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.
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.
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.
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.
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...
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.
If you're looking for yet another place to get your new $35 Chromecast, give your local Best Buy a ring. At least one lucky fellow was able to successfully buy the device from a Best Buy in South Carolina. Calls placed to several stores would indicate that's not the only one. However, most stores are expecting stock to arrive in the next day or two.
Full-size Best Buy stores are getting 20-30 Chromecasts in the first batch – high-traffic stores may get an extra allotment.
Netflix made several appearances at today's Google event, but the most notable is perhaps the announcement that content delivered to Android devices may soon look a whole lot better. Hugo Barra demoed the new Nexus 7, showing off the 1080p content the device will be able to stream from Netflix when it launches in the US on July 30th. Prior to now, Android devices streamed content in standard definition, regardless of their resolution.
One of Google's problem areas has long been the living room, and the Chrome team looks to be coming to the rescue by leveraging the huge mobile device ecosystem. The Chromecast is a new device running a simplified version of Chrome OS. It enables you to get content from your phone, tablet, or laptop to a bigger screen. This is not a Chrome OS computer in a tiny package, but rather a smaller, cheaper, more capable Nexus Q.