There are few, if any, streaming services out there that have had a greater global impact than Netflix. Everyone knows what Netflix is, and most people use it on a regular basis. Even if you don’t have your own Netflix account, chances are you know someone who does and has been able to wrest their password from them at one point or another. Netflix is easily the most popular streaming service, the most widely used, and the one that has the most cache as a household name.
For a while there, in fact, Netflix had such a stranglehold over the streaming market that “Netflix” was synonymous with streaming itself. “Oh, I’ll have to Netflix that when I get home,” people would say. It became nothing short of a cultural phenomenon. I’m sure we have all heard of the phrase, “Netflix and chill,” for example. Plus, before Netflix, nobody ever spoke about watching content in terms of “binging.” Thanks to Netflix, whether a show is binge-worthy or not is now a new criterion used to evaluate how good a series is, whether it has you on the edge of your seat from one episode to the next, forcing you to just keep watching until the season comes to an end.
Netflix has completely altered the ways in which we consume media. Prior to the Netflix model, we used to watch television one episode at a time. And we usually would have to wait a full week for the next episode to be released. Sure, there are still shows and networks that use this now archaic way of releasing TV episodes, but Netflix changed the game entirely. They began making full seasons of their original and syndicated series available at a time, resulting in people taking in all the content that they could stomach in one sitting. The world of movies and television is forever changed thanks to Netflix’s innovative platform.
But it wasn’t just how many content people view in one sitting that Netflix changed forever. It also made its mark on the ways in which we are able to view content. Where and when we can watch our favorite shows and movies on demand. Netflix was one of the first streaming services to offer an easy to use and convenient mobile app, too, which allowed Netflix subscribers to bring all of their favorite shows and movies with them, no matter where they happened to be.
Sure, nowadays a streaming service offering an app is old news. But that wasn’t always the case. When the Netflix app first burst on the scenes, it blew people’s minds. Never before did we have such a convenient way to watch full-length movies and entire series on our mobile phones and tablets. It made travel, for one thing, a heck of a lot more bearable. The Netflix app was truly revolutionary, in classic Netflix fashion, in not only how we are able to consume content, but where and when as well.
But how has the Netflix app held up in this new age where just about every major premium streaming service now has an app of their own? Are people still loving it as much as they did in the beginning? Well, taking a quick look at the Apple App Store seems to show mostly favorable ratings, overall. People tend to be very picky when it comes to premium streaming apps, therefore it is not uncommon to find that apps like Hulu and Amazon Prime Video are not as highly rated as you might assume. The Netflix app, on the other hand, seems to be liked by most, even after all this time.
Out of 176,000 individual ratings (and counting), the Netflix app has an average score of 4.1 out of 5 stars. This, it turns out, is not bad at all, especially when you consider the abysmally low ratings of competitive apps, such as HBO Max and HBO Go. But still, this might not be quite as high as expected. So, what is it, then, about the Netflix app that causes people to occasionally rate it 1 or 2 stars? Well, let’s dive in and take a look, shall we?
The Netflix app in 2020 looks a little bit different than it has in the past. Whereas the app originally tried its best to mirror the iconic layout and design of the Netflix interface as it appears on laptops and Smart TVs, the app has begun to look a little bit more like a social media app. Not in functionality, mind you, but in interface and features. Titles appear, in other words, somewhat like they might on a news feed on Instagram.
You’ll be able to browse by genre still, by scrolling down, but at the top of the page, you’ll find a list of previews, each one a clickable circle. The design is reminiscent, of course, of Instagram or Snapchat, how they allow you to view the stories of users. Netflix has borrowed this design for their trailers, having each one of their top titles appear at the top of the home section like a social media story might.
Whereas this doesn’t outright bother me at all, I don’t know if it is the best interface for an app like Netflix. If I were in charge of the design team, I would probably make things a little more streamlined and not borrow design techniques from social media just for the sake of it. I would probably prefer it if previews of a title could be accessed by holding your finger over a given show or movie instead of dedicating a whole section of an already cramped app to it – how many people really watch previews on Netflix anyway?
There are a few other sections to the Netflix app that are worth discussing, too: Notifications and Downloads. One thing that the Netflix app offers that make it more mobile-friendly than the original website or Smart TV version of Netflix is the way in which you can download content, making it playable offline. This is, of course, perfect for travel, allowing you to preselect what you might want to watch on a lengthy airplane trip (without having to shell out cash for the onboard wi-fi, that is).
Also, the notifications section allows you to keep track of your favorite titles and shows, letting you know when new episodes of a series you follow are up or if a new movie that you are likely to enjoy has been added to the library. All of this added up results in a very customizable and personalized experience, the likes of which you would expect from an app from such a premium service.
The Netflix app may not offer any additional content. But that’s fine. The Netflix library is already so vast (and constantly growing) that no additional content is needed. That being said, you won’t have to sacrifice any content either. If a title is available on Netflix, you can watch it on your phone or tablet via the Netflix app. The downloads, however, could be seen as additional content, since you can build up your own library of movies and shows that you do not need an internet connection to view.
Pricing and Plans
There is no additional price associated with the Netflix app. If you have a subscription to Netflix already, the app is automatically included. It should be noted, however, that making use of the Netflix app does count as adding a device to your account. So, if your account has a limited number of devices that can be used at a given time (most do, including the family accounts).
Suggestions that I have for the Netflix App
I would suggest going back to the older app design, the one that looked less like a social network and more like a streaming service, for starters. It would also be great if the Netflix app allowed you to create your own personalized playlists of movies and show episodes, so, when you are on the go, you can just throw on a good mix of content for a given situation ahead of time and let it play through. Other than that, though, I think that the Netflix app is an expertly executed premium streaming app.