Netflix App Won’t Work on Most new Android Phones, Highlights Android Issues, Again

This week Google announced a large collection of changes designed to get Android devices running the latest software and to make the Android market an easier to navigate. Today, to round out the week of Android, Netflix finally released an Android app.

As soon as the news hit Twitter, Facebook and offices across the country, a large number of users quickly went to the market on their new phones like the HTC ThunderBolt, Droid Incredible 2, Motorola Atrix 4G and the LG G2x only to find out that their phones don’t work with the Netflix app. In fact, only one of our Top 5 Android smartphones will work with Netflix and as of right now none of the Top Upcoming Android phones for this summer are supported.

Netflix on the HTC ThunderBolt

Netflix on the HTC ThunderBolt

As it turns out, the Netflix app only works with the older devices like the original Droid Incredible, Evo 4G, Nexus One, G2, and Nexus S. Most of these devices were released so long ago that owners are almost ready to upgrade to a new phone, but doing so will result in a loss of Netflix. Losing access to a new app when you upgrade to the latest device? Crazy, but true. Even crazier, the HTC ThunderBolt is incredibly similar to the EVO 4G in terms of specs, but it can’t watch Netflix Instantly.

The problem isn’t that Netflix want’s to play favorites, but rather that Google still hasn’t been able to offer a standard streaming video application. Instead Netflix has to test and develop for every single Android device on the market. As you can expect this is a slow process which means early adopters, and practically anyone who has purchased a phone released in 2011 can’t use the Netflix Android app.

The Android platform is gaining rapid adoption in the mobile world and presents a great opportunity to reach more of our members. Because the platform has evolved so rapidly, there are some significant challenges associated with developing a streaming video application for this ecosystem. One of these challenges is the lack of standard streaming playback features that the Netflix application can use to gain broad penetration across all available Android phones. In the absence of standardization, we have to test each individual handset and launch only on those that can support playback. We are aggressively qualifying phones and look forward to expanding the list of phones on which the Netflix app will be supported. We anticipate that many of these technical challenges will be resolved in the coming months and that we will be able to provide a Netflix application that will work on a large majority of Android phones. – Roma De Product Team at Netflix

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Google has just launched Google Movies, which offers movie  rentals on Android devices running Android 2.2 or higher. These movie rentals are available on Android phones and Tablets, and here’s the kicker, as streaming rentals. That’s right. Netflix on Android works on old phones, but not on the latest devices. Either Google is oblivious to consumer desires to use Netflix on their smartphones or Google wants to make a bunch of money on movie rentals like their rival Apple.

As an Android user, I appreciate the fact that Netflix has arrived and that Google is taking steps to deal with fragmentation, but issues like this highlight how far Android has to go. Not having a standard way to securely stream video was OK when Android launched and annoying in 2010, but in the middle of 2011 it’s downright unacceptable. In no way should the latest and greatest phones, especially those with fast 4G, be left off the list of Netflix supported devices because Google can’t be bothered to build a standard streaming service.

Perhaps someone can make that their 20% project so that we can actually use our Android smartphones to watch movies or TV shows without feeling like we are using a Windows Mobile 6.1 device.

Update: Clarification, the lack of a streaming video application referenced is directly relating to the ability to stream DRM protected video content.

  

Comments

  1. Larry Mao says

    This is such a BS quote.

    “The problem isn’t that Netflix want’s to play favorites, but rather that Google still hasn’t been able to offer a
    standard streaming video application
    . Instead Netflix has to test and develop for every single Android device on the market.”

    The problem is not that it has to test and develop for every single Android device, rather, Netflix is worried about DRM. It initially released this app for those devices from HTC that meet it. It said it will add more in the future. But it’s not the testing and developing part, it’s rather the DRM issue it has to work out, not because Netflix even cares, but rather because the studios want to lock thing down as much as possible.

    • Josh Smith says

      Larry, Yes it is DRM, but the problem is that the burden is put on the app developer instead of on Google.

