After months of twiddling their thumbs awaiting the release of an app for the iPhone, Netflix subscribers have finally been rewarded. The alternative movie rental service released its iPhone app last week, bringing more than 17,000 titles in its catalog straight to the pockets of millions of iPhone users.
With features that let subscribers stream movies directly from their iPhones, the app should be a home run. And it mostly is, but it definitely doesn’t come without a few glitches.
Read the full Netflix review after the jump
To use the service, first of all, you do need a Netflix membership, which begin at $8.99 per month (more info here). The intro screen of the iPhone app asks for your login and account information, then the app quickly opens to a home screen with information on your preferences, views and instant queue.
Like the Netflix interface on a computer browser, the iPhone app suggests titles to watch based on past viewings. Though the text listing of the categories of these suggestions seems a bit clunky, as this is considered the homepage, tapping into a specific category shows a visual listing of cover images, similar to the computer browser. The homepage needs a lot of work–it almost looks like pages you would see in a phony app–perhaps a more visual layout, like that used in the categories, would make it a bit easier to read and definitely more attractive. The categories, however, are also severely lacking in comparison to Netflix viewed on the computer. Instead of being separated into subdivisions, the titles within categories are basically jumbled together into a massive lists, with no real rhyme or reason.
For a particular title you tap into, you can view some brief details about the film (rating, length, release), Netflix user ratings, and a very short description of the film. Here, you can also choose to add the film to your Instant Queue or play it directly from the app. Another downfall of the app is here, where you would usually get suggestions for other films you would like based on this selection. The app doesn’t offer anything of the sort, except for films you have already viewed (which is found on the homepage of the app).
The major feature lacking from this app is the DVD queue. Not only are you not able to organize or view your DVD queue, you also have no access to any titles that aren’t available for instant streaming. For example, searching a title in the Search feature that is only available on DVD will come up with no results–not even a message that the title wasn’t available for instant streaming.
Viewed on an iPhone4, the quality and speed of the streaming video is almost astounding. After almost a minute of loading, the video began playing with fantastic picture quality and sound. For most of the videos I watched through the app, there were several hiccups at the beginning, with the stream stopping a specific point and replaying over and over. However, by dragging the bar at the top a bit forward, I could easily skip ahead in the film and resume play.
When watching with a 3G connection, the blips and hiccups in the stream are pretty common, though not major interruptions. But when watching over a wi-fi connection, the stream is near flawless and incredibly reliable.
The picture doesn’t fill up the entire capacity of the iPhone screen, which is a bit disappointing, but the overall playback and features of it are pleasantly surprising. The playback bar at the top responds very well to dragging to different parts of movies with little delay, and the app also does a good job of picking up films where you left off if you exit or close the app suddenly.
Recap & Conclusion
Released: Aug. 26, 2010
Our Grade: A
Though Netflix’s computer interface is definitely more desirable for the overall experience of Netflix–finding new flicks, getting suggestions, interaction, etc.–the first iPhone app from Netflix hits it out of the park. The quality of the streaming video is extraordinary, considering this is a mobile device we’re talking about, and the ease at which you can access and view videos instantly is absolutely satisfying. Though a few more features really need to be added to round out the full Netflix experience, at the price of free, Netflix subscribers and loyalists really can’t pass this up. And anyone without Netflix should see this as a sign to consider coming over to the dark side (best decision you will ever make).