One of my few complaints with the Netflix app for Android has always been that the app makes it more difficult than it should be to indulge in binge-watching behavior. Watching episode after episode of a TV show meant either going back into the episode list again, or hitting the show's tile from the home view again, and neither was ideal.
With a recent update, however, Netflix has added what it calls a "post-play" experience, which gives users the number and title of the next episode, along with a big red "play next episode" button. Just like on the web, the next episode will play automatically unless you stop it.
Everyone who uses Netflix on Android will be getting the latest update to the official app, but only those who use the popular service with Google's Chromecast streaming device are likely to notice what has changed. According to the official change log, the 3.3 update adds an "enhanced second screen experience" and "playback optimizations," and nothing else. That seems to mean a few UI changes to the Netflix Chromecast streaming interface.
Old below, new above.
Specifically, the Chromecast interface now has a more boxed cover art for whatever movie or episode you happen to be playing, mirroring the UI that appears when you're playing something on your phone or tablet itself.
Android users have had a bit of a love-hate thing going on with Netflix in recent years. Even after a series of updates, the Netflix app was barely usable. Even so, it was the single best source for streaming video on Android and one of the few apps supporting the Chromecast. Starting today, we can put a stop to hate by simply updating our apps. Netflix v3.0 is rolling out to everyone with a completely revamped interface. Because no one like waiting for staged rollouts, we have the APK for you to download right now.
The overall layout hasn't really changed, but everything is much sharper.
Netflix customers now all have the option to stream their favorite television shows and movies in the highest quality bit rate that the company offers. HD? No, Super HD. It's 1080p, but with less compression. Netflix first rolled out this higher quality offering way back in January, but they only worked with ISPs with whom they have a direct connection. Now they're ready to stream Super HD to everyone. They're also hoping more ISPs will adopt Netflix Open Connect, their video content delivery network that tries to reduce internet congestion by storing content on servers as close to users as possible.
Last week, we heard from Dan Morrill (via Reddit) that "top men" were working on the "sleep of death" issue that caused 4.3 devices to become unresponsive if they fell asleep while streaming from Netflix through the Chromecast.
Tonight, though, it looks like the issue is already fixed with Netflix's update to version 2.4.1. We've been testing the update since it popped up earlier this evening, and haven't experienced a lockup yet.
The change log for the update is short and sweet, but unfortunately doesn't mention the 1080p streaming set to debut on the new Nexus 7.
Fixes and optimization for devices running Android 4.3.
Netflix profiles have been showing up intermittently on some streaming devices, but now the feature is officially launching. Profiles will start hitting some platforms in the coming days, with more to follow soon. Sadly, our beloved Android is not in this first batch.
When you create profiles on Netflix, each one acts like a sub-account with its own recommendations, history, and streaming queue. Although, Netflix didn't even mention the individual queues this time – they seem more interested in personalized recommendations and Facebook integration. You'll even be able to set up profiles with different combinations of people or different moods.
First up to get profiles are the website, iPad, iPhone, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Apple TV, and some smart TVs and Blu-ray players.
Rumors about Chrome OS running on a tiny HDMI stick started leaking out a few months ago, but we were all wrong about what it was going to be. The Chromecast is not a shrunken down Chromebox – it's not even really a Chrome OS device in the strictest sense. The Chromecast is Google's latest attempt to be invited into your living room. It also might be the first one to succeed.
The Chromecast doesn’t try to create a new ecosystem – it simply asks app developers to append a few lines of code to give it a piece of the streaming media action.
Google is not good at TV – despite having more money and super-smart engineers than you can shake a remote control at, the company has always stumbled in the living room. Google TV was a good idea, but it's suffered from poor support and various bugs. The Nexus Q meanwhile was killed before it even launched once someone inside Google realized it should never have been made at all. But this... the Google Chromecast, might have a shot. I've only had it for a day at this point, but it's already got more going for it than Google's previous TV products.
You may have noticed that Google's shiny new Chromecast streaming gadget has suddenly become a bit popular. The combination of easy streaming and a cheap $35 price sticker has made the dongle a hot ticket, already backed up by three or four weeks on the Play Store, periodically sold out at Amazon and Best Buy, and selling for insane markups on eBay. Google has noticed too: according to a report by the LA Times, they've decided to end the Netflix promotional giveaway, which bundled three months of streaming video service (a $24 value) with the device.
Due to overwhelming demand for Chromecast devices since launch, the 3-month Netflix promotion (which was available in limited quantities) is no longer available.