      Sure, if we could kiss DRM goodbye there wouldn’t be an issue, but until then Netflix apparently needs to test and develop a DRM solution for every device.

      I don’t see a future where DRM on streaming subscription content goes away.

      • JimF says

        But you didn’t mention that in your piece, did you? Rather, you claim that Google hasn’t ”
        but rather that Google still hasn’t been able to offer a standard streaming video application” which, given the number of streaming apps I have on my Droid, is patently untrue. That’s why others call this “shoddy journalism”. I’m sure you can (and will) split hairs over the point being about standard streaming, but that’s not what you wrote about. Nor do you say in the article that it’s about DRM, which you now admit. Instead, you just wrote a bash column.

        Um, any chance are you one of those bloggers who were suggested to write types of articles by Burson Marseller?

        • Josh Smith says

          In my opinion Google needs to step it up and deliver a streaming video solution that handles DRM. I have updated the post to reflect the DRM issue.

          If there was a standard service from Google which supported protected content I expect we would have seen Netflix for Android sooner and a larger collection of video streaming apps with protected content.

          I still feel Google should step up and tackle the problem, rather than burdening app developers. This isn’t a bash, just highlighting a real problem.

        • everygamer says

           The thing I you are not realizing is that none of this has to do with Android. The reason why Netflix limited it to the 4-5 phones is because of the hardware in those phones. The specific processor type and chip sets in those phones have some level of native support for the DRM that Netflixs wants to use. It is a hardware question not a software question. If it was a software question there would be no phones with netflix period.

          It’s like buying a PC without a good graphics card, you cant run the top games. Same thing, these phones have a specific hardware feature that lets netflix do the DRM they want to use, hence they support it and the others done. Netflix could have selected a different DRM methodology but they as a company decided to go this route and maybe it makes sense for them.

  2. GuntherKLee says

    Larry is right. The proof? You were able to run the app perfectly on the Thunderbolt, just like I can on my Droid X, and Droid 2. The only thing that does not work is streaming. That shows that Netflix does not have to develop and test the app on every single device, but rather that DRM is the problem. Netflix said long ago that Qualcomm Snapdragon devices would be first, so there is really no surprise here.

    This is shoddy journalism.

    • Josh Smith says

      There is something shoddy about this statement -”
      You were able to run the app perfectly on the Thunderbolt, just like I can on my Droid X, and Droid 2. The only thing that does not work is streaming”

      A netflix app without streaming is a worthless app. IS DRM at the heart of the issue? Yes. But that doesn’t negate the issue that Google should deliver a platform that allows for services to use DRM across all Android devices. It’s not that I love DRM, but I do want to be able to watch Netflix and Hulu on my Android device and that’s not happening without DRM. As far as Snapdragon devices, check out the specs on teh Droid Incredible 2 and the ThunderBolt.

    • Nick says

      This is silly. Who cares if you can download the app? The point of HAVING Netlix is USING Netflix. Google is selling sportscars without a transmission and putting it on the devs to figure it out. I love Google and their products, but you have to be realistic. Both Windows Phone and iPhone (Android’s biggest competitors) can do it across the board, but Android can’t. That’s the fact. It’s not Netflix, it’s Google. I mean think about it, Netflix wants to sell their service to as many people as possible. They are NOT dragging their feet with this. If you’re an Android user, stop wasting your time selling other people on how great Android is, and demand they get this problem fixed. You sound like XBOX 360 vs. PS3 fanboys.

  3. GuntherKLee says

    No, it proves that Netflix does not have to develop and test the app on every single device, and proves what Larry said above, mainly, that it’s an issue with DRM, which is why your statement was wrong, and why I called it shoddy.

  4. another one says

    I’ve heard nothing but complaining about Netflix’s new Android app. They deserve some big credit for tackling this problem. Most of the devices running this app were released in mid-2010, which is the same time Netflix began actively hiring Android devs. Those devices still have a year left before upgrade time. It takes time to develop an app and I don’t think they should be expected to drop everything every time a new device comes out.

