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The download strategy takes some planning. I recommend downloading a few videos just in case you need them. The other problem is that not every Netflix video is available for download. Netflix licenses a lot of their content from third parties. Many of these videos are only available for streaming, due to the licensing agreement. Every Netflix original is available for download. Some third-party videos can also be downloaded. Unfortunately, if you can’t download the video you want to watch, you may have to burn through some cellular data. Let’s take a look at how to save cellular data by adjusting Netflix streaming quality.
Adjust Netflix Video Quality to Save Cellular Data
Netflix is one of the few smartphone video apps featuring adjustable video quality. Most video apps do this automatically, based on network speed. They offer the highest quality available, which burns through cellular data like a raging wildfire. I love HBO NOW, but I dare not use it over a cellular connection. There is no way to adjust video quality on HBO NOW and it is a massive data hog.
Before we look at how to adjust Netflix video quality, there is an important issue to address. Video quality is relative to screen size. If you have a large, flat screen TV, 4K video is almost a necessity. On a smartphone screen, one can get by with much less resolution. Your iPhone may be capable of Retina HD resolution, but your eyes cannot perceive the difference, unless you are related to a bald eagle. Going with a lower video resolution isn’t a compromise. You probably won’t even notice, unless you go for the lowest setting, which may be good enough.
The tech industry has done a great disservice with cynical design. Most smartphones offer superfluous specs when it comes to resolution. Apart from Apple, most smartphone manufacturers don’t even offer the highest resolution by default. It is solely for marketing purposes. Don’t worry if your favorite show isn’t streaming at the highest quality. You probably won’t even notice! If there is a small difference, it probably isn’t worth splurging on data hogging video quality.
Changing Netflix video quality is easy. First, tap on the “hamburger” button on the top left. The main Netflix menu will appear. Scroll all the way to the bottom of the screen and tap on App Settings. The App Settings screen appears. Next, tap on Cellular Data Usage and then pick the appropriate options. Unfortunately, this screen has changed for the worse over the years. There are only two options for cellular video quality. There’s no mention of how much data they use per hour. Online Netflix documentation still refers to the previous cellular data options, which are no longer available. If you are looking to conserve cellular data, choose the Save Data method. I can’t really elaborate on how much data this uses. Even if I test it, it may be a variable bit rate that differs depending on the type of video.
Downloading Netflix Videos is the Best Way to Use Less Cellular Data
While researching and writing this article, I learned that Netflix changed their cellular data options for streaming. They now only have two vague settings for throttling cellular data. Their online documentation is sadly out of date and hasn’t been updated to reflect changes in the app. That’s just sloppy release management.
Given that streaming Netflix over a cellular connection is a wildcard, your best bet is to download Netflix videos ahead of time. Keep a collection of downloaded videos on hand for when you don’t have access to WiFi. If you must stream Netflix over cellular data, the Save Data setting is your best bet. Just make sure to keep an eye on how much data you are using.