If you've been cutting cords, then there's a high chance that Netflix is a go-to spot for watching movies and TV shows. Trouble is, if you're on the road, binge-watching the The Crown can result in you going over your monthly mobile data plan. And if you're on an airplane? Who wants to pay a high price just to get a grainy stream of Supernatural, assuming WiFi is even available on your flight?
Thankfully, those problems can now be eased considerably — just in time for holiday travel.
Netflix is giving all subscribers the ability to download movies and shows straight to their mobile device for offline viewing. So you can download a bunch of movies at home with your primary internet connection and rest assured that you won't be bored as you drive four hours to Houston with your husband's bad taste in music cluttering the car speakers.
The catch? Not all Netflix content is available to download. But much of it is, including hit shows like Parks & Recreation, popular movies like Minions and Netflix original content like Stranger Things.
So how does it work?
First, make sure you have the latest version of the Netflix app on your phone or tablet. The ability to download shows was added in a Nov. 30 update.
If you're up-to-date, you should have a new option under the menu button at the top of the screen: "Available for Download." There will also be a button above it called "My Downloads," where you can find the stuff that is already on your device.
That will take you to a handy list of suggested content that you can download right this second, including stuff that's popular on Netflix and recommendations based on things you've already watched before.
You don't have to go to this section, though. You can simply navigate to a show or movie you're interested in to see if it's downloadable. If it is, you'll see a download icon (an arrow pointing down) to the right of the title.
Once you've started a download, you'll see a "stop" symbol next to it if you want to cancel. You will also get a blue bar at the bottom of your screen letting you know, "Hey, this thing you wanted to download is currently downloading."
When it's done, you can simply navigate to that "My Downloads" page, select thing thing you want to download and voila! Now you're catching up on Legends of Tomorrow, and you can do it even when you don't have an internet connection!
Note: When in Airplane Mode, Netflix is smart enough to go straight to your list of downloads, so you can jump straight into the stuff stored on your device.
Here's the catch with downloaded content: Once you start watching something, it expires in 48 hours. This means that your kids can't watch Nanny McPhee over and over and over again during a week-long vacation unless you find a spot to re-download it. Kind of a pain, but it's to offset piracy concerns of you just walking around with gigabytes of shows in your pocket to do with as you see fit.
How much storage space do I need for this?
A typical episode of a "long" (read: 43-minute) show like The Flash will take up roughly 150-250MB, based on what we've seen so far. A movie will be bigger, weighing in at more than 300-400MB. So if you have a lot of free space on your device (considering 64GB and 128GB phones aren't uncommon at this point), you can theoretically store a lot of stuff.
Does this cost more?
Nope! It's a free benefit for all Netflix subscribers, even at the lowest price plan.
Help! My favorite show/movie isn't available to download!
Netflix likely has to renegotiate their deals with certain content providers in order to let customers download those movies and shows. One of the notable holdouts right now is Disney, so you won't be able to download Zootopia to your iPad right now, unfortunately. (Or Luke Cage, since it's a Marvel property.)
Netflix says that they're working with content providers to get more content available to download soon.