July 17, 2018
Netflix’s new “Smart Downloads” tool helps mobile viewers manage their content storage by automatically deleting TV show episodes after they have been viewed and then replacing them with upcoming episodes in the queue. The company introduced offline viewing of certain movies and TV shows in 2016 based on subscriber demand. Now, Netflix estimates that about 60 percent of its global users access the streaming service on their mobile devices at least once a month. With the new feature, mobile users can minimize the amount of manual TV show downloads necessary for offline viewing.
“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,” wrote Netflix director of product innovation Cameron Johnson on the company blog.
According to VentureBeat, Smart Downloads “will only work on a Wi-Fi connection [to conserve data plans], and if you don’t want Netflix tampering with your downloads, you’ll need to toggle the feature off in the My Downloads section.”
“The automatic downloads only take up as much space as the previously deleted ones,” notes Quartz. “Episodes that are slightly longer won’t take up more storage space, Netflix says, because of the way Netflix encodes, or converts the video, for mobile.”
The Smart Downloads feature, available for TV shows only for now, launched last week for Android devices. An iOS version is expected soon.
The company has made other steps to enhance the mobile viewing experience. “A few weeks ago it rolled out a ‘coming soon’ tab on Android devices that shows what TV shows and movies are hitting the service in the next two weeks in a news-feed-like format with trailers and descriptions,” explains Quartz. “Earlier this year, it started making short, Snapchat-style vertical trailers so members can sample the titles in the more mobile-friendly video orientation.”