Netflix hidden from unlocked, rooted Android devices

JC Torres - May 14, 2017, 9:30 pm CDT
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Netflix hidden from unlocked, rooted Android devices

Android power users are perhaps already used to the idea that their power does come at a cost. There are quite a few apps or, depending on your phone, functionality that is withheld from users who root or even just unlock their phones to reclaim control they believe to be rightfully theirs. The latest to join that group of root-hating apps is Netflix, which has disappeared from the Play Store listing of such devices. Amusingly enough, the app actually continues to work otherwise. For now, at least.

Pokemon GO, Snapchat, Sony’s camera functionalities, and, now, Netflix. Those are just some of the higher profile apps and features that intentionally turn away devices that are rooted or have unlocked bootloaders. Netflix’s case, however, is a bit more complicated.

Rooted users have reported no longer seeing the Netflix app on the Google Play Store. After a round of speculation, Netflix itself confirmed that it has, indeed, taken such an action. It shifts part of the blame to Google, saying that it is merely using the Widevine DRM provided by Google. This particular DRM makes content and apps not work on devices that are not certified by Google or have been altered.

While rooted devices immediately fall into this category, it also lumps in others without discrimination. Any OEM device that, for one reason or another, decided to forego Google’s certification process and, therefore, doesn’t officially ship with Google Play Store, will also no longer see Netflix should they install Google services by other means. Perhaps worse, the set also includes those who simply unlock their bootloaders, an action that is actually supported by some OEMs.

Interestingly, the DRM block actually only affects the discoverability of the app from Play Store. Netflix can still be installed from other sources, like APK Mirror for example, and still works once installed. How long that will be the case, however, remains to be seen.

The situation isn’t as simple as it seems on the surface and highlights again the tug of war between consumers and platform and content makers. On the one hand, apps like Netflix and Pokemon GO are trying to prevent less scrupulous users from gaming the system or pirating content. On the other hand, it does also punish users who have legitimate reasons for rooting or unlocking devices without any malicious intent. Ironically, the backlash of this move could actually motivate even more users to resort to piracy.

VIA: Android Police


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