The subscription fees may be low, but streaming movies and TV doesn’t come cheap, as anyone with a mobile phone bill after binge-watching Orange Is the New Black can tell you. Watching movies or TV shows on Netflix uses around 1 GB of data per hour for standard definition video, and up to 3 GB per hour for HD video.
Now, though, Netflix has introduced a new feature to let you control how much data viewers use on the go. The default setting now lets you stream “about 3 hours of TV shows and movies per gigabyte of data” – in terms of bitrates, that currently amounts to about 600 Kilobits per second, or in terms of standard usage, that’ll save you two thirds on your mobile data (and, potentially, your phone bill).
“Our testing found that, on cellular networks, this setting balances good video quality with lower data usage to help avoid exceeding data caps and incurring overage fees,” says
Eddy Wu, Director of Product Innovation, in a new company blog post.
That setting, though, is adjustable: if you have a mobile data plan with a higher data cap, or unlimited data, you can adjust this setting to stream at higher quality. To change your streaming quality, make sure you have updated your Netflix app on iOS or Android to the most recent version, select App Settings from the menu, and pick Cellular Data Usage. There you can switch off the automatic default and select a higher or lower data usage setting that works with your mobile data plan, including an unlimited option.
“We are always working on ways to improve picture quality while streaming more efficiently, so bitrates could change over time,” adds Wu. “As with all streaming, actual data usage can vary based on your device capabilities and network conditions. Your mobile carrier also may impact the actual data usage even if you elect a higher setting in the Netflix app.”
Whatever setting you choose, though, this only applies to cellular data streaming, so any viewing over Wi-Fi (or a tethered connection) will not be affected.