Netflix comes to aid of mobile binge-watchers

Service has introduced new controls aimed at avoiding nasty shocks in data bills

Netflix says it wants to give customers more control and choice.

Netflix says it wants to give customers more control and choice.


Ever spent hours binge-watching shows on Netflix on your mobile data connection, only to find that you’ve used your entire month’s data allowance before you reach the end of the series? That’s if you’re lucky enough to realise. If you keep going, the next phone bill could be hiding a nasty surprise thanks to all those out-of-plan data charges.

But that could be coming to an end. Netflix has implemented a new tool that will allow you to control how much data you use when streaming on mobile networks, allowing customers to move it higher or lower, depending on their data plan. The default setting will give you about three hours of TV shows and movies for every gigabyte of data, a setting Netflix’s head of product innovation Eddy Wu said balanced “good video quality with lower data usage”.

The tool is available in the latest version of the company’s iOS and Android apps. It can also be customised for users, so if you want a higher quality of streaming or have a larger (or lower) data cap than average, you can change the settings from the default option.

“Our goal is to give you more control and greater choice in managing your data usage whether you’re on an unlimited mobile plan or one that’s more restrictive,” Mr Wu wrote in a blog post on the company’s site.


The move may be welcomed by customers who have encountered “billshock” in the past.

However, the firm also warned that the data usage could also be affected by mobile network providers, while quality could be influenced by phones and network conditions.

The streaming video service is now available in almost every country in the world, and has created original content for its service including Orange is the New Black and House of Cards.

It hit a stumbling block last month when it forecast US and international subscriptions would grow at a slower pace than markets had expected this quarter, predicting it would add about 500,000 customers in the US compared with Wall Street targets of 586,000. Outside the US, that figure was 2 million versus market expectations of 3.5 million.

The service has recently increased its prices, with early adopters of the service in Ireland facing a €2 per month price hike for the high definition offering.

Netflix is also facing competition from Amazon, which is starting a video-only subscription service.