Maybe you’ve been there: You’re trying to download a movie or show to Netflix’s app before a flight — but you don’t get the whole thing before your plane takes off into the wild blue yonder, so you can’t watch any of it.
Netflix has now addressed this first-world problem: On Monday (June 28) the streamer is launching a feature that lets customers with Android phones and tablets start playing a TV episode or movie before it has completed downloading.
Netflix introduced downloads for offline viewing in 2016. Two years later, it introduced Smart Downloads on Android (followed by iOS in 2019), a feature that automatically downloads the next episode in a TV series you’re watching and also deletes an episode once you have seen it. But until now, you needed to have downloaded an entire episode or movie before you could play it back.
The partial-download watching feature is available initially only on Android phone and tablets (with operating system version 7.64 or later). Netflix said it will test out the feature on iOS in the coming months.
“Whether it’s a long flight or an extended commute, downloaded series and movies can make any moment on the go more entertaining,” Keela Robison, Netflix’s VP of product innovation, wrote in a blog post. “So we know the disappointment when you realize your download never completed because of unreliable Wi-Fi or a maxed-out data plan.”
Members can access the the partial-download viewing setting from the Downloads menu on their mobile device or from their Continue Watching menu. If you start watching a title that has not finished downloading, the app will prompt you to download the rest of that movie or episode in a series once your device is reconnected to Wi-Fi or a 4G/5G wireless network.
Meanwhile, this past February Netflix launched Downloads for You, which automatically downloads recommended shows and movies onto a member’s mobile device. That’s also currently available only for Android; Netflix says it plans to start testing Downloads for You for iOS soon.
According to Netflix, most of the content in its catalog is available to be downloaded and watched offline but some titles aren’t because of licensing rights.