Netflix for iOS lets subscribers watch movies and TV shows on the service's Instant Watch library. While the streaming service isn't nearly as strong as the Netflix DVD library, it's great to have the option to pick from several shows to watch on an iOS device wherever you are. A recent update gives the app a substantial interface upgrade, making controls easier to use, and a cleaner browsing layout.
The Netflix app's straightforward design starts off with a home screen that shows you your most recently viewed and incomplete shows at the top for easy access, then featured content like Top Picks and popular shows. You can swipe up to view more content from various genres, then swipe left to view more shows from each genre. Of course you can also browse for flicks and shows by more typical genres, like Action, TV Shows, and Comedies by hitting a Browse button in the upper left then choosing a genre.
When you touch a title, the app shows you all the details: the star rating, synopsis, and the list of episodes for TV shows. A drop down menu lets you quickly switch to a later season and you can browse by episode in the list below.
New interface tweaks in viewing mode will be welcome additions for iOS viewers. A new bigger button lets you scrub through the timeline with a little window that shows the exact point of the video you are in -- great for finding the part of the show you want to watch. A rewind button lets you go back 10 seconds in the show. A new volume control is now in the upper right, that lets you control your iPad volume by swiping right or left and it works smoothly in real time. There are also controls for changing the language (when supported) and you can turn on subtitles for silent viewing (when supported). All the new interface controls are a huge upgrade to what was there before and all worked very smoothly in our testing with no delayed response whatsoever.
Video quality is excellent even on older devices from the iPhone 4 to the iPad 2 so long as you have strong Wi-Fi connectivity. Obviously, with a newer iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch, it will look even better on Apple's Retina Display.
Other useful features that have been in previous versions still remain in this update. Netflix keeps tabs on your place in a show. If you close the app, the next time you load it you'll have the option to resume playback from your drop-off point. It works like an automatic digital bookmark even if you turn off your iOS device. The bookmarking features are tied to your account, so even if you viewed the first half of a movie on your computer, you'll still be able to start where you left off on your iOS device and vice versa.
Although the app itself is free, you will still need to subscribe to Netflix to take advantage. You can do so for about $9 a month. It's important to note that the Netflix app focuses on on-demand streaming; it does not currently manage your rentals queue. Still, if you want to watch videos and shows on your iOS device, the Netflix app is better than ever with a new onscreen controls that make watching videos more user-friendly.