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How to Adjust Netflix Video Quality on the iPhone, Mac, and Apple TV

How to Adjust Netflix Video Quality on the iPhone, Mac and Apple TV

updated by Chand Bellur
October 14, 2023 at 4:50 p.m.

If you’re trying to improve Netflix video quality on your Mac, iPhone, or Apple TV, this page will help you enjoy the finest picture. Even if you have a fast Internet connection, your Netflix app may be set to a lower resolution than you expect. The Netflix plan you subscribe to also determines video quality. Let’s take a look at how to adjust Netflix video quality on the iPhone, Mac, and Apple TV.

Table of Contents

Adjust Netflix for Best Video Quality
Adjust Netflix Video Quality to Save Data
Netflix Plan Determines Video Quality
How to Adjust Netflix Video Quality on the iPhone
How to Adjust Netflix Video Quality on the Mac
How to Adjust Netflix Video Quality on Apple TV

Adjust Netflix for Best Video Quality

Video quality is important. Depending on your screen size, video quality can make the difference between a high-end home theater experience and poor quality video, reminiscent of old CRT televisions.

By default, the Netflix iOS app sets downloaded video quality to 480p standard definition. Even if your device has a Retina HD display, capable of the highest resolutions, Netflix defaults to SD.

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There’s a good reason for this decision. iOS devices are portable and most have small screens. The biggest screen on an iOS device is 6.7” — a feature of the iPhone 15 Pro Max and similar devices. Thus, HD is superfluous on most iOS devices. Since HD costs Netflix more money (servers and bandwidth are not free), Netflix defaults to SD. Most people won’t even notice the difference on a 6.7″ or smaller screen.

If you own an iPad, you will likely notice a difference. I own a 2021 iPad with a 10.2” screen. It features 2160 x 1620 resolution, which is beyond HD quality. Unfortunately, when I installed the Netflix app, download quality was set to SD. The lesser video quality is noticeable, but it can be changed easily.

Netflix App Settings on iPhone 13 Max Pro
This is a screenshot of the latest Netflix version installed on an iPhone 13 Pro Max. Despite the smartphone’s impressive Super Retina XDR display with ProMotion, Netflix still defaults to standard video quality. Of course, this is just the setting for downloads. Streaming quality, for cellular connections only, is set on the Cellular Data Usage screen. You can also set video quality settings for your profile on the Netflix website.

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Adjust Netflix Video Quality to Save Data

The end-user’s bandwidth is also important. If you’re using an iPhone, you may be using cellular data or a slow, public, Wi-Fi hot spot. Nothing is more frustrating than waiting hours for a download to finish. Users tend to take out their frustrations on others. The slow download may not be Netflix’s fault, but most users will blame them. Taking a cue from Apple, they default to the least frustrating settings.

Not everyone has excellent Internet access. Living in the San Francisco Bay Area, we have to deal with some of the worst Internet service imaginable. Tech savvy Bay Area residents gobble up bandwidth, stretching networks to their limits.

Whether you have excellent, unlimited Internet access or have to conserve every gigabyte, changing Netflix video quality is important. Now, let’s look at how to adjust Netflix video quality on the iPhone, Mac and Apple TV.

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Netflix Plan Determines Video Quality

Not every Netflix customer can stream high-definition video. If you subscribe to the least expensive Netflix plan, you can only stream and download standard definition video.

You can check your Netflix plan by visiting in any web browser — mobile or desktop. Next, tap (or click) Sign In on the top right.

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Visit the Netflix Website and Sign In

A login screen appears. Fill in your email address and password and then click on Sign In.

Login to the Netflix Website

A screen with multiple user profiles appears. Click or tap on your user profile to proceed.

Select Your Netflix Profile

Your Netflix home screen appears. Tap or click on your profile icon (top right) and then click Account.

Click on Profile Icon on Top Right

Click on Account Link in Menu

Your Account screen is displayed. Information about your plan is presented in the Plan Details section.

View Netflix Plan Details

If you are using the Basic plan, adjusting video quality is not an option. You can only stream and download standard definition video.

Netflix Plan Pricing 2021

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How to Adjust Netflix Video Quality on the iPhone

The iPhone is one of the most convenient Netflix clients. Wherever you are, simply take out your iPhone and entertainment is at your fingertips. Unfortunately, you can burn through a lot of cellular data using Netflix on an iPhone. Netflix is well aware of this, and they default users to the most conservative data usage settings.

