Netflix has revealed smarter downloads on Android, an update to its offline downloads feature that enables the app to manage content on its own. The old offline download experience isn’t going anywhere, but rather Netflix is adding a second downloading option — smart downloads — that ensure the user’s favorite content is always available offline without using up excess phone or tablet storage.
Existing offline download support involves the user manually downloading the content they want, watching it, then manually erasing it once finished. That’s fine in some cases, but not ideal for episodic shows. That’s where smart downloading comes in. When enabled, the Netflix app will automatically download the next episode in your preferred show while connected to WiFi, replacing the most recent watched episode with it.
So, for example, if the user has watched Episode 1 of their selected show, the smart downloading feature will download Episode 2 from the same show and automatically delete the first episode. This way, the latest content is always available to watch — even if a WiFi network isn’t available — and it doesn’t use up any more storage space than the last episode.
This works even if you have more than one episode downloaded, as well. So a user with the first three episodes of a show downloaded will have the first deleted and the fourth installed after watching the initial content. The company provides a brief guide on the smart downloads feature and how to use it here.
Netflix isn’t forcing this feature on its users, though. Anyone can choose to use the old downloading feature, putting them in manual control of the downloading and rewatching process. The feature is only being introduced on Android phones and tablets at this time, but Netflix indicates it’ll be available on iOS in the future, as well.