    • Josh Smith says

      It’s not so much a complaint about netflix, I am glad they are working on it. But if Google would bake it in to Android it would be easier and give users a better experience.

    • everygamer says

       How so … the issue with the streaming is due to hardware and netflix choosing only to support specific hardware. How is that a Google / Android issue? Netflix didn’t pick those 5 phones randomly, they all have the same type of processor/chipsets which support the type of DRM they wanted to use. Google does not decide what hardware goes in the phones, the manufacturers like Motorola, HTC, LG, etc decide what hardware they want to use. Google just made is so that Android will run on that hardware. If the hardware does not support he DRM Netflix selected to use (and there are lots of ways to do DRM with streaming) then Netflix decided to limit how many people would have access to the streaming.

      The hardware has to support the DRM otherwise the encoding speed will be too slow and the video will be choppy. A software DRM solution, which everyone thinks Google should provide will most likely not provide performance to have stable video streaming. My guess is that Netflix decided to use a DRM technology they were familiar with and that was the limit when it came to the hardware it could support.

      I think the main argument is that instead of this article covering the reasons why netflix is on a limited number of Android hand sets, give the readers all the information and let them decide what to think, it just makes a blanket statement that the fault lies with Google and Android. When in reality the issue is more complex than that, and it was not even Google’s decision to limit Netflix but Netflix themselves.

  5. Copierguy1961 says

    I have Netfix on my HTC EVO and it seems to work fine, but I want to stream to my TV using the HDMI output. I have the cable and YouTube and my videos and pictures work fine but with Netflix all I get is the audio out no video. I can find nothing about this on the Netflix or Sprint sites, any ideas?

  6. Westppc says

    This is all crap. HBO GO released their app and it works fine on most new Androids. They have to worry about the same DRM stuff that Netflix does. I dont see them testing every single phone player. They could just release the stupid thing and see which phones work and dont work. It’s just babble crap. They should just give up since Android is constantly being released on newer and better hardware. Who wants to watch Netflix on a phone that’s 3yrs behind the curve? Are they afraid that we’ll steal the video stream and sell the video to the black market?? It’s freaking crap! Screw Netflix!

  7. Westppc says

    This is all crap. HBO GO released their app and it works fine on most new Androids. They have to worry about the same DRM stuff that Netflix does. I dont see them testing every single phone player. They could just release the stupid thing and see which phones work and dont work. It’s just babble crap. They should just give up since Android is constantly being released on newer and better hardware. Who wants to watch Netflix on a phone that’s 3yrs behind the curve? Are they afraid that we’ll steal the video stream and sell the video to the black market?? It’s freaking crap! Screw Netflix!

  8. Westppc says

    This is all crap. HBO GO released their app and it works fine on most new Androids. They have to worry about the same DRM stuff that Netflix does. I dont see them testing every single phone player. They could just release the stupid thing and see which phones work and dont work. It’s just babble crap. They should just give up since Android is constantly being released on newer and better hardware. Who wants to watch Netflix on a phone that’s 3yrs behind the curve? Are they afraid that we’ll steal the video stream and sell the video to the black market?? It’s freaking crap! Screw Netflix!

  9. Westppc says

    This is all crap. HBO GO released their app and it works fine on most new Androids. They have to worry about the same DRM stuff that Netflix does. I dont see them testing every single phone player. They could just release the stupid thing and see which phones work and dont work. It’s just babble crap. They should just give up since Android is constantly being released on newer and better hardware. Who wants to watch Netflix on a phone that’s 3yrs behind the curve? Are they afraid that we’ll steal the video stream and sell the video to the black market?? It’s freaking crap! Screw Netflix!

  10. Anonymous says

     
    It’s been a month and a half and still no 6th phone added to their original list of 5.
     At this snails pace by the time Netflix gets to issuing an app to new phones, they’re going to be one-year-old phones at least.

  11. Skorpyo2010 says

    Great article. Especially the part at the nd about windows phone. I just recently went from hd2 to evo 3d. Best move ever.

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