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Netflix is working on a major upgrade for offline downloads

Netflix new feature
  • Netflix might be working on a new feature that will allow users to watch partially downloaded content on their devices even if they aren’t connected to the internet.
  • The feature was hinted at by strings of code in the newest update for Netflix on Android.
  • Netflix added the option to download content for offline viewing in 2016.

Although it isn’t an especially useful feature at the moment, as many of us are still spending most of our days stuck in our homes, the ability to download content for offline listening and viewing has become a standard part of subscription services in recent years. Netflix added show and movie downloads to its service more than three years ago, and has iterated on the feature a few times in the years since, such as with Smart Downloads in 2018.

On Wednesday, XDA Developers shared the results of its teardown of the latest update for the Netflix app on Android, and based on strings of code they found in the APK, another upgrade might be in the works for offline downloads. The strings seem to suggest that partial downloads are currently being tested by the company.

As it stands, if you want to watch any downloaded content from Netflix on your phone, tablet, or computer, you have to wait for it to finish downloading before you can click play. Providing these strings of code in the latest version of the Netflix app turn into a feature we can use, it might soon be possible to start a download and begin watching the show or movie shortly thereafter, long before the download is complete.

Here are some of the messages contained with the strings that XDA Developers discovered in the app:

  • “You’ve reached the end of what you’ve downloaded so far. Would you like to download over cellular to continue watching?”
  • Download over cellular to continue watching?
  • You need to download a bit more to continue watching, or you can watch what you already have downloaded from the beginning.
  • “You’ve reached the end of what’s been downloaded so far. Please connect to the internet to continue watching.”
  • You need to download a bit more to start watching.

There are a few things that we can glean from these messages. First of all, if you start watching something that has yet to finish downloading, you will be prompted to download the rest of the content on a cellular network. Secondly, it looks like Netflix will prompt you to watch whatever you’ve downloaded from the beginning if you hit the point where the download stopped. And finally, if you aren’t connected to a network when you reach the end of the downloaded content, Netflix will ask you to connect to the internet to keep watching.

Having been it a situation where I misjudged how much time I had to download an episode of a show before I have to board a plane or run out of the apartment, having the ability to watch whatever Netflix was able to finish downloading would be a major boon for me. We’ll see if this makes its way to the service eventually, but Netflix has yet to make any statements or announcements about partial downloads at the time of writing.

Jacob started covering video games and technology in college as a hobby, but it quickly became clear to him that this was what he wanted to do for a living. He currently resides in New York writing for BGR. His previously published work can be found on TechHive, VentureBeat and Game Rant.

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