Netflix loosens up streaming video, letting users choose their cellular speed limit

Smartphone users can now watch around four hours per gigabyte by dialing down video quality.

Netflix users can now decide how quickly to blow through their data caps with video quality controls on iOS and Android.

To access Netflix’s new data controls, hit the menu icon in the upper-left corner (or upper-right corner on some devices). Select App Settings, then select Cellular Data Usage. By default, Netflix automatically chooses a balance of video quality and data use, allowing around three hours of video per gigabyte of data. You can also choose from five manual settings:

  • Off: Only stream on Wi-Fi.
  • Low: Stream about four hours per gigabyte. (About 0.55 megabits per second)
  • Medium: Stream about two hours per gigabyte. (About 1.1 megabits per second)
  • High: Stream about an hour per gigabyte. (About 2.2 megabits per second)
  • Unlimited: Stream the highest quality possible.

Netflix doesn’t correlate specific video resolutions to these data limits, but for comparison, Netflix recommends 5 megabits per second to stream HD video at home.

Keep in mind that Netflix doesn’t limit video quality on Wi-Fi networks. And for T-Mobile Simple Choice customers, data caps are a non-issue with Binge On, which allows unlimited Netflix streaming at 480p resolution.

The story behind the story: Netflix’s data controls come shortly after the company admitted that it had been throttling video quality on AT&T and Verizon networks for more than five years. Although the move may have saved some customers from overage fees, customers with generous data plans or grandfathered unlimited plans will likely appreciate the option to crank up the video quality.

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Jared Newman

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