In the age of high definition online video; where resolutions can go up to 3840 X 2160 as standard; data usage caps are still expensive, even for as little as 2 or 3 GB.
Popular video streaming services such as YouTube offer easily accessible quality toggles to allow you to limit the amount of data that is used up when watching on the go, however other apps like Netflix seem completely devoid of this feature.
Netflix uses up to 7GB an hour at its highest quality setting, a usage that to most is completely unacceptable. Not only that but the lack of an option to save media for offline viewing isn’t going to be showing up any time soon.
However, there is still a way of reducing the amount of data that the app eats up. Let’s take a look.
Reducing maximum video quality
The solution is to reduce the maximum video quality that Netflix streams in. This method cannot be done from within the app however works just fine on mobile screens thanks to Netflix’ latest site update that makes everything responsive.
Head over to netflix.com/youraccount and sign in. You’ll be presented with a full overview of settings that you can modify, but we’re only bothered with the “Playback Settings” option under the “My Profile” section.
From the resulting menu you’ll be able to choose between 4 different playback options:
Low – This is around a 320×240 resolution; think VHS minus the image flickering. It’s perfectly watchable on a mobile device and will use up to 0.3GB per hour.
Medium – Roughly a 640×320 resolution or DVD quality. This is probably the best option of the 3 for watching over data as it doesn’t sacrifice huge amounts of quality for data usage, but just enough so that it isn’t a huge drain. This will use up to 0.7GB per hour.
High – Depending on what you’re watching, this can be 1280×720 or 1920×1080, and will use 3GB – 7GB of data per hour. This is the highest quality that Netflix offers and as a result will use up the most data.
Auto – This is the default option and will automatically switch between the three depending on how good your connection speed is. This is what you want it on when streaming over WiFi or when data otherwise isn’t an issue.
See below our comparison of the three options.
You can open the above on your smartphone or tablet to see what it’ll look like when scaled down onto a smaller screen; the difference between Low and Medium is surprisingly hard to notice whilst Medium to High is a huge difference in pixel density. All 3, however, offer perfectly enjoyable viewing.
It’s important to note that changing this setting will effect all of your devices. This includes playback quality on PC or games consoles as well as your smartphone or tablet. Fortunately, it’s easily accessible and can be changed back and forth as constantly as you require without penalty.