Netflix's New Feature Helps You Control Data Usage

Data has fast become the single most important thing we use our smartphones for. I'm trying to remember the last time I actually made a phone call from my mobile and...yep, nope. Nothing. With this change in behaviour comes a new problem — loving data so much we burn through it like nobody's business. We've previously discussed how this can especially be an issue while roaming internationally.

Netflix is on a mission to help us ensure its service isn't the first we cut back on when our data allocation is getting low, announcing today a new feature for its smartphone app to help you better control how much data you use when streaming on mobile networks.

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The default setting will enable you to stream about 3 hours of TV shows and movies per gigabyte of data. In terms of bitrates, that currently amounts to about 600 Kilobits per second.

Netflix's testing found that, on mobile networks, this setting balances good video quality with lower data usage to help avoid exceeding data caps and incurring overage fees. If you have a mobile data plan with a higher data cap, you can adjust this setting to stream at higher bitrates.

Netflix says the goal is to give you more control and greater choice in managing your data usage whether you're on an unlimited mobile plan or one that's more restrictive.

To set your mobile data usage, make sure you have updated your Netflix app on iOS or Android to the most recent version, select "App Settings" from the menu, and pick "Cellular Data Usage."

There you can switch off the automatic default and select a higher or lower data usage setting that works with your mobile data plan, including an unlimited option.

"We are always working on ways to improve picture quality while streaming more efficiently, so bitrates could change over time," Netflix warns. "As with all streaming, actual data usage can vary based on your device capabilities and network conditions."

Your mobile carrier may impact the actual data usage even if you elect a higher setting in the Netflix app. It's also worth noting that this setting only works on your mobile network — not on Wi-Fi.

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