Netflix finally makes downloads smarter for iOS users

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When it comes to streaming video, Apple is the underdog against Netflix.
The Netflix app can now be sure you always have the next episode of your favorite show downloaded.
Photo: Stock Catalog/Flickr CC

A handy Netflix feature announced last summer has come to iOS at long last: the app can automatically download episodes of your favorite shows.

With Smart Downloads, watching a TV episode offline results in the next episode automatically being transferred as soon as a Wi-Fi connection is available.

How Smart Downloads works

Netflix’s goal is to take the hassle out of updating shows stored on your mobile device. “When you finish watching a downloaded episode, Smart Downloads will delete it, then automatically download the next episode in the series,” explains Netflix.

Don’t worry, these automatic downloads only take place over Wi-Fi so they won’t suck up all your limited cellular data.  

This feature doesn’t stockpile multiple episodes, just one at a time. The intent is not to fill up your iPhone or iPad. If you want to store more episodes you need to turn Smart Downloads off.

Just so there’s no confusion, this is only for TV episodes. If you download and watch a movie, it’s sequel won’t automatically load on your tablet or phone.

This feature is included in the latest version of the Netflix application for iOS. It’s also in the Android and Windows 10 apps. The software is free, but this streaming video service requires a subscription, and prices went up last month. Its basic plan starts at $8.99 a month, with a premium version at $15.99.