If you’re a Netflix user, then you’ll be aware that Netflix allows you to download certain TV shows and movies for playback offline. Netflix has taken downloading to a whole new level with their new ‘Smart Downloads’ feature. The basic premise of Smart Downloads is that once you finish watching a downloaded episode, the next episode in the series will be automatically downloaded and the previous one is deleted - all without any input from the user.
How do Smart Downloads work?
Once you’ve finished watching an episode which you’ve downloaded to your device, the app will automatically delete it and download the next episode. For fairly obvious reasons, this will only happen when you’re connected to WiFi - the downloads can be quite big so you don’t want to accidentally use your entire data allowance!
As well as the added convenience of Smart Downloads, it will also help you save on storage because the episodes you’ve watched will be deleted as the next one is downloaded. Of course, you can still manually download more episodes from a season if you anticipate a long Netflix session, but the app restricts automatic downloads to just one episode per TV show.
The practicalities of Smart Downloads
If you like to watch Netflix on your daily commute, then Smart Downloads could be particularly useful. WiFi access while travelling is often spotty or too slow for video streaming, which leaves you with the options of streaming over 4G or pre-downloading episodes when you have WiFi. Smart Downloads could automatically download the next episode while you’re at home or work (where presumably you have WiFi) so that it’s ready for offline viewing as you travel. Simple.
If you frequently use a metered WiFi connection, such as a 4G mobile hotspot (aka MiFi), then having Smart Downloads turned on might not be a good idea because Netflix downloads can use a lot of data. Additionally, if your home broadband is exceptionally slow, then Smart Downloads could inadvertently gobble up all the available bandwidth, rendering the internet connection unusably slow. The flipside is that you won’t experience any buffering when you come to watch a pre-downloaded episode.
How to turn on Smart Downloads
If your Netflix app is already up-to-date and your smartphone is running Android, then Smart Downloads might already be turned on! I have automatic app updates enabled and, to my surprise, Smart Downloads was switched on by default when I opened the app.
The settings for Smart Downloads can be found by going to the ‘Downloads’ tab. At the top, you should see ‘Smart Downloads’ above your name. To change the settings, just tap it and you can turn it on and off. Alternatively, Smart Downloads can also be toggled in More > App Settings. While you’re there, you can customise the download quality and the download location (if you have a Micro SD card).
Not everyone will see Smart Downloads in their app right now, but it should appear once it’s fully rolled out to the public. Unfortunately, Smart Downloads is not currently available for iOS. Netflix told Buzzfeed that iOS users will get it “later this year”, so you’ll have to hang on for now if you use your iPhone or iPad with Netflix.
In conclusion, I’m really glad that Netflix has introduced Smart Downloads, I think it’s an incredibly clever idea which should have been introduced years ago. Nevertheless, it’s better late than never, and it paves the way for other video streaming services such as Amazon Prime Video to implement similar features.
Do you use Netflix? Will you be using the new Smart Downloads feature? Do you think it’s a useful addition to the service? Share your comments below.
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