Netflix: An iPhone App Litmus Test?

By  |  Tuesday, August 4, 2009 at 10:09 am

Netflix for iphoneRumor has it that Netflix may be bringing its Watch Instantly video-on-demand service to the iPhone. Unless there are insurmountable issues with content licensing, actually, it would be startling if it Netflix didn’t want to be on the iPhone. (In some respects, the iPhone land grab reminds me of the mad rush to release Windows versions of existing applications in the early 1990s.)

The big honkin’ question with a Netflix application for iPhone is the same as with any other app that involves video on the iPhone: Would it permit streaming over AT&T’s 3G network, or only over Wi-Fi? So far, there’s no discernible consistency to what’s happened with other such applications. TV.com does 3G but Joost doesn’t; SlingPlayer’s 3G version was apparently rejected on the grounds that it violated AT&T’s terms of service; Major League Baseball’s At Bat app not only streams games over 3G but takes advantage of new features in iPhone OS 3.0 designed to make that possible.

A 3G-enabled Netflix could be terrific; a Wi-Fi-only one would be a letdown. Here’s hoping.

I guess there is one other significant question about Netflix on the iPhone: Is there any chance that Apple would keep it off the iPhone altogether by using the “this duplicates features built into the phone” rationale it’s used to remove some apps, such as third-party Google Voice clients? iPhone owners who have access to movies and TV shows from another major provider such as Netflix, after all, are less likely to buy content from Apple’s iTunes Store.

So far, Apple has permitted other video merchants onto the iPhone, but neither TV.com nor Joost provides really compelling competition to iTunes. Netflix would be a bigger deal, as would the rumored iPhone edition of Hulu. But the really big question is whether there’s any chance in heck that iPhone users will ever get access to Amazon’s Video on Demand, the most direct competitor that the iTunes Store’s movie offerings have.

I’d love to think that the fact that the FCC is now nosing around into Apple’s app-approval process will lead to a chastened, paranoid Apple erring on the side of approving competitive apps–whether or not the feds eventually force it to do so. A really good iPhone Netflix client would be an encouraging sign; one that felt crippled would not be.

 
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11 Comments For This Post

  1. Hal Mackins Says:

    Watch Instantly would be great, but how about starting with a simple Netflix queue editor? I haven’t been able to find a decent app for that… anyone else?

  2. Mike Cerm Says:

    Netflix’s streaming is pretty smart, and already does a great job of scaling to utilize available bandwidth. Over 3G, they could enable really low-bandwidth streaming. On the iPhone’s small screen, you could watchable, better-than-nothing video at 250Kbps. On Wi-Fi, Netflix could switch to something higher.

    If Apple doesn’t mind Pandora streaming at 128Kbps (or whatever they use), then I don’t see what problem they should have with Netflix. I’m sure that people are far more likely to stream music than to watch a Netflix movie on an iPhone, so even with the increased bandwidth usage, it would be a small percentage of people actually using it. Netflix would be far less harmful to the network than Pandora, for sure.

    However, Apple with NEVER, EVER let Netflix into the App Store, for exactly the reason you said; Apple doesn’t want the competition. Who would spend $3/episode to download a TV show, when you could watch the whole season (and all the previous seasons) for $10/month on Netflix? I don’t know anyone now who buys video through iTunes, but if Netflix (or Hulu, for that matter) were available on the iPhone, I think you’d see even fewer iTunes video purchases going forward. Apple certainly doesn’t want that.

  3. Donna Says:

    I wouldn’t watch a movie on my phone. I use AppleTV to buy the tv shows I want to watch (which you can keep, by the way) and to rent movies. If I were to use an external source to rent movies, it would be convenient to be able to order them up on the iphone. Most external video rentals only allow so many videos per week, it is not unlimited for one cheap price!

  4. Ozzie Says:

    “Hal Mackins Says:
    August 4th, 2009 at 10:52 am
    Watch Instantly would be great, but how about starting with a simple Netflix queue editor? I haven’t been able to find a decent app for that… anyone else?”

    What are you talking about??? Where have you been for the past year??? There’s a ton of Netflix queue Apps out there. Try Phoneflicks (it’s so simple to use even a kid can do it).

    and to this lady…

    Donna Says:
    August 5th, 2009 at 12:45 pm
    I wouldn’t watch a movie on my phone. I use AppleTV to buy the tv shows I want to watch (which you can keep, by the way) and to rent movies. If I were to use an external source to rent movies, it would be convenient to be able to order them up on the iphone. Most external video rentals only allow so many videos per week, it is not unlimited for one cheap price!

    There’s a thing called iTunes on the iPhone you can rent or buy movies on it and watch them on it. Amazing isn’t it. (can you watch your apple TV on the go????)

    By the way you can rent unlimited movies on Netflix and they have the buy option as well.

    Some people….. Why comment?

  5. Ozzie Says:

    “Hal Mackins Says:
    August 4th, 2009 at 10:52 am
    Watch Instantly would be great, but how about starting with a simple Netflix queue editor? I haven’t been able to find a decent app for that… anyone else?”

    What are you talking about??? Where have you been for the past year??? There’s a ton of Netflix queue Apps out there. Try Phoneflicks (it’s so simple to use even a kid can do it).

    and to this lady…

    Donna Says:
    August 5th, 2009 at 12:45 pm
    “I wouldn’t watch a movie on my phone. I use AppleTV to buy the tv shows I want to watch (which you can keep, by the way) and to rent movies. If I were to use an external source to rent movies, it would be convenient to be able to order them up on the iphone. Most external video rentals only allow so many videos per week, it is not unlimited for one cheap price!”

    There’s a thing called iTunes on the iPhone you can rent or buy movies on it and watch them on it. Amazing isn’t it. (can you watch your apple TV on the go????)

    By the way you can rent unlimited movies on Netflix and they have the buy option as well.

    Some people….. Why comment?

  6. Hal Mackins Says:

    @Ozzie – 50 tablets of Chill Pill, stat.

  7. Carlyle Says:

    i enjoyed ozzies comments

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