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Netflix is testing a weird new feature – but it’s actually brilliant

Published Dec 18th, 2020 2:30PM EST
Image: diego cervo/Adobe
  • Netflix is testing a new Audio Only feature on Android devices that will allow you to listen to shows and movies without the video playing on your screen.
  • Not only will the feature save data if you’re watching Netflix on the go, but it will also save battery.
  • Audio Only mode isn’t always useful, but some content doesn’t require your undivided attention.

Have you ever started streaming a show or movie on Netflix and immediately stopped paying attention? Maybe you already saw that episode, you wanted something on in the background while you were doing chores, or you’re going to bed and you just like to nod off to the sounds of The Office. Whatever the case, we don’t always need video to be playing to enjoy content on Netflix, and a new feature might allow us to turn off the video altogether.

Back in October, XDA Developers dove into the latest version of the Netflix app on Android and spotted a few strings of code that rather unambiguously referred to an “audio mode,” but the feature was not actually functional at the time. Nearly two months later, version 7.84.1 of the app is available, and as reported by Android Police on Thursday, some Netflix subscribers with Android devices are able to take advantage of the feature for the first time.

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If you happen to be included in the server-side test, you should see a “Video Off” button at the top of the video player when you start a show or movie on your phone. If you tap the button, the video will be replaced by a black screen, but the audio will continue to play with all of the playback controls still intact.

Netflix is testing an audio-only mode on the Android app. Image source: Android Police

Android Police also found a new “Audio Only” option in the Video & Audio Playback section of app settings: “Listen to shows & movies while using other apps or when your screen is locked,” the description of the new feature explains in the Android app. “Enjoy your favorites, and use less data, with video turned off.”

The Audio Only setting contains three options: Always On, Headphones or External Speakers, and Off. Not only will turning the video off help limit the amount of data that the app uses, but it will also save battery if you happen to be the passenger on a long car ride or at an airport waiting for your plane. And while it might not be useful for every show or movie, it could be perfect for sitcom episodes you’ve already seen or stand-up comedy specials that don’t necessarily require your eyes. Either way, it’s a nice option to have, even if you won’t use it very often.

Netflix has yet to officially announce this feature, and as with previous features in testing, we have no idea when or if it will ever roll out to everyone, but the reaction from testers will likely decide its fate.

Jacob Siegal
Jacob Siegal Associate Editor

Jacob Siegal is Associate Editor at BGR, having joined the news team in 2013. He has over a decade of professional writing and editing experience, and helps to lead our technology and entertainment product launch and movie release coverage.

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