’t want to pay for an in-flight movie.
- We’ve outlined the best practices and tips for using the feature.
I recently flew cross-country from New York City to Los Angeles, California. Since I don’t sleep too well on planes, I figured it would be the perfect time to catch up on some movies and television I haven’t had the time to watch.
I was flying Virgin America. And while the airline offers a selection of shows and newer movies, I wasn’t as enthused by the $5-to-$8 price per film. If I’m going to pay to watch a premium movie, then I want to see it in good quality on a larger screen.
If you’re not into spending some cold hard cash on an in-flight movie and you happen to have Netflix, there’s a simple alternative you can and should be doing to bring some movies and TV shows with you on the go for free.
Ahead of my over five hour flight, I used Netflix’s download feature to put several movies and TV shows onto my phone. The streaming site added the feature at the end of 2016. I had tried it out a few times before on the NYC Subway and NJ Transit to plow through new seasons of “Orange Is the New Black” and “House of Cards.” (I’m a serial binger.)
Though I was watching on a small iPhone 6 screen, I didn’t have to worry about interruptions from the pilot cutting off dialogue or missing some of the movie if I dozed off. I could pause, rewind, and restart as much as my heart desired. There was also the satisfaction of not having to pay extra for some quality in-flight entertainment.
If you’re not using Netflix’s download feature, then you’re not getting the most out of your streaming subscription. If you haven’t heard of the feature or aren’t familiar with it, here’s a quick rundown on how to use the feature and what you’re able to download.
How to download shows and movies from Netflix onto your device
If you have never downloaded something from Netflix to watch offline before, don’t worry. It’s easy! When you log into the Netflix app from your mobile device, tap the menu icon in the upper left hand corner.
You’ll then see a drop-down menu. In it, you should see sections labeled “My Downloads” and “Available for Download.” My Downloads is the folder that will hold all of your offline TV shows and movies. Presuming you haven’t downloaded anything yet, you’re going to want to head to “Available for Download.”
Netflix doesn’t make all of its content available for download. So you don’t have to play the guessing game, the app makes it easy by putting all of its offline content in one area.
This is what it looks like:
After you see something you like, click on it and you’ll be brought to a screen for that individual item. I was excited to see the Oscar-nominated movie “Lion” was available for my flight, since I hadn’t been able to catch it before.
You’ll have the option to add it to your list, rate it, share it, or download it. That’s the one you want to select.
Once it’s downloaded, tap on the menu item and, this time, head to “My Downloads.”
All of your downloaded items should appear neatly in there. Each item should have the little phone icon next to it, meaning your good to watch on the go. Just tap on the show or movie you want to watch and it should load without using up extra data.
Some things to know before you download
Make sure you’re on Wi-Fi
Before you start downloading anything, make sure your device is running on Wi-Fi. If you’re downloading a long movie or a season of a TV show, you don’t want that eating up your data.
Don’t download at the last minute
You don’t want to be downloading shows and movies while you’re in the airport or on the way to your flight. Again, you want to be connected to Wi-Fi when you’re downloading content. You also want to give yourself some time to make sure everything can download onto your phone.
How much you can download will depend on the amount of storage space you have on your device. I was able to comfortably hold two movies and four episodes of a TV series. If you’re not sure how much space you have, you can head to “App Settings” from the drop-down menu and it will tell you how much storage space Netflix is taking up and how much you have left.
You’re watching content in lower quality
Netflix automatically sets your media to download at a standard video quality rate so items download faster and take up less storage space. But if you’ve already made peace with the fact you’re watching premium content on a small screen, you’re probably OK with this.
Personally, I’ve found the picture and sound quality to be great while traveling. I always watch with the captions on in case I miss anything from the hum of a train or my surroundings. That’s not for everyone though.
You can watch in higher quality, but it will cost you more space
If you head back into the app’s settings, click on video quality. You can toggle between a standard and high video quality.
The downside is that the higher quality will take up more space on your phone and take a bit longer to download. If you have a lot of space to spare and plan ahead to download content a while before your trip, then you should be OK.
I downloaded two movies in both standard and high quality. It didn’t take too much longer to add to my device while connected to Wi-Fi. One of the movies took up slightly more space than the other.
Not everything on Netflix is available to download
This is one of the killers. If you’re just scrolling through Netflix and not the “Available for Download” area, it will always tell you if a show or film is available for download. Just look for the little download carrot next to a show.
Most Netflix originals are available for download. Any that aren’t available were made with a studio which owns the content. The same goes for why only some content is available for download. Some movie and TV studios have deals with other companies or Netflix states on its site popularity is another factor.
Some content expires after you download it
I’ve also noticed that certain media has a limit on the time that you can watch the downloaded content. It doesn’t seem to be clear which shows have an expiration. Netflix also limits the amount of times you can download some shows and movies onto a device. For instance, after going to download one of the most recent episodes of “Orange is the New Black,” I was warned I only have one more time to download it. I think I’ve downloaded it once before.
I don’t think I’m going to need to rewatch “OITNB” on my phone more than once or twice anyway, but it’s something to be aware of if you plan to download content and forget to watch right away.
If you don’t mind those things, then you’re good to go. I found the download feature a useful and easy way to catch up on some content I wouldn’t have otherwise.
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