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Netflix brought the most annoying feature of its website to the iPhone, but in a much smarter way

Updated Apr 19th, 2018 2:36PM EDT
Netflix Previews
Image: AP/REX/Shutterstock

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You know the trailers that start playing automatically when you load Netflix on your computer? A similar feature is available on smart TVs and, starting today, on iPhones. That way, you’ll be able to keep up with new Netflix content while on the go and decide which shows are binge-worthy or not before you get home. Netflix announced that it’s rolling out its previews feature on iPhone first, with Android to follow soon.

“Last year, we introduced video previews to the TV experience, which brought dynamic and engaging video to the TV interface,” Netflix director of product innovation Cameron Johnson explained in a blog post. “Years of testing has made it clear that video previews help our members browse less and discover new content more quickly. With the launch of mobile previews, we are bringing a video browse experience to your mobile phone in a fun and mobile-optimized way.”

As soon as you update the iPhone app, you’ll notice a new interface element, the Previews section seen in the image above. Tap on any of those bubbles, and a short, 30-second clip will play on your phone. The video is optimized for vertical format so you can consume it without switching the phone to landscape, and it’s supposed to load “very quickly.”

Needless to say that if your cellular plan doesn’t come with enough data, you should probably ignore previews if there’s no Wi-Fi connection in range. And that’s the beauty of this new feature. Unlike Netflix’s website and smart TV apps, these preview videos won’t start playing automatically — which is perhaps the most annoying thing about Netflix’s site and TV apps.

Johnson further explained that the previews are shown in a slide show, allowing you to select the titles you want to watch trailers for or keep swiping until you find something exciting. Think of them as Snapchat Stories.

The Android app should receive the same feature soon, although Netflix did not mention a specific date for the update.

UPDATE: Netflix reached out to BGR to clarify that viewing previews over a cellular data plan will not meaningfully increase data consumption. Netflix said it’s using the same mobile encoding technology for both previews and for streaming an actual show, and that data is used smartly and efficiently. If you’re already streaming full Netflix shows over cellular, then you should not worry about watching previews.

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.