Netflix iPad App Version 2 Hands-On

December 20, 2011

Excited about the iPad you’re getting for Christmas? If you’ve been good this year, one app you should load up is the new Netflix app released last week. A similar version of the app had already been deployed to Android tablets such as the Nook and the Amazon Kindle Fire a few weeks ago. Primarily, the new app features a revamped user interface. I’ve been using the new app since it’s been released and here’s what I’ve found.

Initially, the new release was a little buggy with app crashes and repeated requests to log back in. There have also been reports of users not being able to sign in. Netflix has already released a new version, 2.01 that has solved some of these issues with a couple of exceptions. One recommended work-around for the sign-in problem was to add a space to the end of your password.

I definitely like the new UI. It’s very simple and straightforward and makes much better use of screen real estate (old version shown below). At the top is a number of thumbnails with recently watched content. Then there’s several rows of suggested content including your Instant Queue. Any of the rows are browsable by swiping your finger across them. On the top left is a browse button that reveals a number of genres. On the right is a search button used to directly enter the name of a title. Thankfully, TV episodes are broken up by season. However, one bug is that if you tap an episode name, it will not update the description. To see a description for a particular episode, you need to start playing it first (and then stop it).

iPad Netflix app version 2
Version 2 of the Netflix iPad app
Netflix iPad App version 1
Version 1 of the Netflix iPad app
TV episodes on Netflix iPad app
TV episodes are organized by season
Also, when looking at the details of a movie, the app displays other recommended titles. I find that this one of Netflix’s best features as it helps you discover new content. TV shows use this screen real estate to show episodes. It would be nice if they displayed recommendations at the end of the show.
Movie details and suggested titles
The Netflix viewing experience itself is pretty similar to the last version of the app. You can still fast forward and reverse with the slider at the top of the screen. Playback controls allow you to pause, skip back 30 seconds as well as turn closed captions on and off. This is especially convenient when you’re trying to figure out what Chibs on Sons of Anarchy just said (I had an Irish grandmother and sometimes I still can’t understand him).
Video quality on the app is decent for a standard definition stream but it doesn’t fully utilize the iPad’s screen resolution. On the other hand, I learned that several Android tablets do support Netflix in HD. One example is the Nook which takes in a Netflix HD video stream and down converts it to 1024×600. While the Nook does not offer HDMI out, there are other Honeycomb-based Android tablets on the market that support HD Netflix and have HDMI out including the Lenovo K1 and the LG Revolution. The Kindle Fire does not support HD in Netflix. Sounds like it’s time to check out the Android tablets.

For audio, you’ll get the best experience with headphones. The headphones offer stereo sound, while the iPad’s external speaker is only mono. If you do listen with the iPad 2′s external speaker, one way to improve the audio is to cup your hand behind the speaker.
Holding the iPad around the speaker improves the audio

While the app does not support Airplay streaming, it will work with Airplay mirroring. Airplay mirroring displays whatever is on your iPad or iPhone 4S screen on your HDTV. To do this, you also need an Apple TV 2 connected to your HDTV. However, Apple TV 2 already has it’s own native Netflix app which is going to give you far superior audio and video to what you will see via Airplay mirroring. Until we see TVs with Airplay directly built in, there isn’t any good reason to use the Airplay mirroring feature. My gut is that if the Netflix app supported true Airplay streaming, the video performance would be better.

There you have it. While I prefer to watch Netflix on the big screen, the tablet is a nice option on the road or when the big TV is unavailable. All of the Netflix version 2 iPad screen shots are now in the Netflix UI Gallery.

Related Posts:
When is 1080P Netflix coming to my device?

Tags: Amazon, Android, Apple, closed captions, IPad, Kindle, Netflix, Nook, streaming

One Response to Netflix iPad App Version 2 Hands-On

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