Netflix doesn't hang about with updates to its iOS software, but it also doesn't add a great deal: the new Netflix 7.2.5
app for iPhone and iPad is a bug-fix release. We were hoping it would improve how the service looks on iPad Pro, and we were half-expecting it to support iOS 9's picture-in-picture feature, but neither has happened. Nonetheless, it's a good app with access to a ridiculously great number of films and TV shows to watch.
We don't know how many: Netflix doesn't say. However, it does say that cumulatively, all its users across the very many countries it operates in are watching something in the order of 125 million hours of video every day. They're doing it for the same reason as us: the only hard thing about finding something to watch on Netflix is stopping yourself going on a binge.
The good thing about Netflix is that choice, plus the way that a single subscription, depending on how much you pay, gets you the ability to watch on more than one device. That could be clearer: plans allow for one, two, or four devices, but that really means this many devices at once. Unlike other services that we'd mention if we could remember what they were, you're not, for instance, nominating your iPad Pro as one device and your Apple TV as another. Instead, you're saying you will only watch it on one, two or four devices at the same time. So a couple or a family can be watching wherever they go.
Or rather, wherever they go that has a decent Wi-Fi signal. If one of you is travelling, they can bring the Netflix app on their device and have the rights to watch, but possibly not the ability. You can't download content to watch offline, and the company has said before that it has no plans to add this, as it's confusing to users. That sounds patronizing, but possibly they have a point: downloading to watch later would mean planning in enough time for your device to get the very large files before you go.
Netflix is very much aimed at being about picking a screen and watching: no fiddling around if they can possibly help it. In almost every possible way this is excellent: start watching a show on your Apple TV just by choosing it, and clicking Play, then finish it on your iPhone or your iPad. When you pick up another device, it automatically and immediately shows you the last few things you were watching, and with a tap you can continue from wherever you were, on whatever device you were. It's not instantaneous; just occasionally we'd find that it hadn't updated, and we'd have to scrub through a film to get back to where we are.
That scrubbing is quick and frankly brightly-colored: the controls in Netflix's iOS apps are bright red, like the company's branding. Bright red, chunky, and hard to miss: you get one control for moving through the video, and another for the volume. It's all very clear, but on the iPad Pro it's also all very, very big. Tap in a search box to bring up the on-screen keyboard, and you'll wince: it's giant and absurdly widely-spaced because Netflix calls up the old iPad keyboard, not the new full-size one.
That's the iPhone 6 image atop the iPad Air image atop the iPad Pro one. It's really these controls that make Netflix on iPad Pro feel below par: there are issues over just how high a quality the company can stream video, and the picture is good. It's just that you're watching it with Fisher Price-style controls a tap away.
You can adjust the picture quality that Netflix streams to you, but not from within the app. The iOS app also doesn't let you check or change your account details, so you have to visit netflix.com to change much of anything. If you've bought through the App Store, then you have to do all your account financial changes, such as cancelling membership, via iTunes -- but still for setup and technical settings you have to go to the website. Once there, you will find the option to radically up the picture quality offered, but we didn't find a difference on any of our devices: there's a strong chance that's just us, though.
While many MacNN
staff could quote you useful comparative specs on picture and audio quality, we looked at Netflix as we think it's intended: the benefits of television, plus the convenience of iOS. We weren't picking up our iPhones and iPads to monitor video streaming, we were watching Community
on our iPhone 6, and Continuum
on our iPad Pro. Clearly we're just working our way through the Cs.
We might as well be doing it alphabetically, as the searching and browsing on Netflix isn't the single best feature of the service. Perhaps it never could be with this range of choice, but still it is easy to find yourself with 57 options and nothing on. Netflix does have a good go at suggesting things you like, based on what you've watched, but initially that can be aggravating if you have one person in the family who has spent time checking out all the horror films.
There is an answer to that, but it's weirdly unclear. Netflix always asks you "Who's watching?" when you start up the iOS app, the website or the Apple TV app, but for some reason it took us nearly our entire free trial month to realize that wasn't just some login process. You can set up to five profiles, as they're called, and each person using one gets their own recommendations, based on just what they alone have watched.
Speaking of the month free trial, there is a month's free trial. After that, Netflix costs a subscription fee, based on how many devices you want to watch on simultaneously (because you've got family or a really short attention span) and the picture quality of what you watch. The cheapest is $8 per month, which gets you one screen and okay quality; next up is $10 a month, which gets you two screens plus HD quality, and then there's $12 per month, which is four screens and Ultra HD. That's 4K streaming, and currently only works with 4K sets -- if you can find any 4K video to watch.
Netflix 7.2.5 requires iOS 7.0 or later, and the universal iOS app itself is free on the App Store
. If you have a third generation Apple TV, then Netflix is one of your available channels, and you can subscribe via it. Similarly, if you have a new fourth-generation Apple TV, then Netflix is an optional app you can install.
Who is Netflix 7.2.5 for:
Cord-cutters, binge-watchers, and anyone looking for a range of films and shows to watch: Netflix doesn't have everything, and what it does have today can expire next month, but it is a lot and the app works addictively.
Who is Netflix 7.2.5 not for:
If you're not into films and TV, or if you're already paying for a well-stocked on-demand service via your cable or satellite provider, Netflix isn't compelling. If you could download video from it before you went travelling, it would be.
-- William Gallagher (@WGallagher
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