Between heartbreaking show cancellations, unpopular new features and impending user restrictions, Netflix has been taking a lot of flack from subscribers recently. The company essentially led the charge into subscription-based streaming, but now that it is competing with so many others in the field it is struggling to keep up. As these competitors threaten to dethrone Netflix, here's a look at some of the unique, subtle features that still help Netflix stand out in the so-called "streaming wars."
Netflix has worked frantically to compete with other streamers who came onto the scene with big advantages — existing intellectual property libraries, infrastructure for creating original content and connections in the entertainment industry, for example. The company has scrambled to develop its own original content that will have the same "must-see" quality of its competition, but without the legacy of decades behind it, it has inevitably fallen behind. Fans have lashed out at the company for its approach to this development, among other things, and in many cases their outrage is legitimate. However, it's still worth noting how Netflix has led the charge in this technology and how it is still ahead in some areas.
netflix has some cheek upping their subscription fee and cracking down on password sharing when this is the kind of content they’re putting out 🥴 pic.twitter.com/uhffr3lZwN— das 🌈 (@das_penman) March 19, 2022
In spite of concerns about new features and restrictions, Netflix leads the pack in the streaming industry by many important metrics. Although Netflix got a headstart, it is still the underdog in the streaming world in many ways, since it is up against older companies with more capital, more brand recognition and more intellectual property than it has.
One of the great things about streaming is that you can cancel a subscription any time and pick it back up at any time, so you can cancel Netflix until it releases something you're interested in again. However, for users looking for a reason to hang onto this bill, here's a look at some of the subtle features that put it in a league of its own.
HD & UHD
First up, Netflix offers high-definition and ultra-high-definition streaming of many programs at the right subscription tier. It also allows you to toggle this feature on its playback settings menu, which can be nice for those with a data cap. Subscribers with an Ultra HD TV will want to get the Netflix Premium plan so that they're getting the most out of both their subscription and their hardware.prevnext
Netflix's search function is intuitive and surprisingly powerful. If you search for a title that the streamer doesn't have it will show you movies and shows from the same creators, with the same cast or in the same genre. However, you can also search the names of cast and crew members, search by genre or even by niche subgenre descriptions. For those with UHD TVs as mentioned above, you can even add "HDR" or "4K" to a search so you'll get content available in those formats.
Don't be afraid to experiment with Netflix's search function by typing in a specific description of the vibe you want to achieve. Searches like "campy late-night comedies" or "feel-good coming-of-age movies" will net you surprisingly accurate results. You can also search a broad genre like "Netflix K-dramas" and the site will show you a long list of subgenres within that category, such as "K-dramas trending now" or "conspiracy K-dramas."prevnext
Cellular Data & Downloads
A growing number of internet service providers and mobile service providers put strict caps on data usage with heavy fees for those that go over, and Netflix is accomodating of these concerns. In the service's mobile app, you can find "Cellular Data Usage" in the settings menu and set your preferences so that Netflix will use either low, medium, high or unlimited amounts of data. The last one will cost about three gigabytes of data per hour.
You can also set the data usage on a device to "Wi-Fi only so that it will only stream when in range of a Wi-Fi network, though again, some at-home ISPs charge for data overages now too. To conserve at home, toggle HD and UHD off as mentioned above. If your streaming stick, smart TV or console has an ethernet port, consider plugging it in that way to conserve data and ensure the most consistent connection.
Finally, don't forget that the Netflix app allows you to download some shows and movies directly to your advice so that you can watch on the go without using data. This is useful for commuters on public transit, and it allows you to stock up while you're in public places with free Wi-Fi rather than your limited home network.prevnext
Use the Thumbs Up System
Netflix has dropped its old 5-star rating system to a simple thumbs up or thumbs down button for users. This may seem like a pointless click, but it can actually go a long way in refining your recommendations. If you give a thumbs up to titles you really love and a thumbs down to those you really hate, you'll find that Netflix's algorithm gets better and better at recommending good content in the future. For those that get trapped in the "scroll hole" each night, this can be very helpful.prevnext
Another way to avoid indecision and endless scrolling is to use Netflix's relatively new shuffle button, which says simply: "Play Something." It will play something random from its catalog without making you choose – much like flipping on cable or broadcast and dealing with whatever happens to be on. In this case, it is all the more helpful to use the thumbs up and thumbs down buttons.prevnext
Subtitles & Language Customizations
Many users turn on subtitles all the time now, but most don't know that they can actually customize the font size and color of those captions. Netflix's "Subtitle Appearance" menu will let your tweak these settings, adding backgrounds to the letters if you need consistent legibility.
You can also find alternate language tracks on many Netflix titles simply by clicking the speech bubble icon in the playback menu. You'd be surprised how many shows and movies are available in different languages, or how many foreign titles have English-language dubs if you want to expand your horizons.prevnext
Finally, Netflix now offers a Playback Speed dial so that you can watch a show or movie faster or slower if you want to. If your favorite series has a monotonous episode, you can turn it up to 1.5x speed to get through faster. If you're watching a movie with rapid-fire dialogue that's hard to follow, you can slow it down to 0.5x speed to keep up. This is a controversial option, but a useful one in moderation.
At the time of this writing, Netflix's Basic plan costs $9.99 per month in the U.S., while the Standard Plan costs $15.49 and the Premium plan costs $19.99. Unlike other streamers, Netflix does not have an option to pay yearly for a discount. As frustrating as the changes to this subscription's terms sometimes are, it remains a central part of the streaming market.prev