Adjusting Netflix video quality on the iPhone is easy. First, launch the Netflix app and sign in, if necessary. Next, tap on the account profile button on the top right of the screen.

Tap on Account Profile Icon

A settings screen is displayed. Tap on App Settings to display video playback and download quality settings.

Tap on App Settings

The iPhone has two sections for video quality — Video Playback and Downloads. The iPad, at least the WiFi-only model, only offers video quality settings for downloads. iPhone and cellular-enabled iPad users can change Cellular Data Usage settings. Tap on Cellular Data Usage to display the appropriate screen.

Select Cellular Data Usage

Adjust the Video Playback settings to use the maximum amount of data, save data, or only allow video playback when connected to a WiFi network.

Adjust Cellular Data Usage

The Download section, available on all iOS devices, allows users to set quality and cellular data usage rules for downloaded Netflix videos. Users can set video quality to Standard (480p) or “Higher”, which has no specified resolution. My hunch is that the Higher setting will stream the best resolution, given your Netflix plan and device. It’s also possible to disable downloading over cellular networks, by turning on the WiFi Only switch.

If you have an iPad and are stuck using a cellular connection, such as the iOS Personal Hotspot, downloading is the best option. It’s the only way to control video quality and conserve data. In my situation, I download SD Netflix videos during the day and watch them in the evening.

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How to Adjust Netflix Video Quality on the Mac

Unlike the iPhone, macOS doesn’t offer a native Netflix app. You’ll have to use your browser to get your Netflix fix on a Macintosh.

First, open any modern web browser and navigate to Sign in, if the Netflix site doesn’t remember you. Click on your user icon on the top right. A small menu appears. Click on Account. The Netflix Account screen appears. Scroll down to the bottom and click on Playback Settings, under the My Profile section. The Playback Settings page appears. Select the appropriate data usage setting and then click save.

It is important to note that playback settings are specific to each user profile. If your family shares a Netflix account, data usage settings must be adjusted for each user profile. Also, these settings will affect all of your other devices. Changing Playback Settings on the web will change them for any device that uses your Netflix profile. Indeed, Netflix’s website offers the most ease and flexibility when it comes to managing data usage.

If conserving data is a must, I also recommend turning off Auto-Play. This setting is available on the Playback Settings page. Turning off Auto-Play will conserve data for those who tend to fall asleep while watching TV. Guilty as charged!

Keep in mind, it can take up to 8 hours for these settings to take effect.

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How to Adjust Netflix Video Quality on Apple TV

Apple TV presents a small challenge when adjusting Netflix video quality. The Netflix tvOS app has no video quality settings. After all, it is assumed that Apple TV is connected to an unlimited WiFi network.

The truth is, few have unlimited Wi-Fi. Most Internet service providers will throttle home Internet services that go over a threshold, such as 150 GB per month. One person, watching high-definition Netflix videos in the evening, can easily hit the limit within a month. A large family can reach the data cap in a week. If you’re wondering why your super fast Internet access is really slow, you’re probably being throttled for using “too much” data.

Of course, you can adjust Netflix video quality using their website. These changes will cascade to all of your devices that use your Netflix profile, including Apple TV. If you’re too lazy to open a browser or don’t have access to one, you may need to get creative in order to adjust Netflix video quality on Apple TV.

There’s a simple trick to adjusting Netflix video quality on Apple TV — change the resolution for the entire system. You can do this on-the-fly without restarting Apple TV. It has the effect of throttling bandwidth for virtually every tvOS app on your Apple TV.

Changing the screen resolution on your Apple TV is easy. First, launch the Settings app. The easiest way to do this is to hold down the Siri (microphone) button and say “Settings”. Next, tap on Video and Audio and then Resolution. Choose the appropriate resolution, depending on whether you want high quality video or prefer to conserve data.

I can’t verify that this technique conserves data for every app. Developers vary, and some are sloppy. I’m sure there are video streaming apps that will deliver HD content to an SD screen, only to do the conversion on the client. I do know that with Netflix, switching Apple TV resolution to 480p will scale down data usage accordingly.

The obvious downside, for the data conservatives, is that we’re watching poor quality video. It looks worse than an old CRT television, as new, flat screen TVs are much bigger. It looks blurry to me. But after hours of working in front of a computer, the last thing I want to do is read a book. It’s not perfect, but I would rather watch low resolution video than cycle my router over and over.

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