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Netflix might be testing an awesome new feature for Apple users only

Published Jan 15th, 2021 1:20PM EST
Netflix Features
Image: diego cervo/Adobe

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  • Netflix is reportedly working on a brand new feature that might be available this spring, but only to certain Apple device owners.
  • The streaming site will support the new spatial audio technology that brings surround sound-like experiences to AirPods Pro and AirPods Max.

Netflix is supposedly working on an awesome feature that will further improve the streaming experience. But if the rumor is correct, the feature will only benefit certain Netflix customers who use Apple devices, as it’s meant to take advantage of a brand new AirPods capability.

Apple announced spatial audio support at WWDC 2020, which is essentially a new version of surround sound but for earphones and headphones. Experiencing Netflix content with surround sound isn’t new, of course, since many people already employ surround sound systems that bring a theater-like watching experience to their homes. But Apple’s spatial sound achieves the same effect on AirPods, which means you can take the same immersive experience on the road.

Apple announced the spatial audio feature during a WWDC segment and it was launched in September alongside iOS 14. For the time being, spatial audio only works on AirPods Pro after a software update (version 3A283), and only after manual activation. Apple has released the new AirPods Max since then, new over-ear headphones that also support spatial audio. Regular AirPods do not support spatial audio.

It’s not just the AirPods type that matters for spatial audio. Only certain iPhones and iPads will deliver the new audio experience. Naturally, the newest iPhones and iPads will support spatial audio, and it requires iOS 14 or iPadOS 14 support. As a result, older iPhones and iPads that can’t be upgraded to Apple’s 2020 iOS version can’t deliver movie theater-like sound experiences even if they’re connected to the correct type of AirPods.

Apple explained that its new software is so sophisticated that it can take into account the movement of the head and the movement of the iPhone or iPad to adapt the experience accordingly. Spatial audio will work with content encoded in 5.1, 7.1, and Dolby Atmos.

French-language blog iPhoneSoft claims it has learned from a US-based Netflix employee that the streaming company is currently testing spatial audio support. The feature will reportedly launch this spring with a small catalog of titles after tests are completed. It’s unclear which movies and TV series will support spatial audio at launch, and this is all still just a rumor so it might not happen at all.

The French blog could not say whether the spatial audio feature will be added to all Netflix membership tiers if enabled, or only to the most expensive one, which was the case for Dolby Atmos.

Considering that hundreds of millions of iPhones and iPads can be updated to iOS 14, and most iPhone and iPad customers update their gadgets as soon as Apple releases new software, the feature will certainly appeal to many Apple users who watch Netflix content on their iPhones and iPads. After all, AirPods are still the dominant wireless earphones on the market right now, even though most Apple rivals make their own AirPods alternatives. With all that in mind, it makes sense for Netflix to consider adding spatial audio support to its content.

Apple’s spatial audio segment from WWDC 2020 can be seen in the video embedded below.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.