Netflix might not be playing nicely with Google TV for some reason, but the company is pouring tons of resources into its Android app. The service got variable playback speeds and a screen lock feature this year, and now it looks like we're in for audio-only background playback. It could help you save some precious mobile data or leave your phone in your pocket while you're keeping up with your favorite series.
Above: Video on. Below: Video off.
The feature was first spotted in an app teardown by our friends at XDA Developers back in October, but it wasn't functional back then. Now it comes to the first few subscribers as part of a server-side rollout in version 7.84.1 build 28 35243. If you're in on the change, you'll see a new Video off button at the top of the full-screen video player. Tapping it turns on the audio-only mode, leaving you with a blank screen showing all playback controls including the scrub bar, forward and backward, speed, and so on. Even the brightness slider remains available, though it's pretty useless here.
We've also spotted a new Audio Only option in settings. Tapping it opens a pop-up menu that lets you choose when you want to use the mode: Always On, Headphones or External Speakers, and Off.
I could imagine that audio-only will work better for some shows than for others. I don't think I'd understand the storyline in something like American Horror Story or Breaking Bad without the visuals, but the mode could be well suited for sitcoms, stand-up comedy, and some documentaries. You might still want to switch to audio description under Audio & Subtitles when available.
It might take a while until the audio-only mode rolls out to your account. The only thing you can do is try to keep your Netflix app updated, so check if you've got the latest version installed on the Play Store or APK Mirror.