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Netflix brings its data-saving smart downloads feature to iOS

Last year, Netflix added a really cool feature to its Android app, known as smart downloads, and now it’s available to iOS users. Turned on by default, smart downloads automatically deletes downloaded episodes that you’ve watched, and then automatically downloads the next episode (if there is one). It saves storage space on your mobile device by preventing the accumulation of shows you’ve seen, but it can also be a boon to those with limited (or no) data plans — new episodes will only download when there’s a Wi-Fi connection available.

If storage space isn’t a concern, then feel free to turn Smart Downloads off, by going into the downloads section of the app and toggling the setting displayed at the top of the screen. We think it’s worth keeping on: Why remember that you need to download the next episode of Russian Doll for your commute home if Netflix can do that for you?

Whether you want standard quality or higher quality downloads is up to you, as smart downloads will respect the choice you’ve made in the app’s settings. This highlights another good reason for using it — higher quality downloads take up far more room on your device. A standard quality, 25-minute episode of Russian Doll only takes up 121MB of space; the higher quality version is over 3.5 times bigger at 419MB. If you’re a high-quality addict, smart downloads seem like the easiest way to keep your addiction from taking over your phone or tablet. The feature is also smart enough to know that if there are no new episodes to grab, it will keep the last downloaded show just in case you need to watch that season finale cliffhanger one more time.

Smart downloads don’t apply to movies, documentaries, or content like comedy specials as there’s simply no reason for it. It also doesn’t affect which titles can be downloaded or not — many titles remain streaming-only, e.g. Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War.

Smart downloads are also available on Windows PCs and tablets, but because Macs can only stream Netflix through a browser (there is no native MacOS app) downloading — whether smart or regular — remains unavailable.

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Simon Cohen
Contributing Editor, A/V
Simon Cohen covers a variety of consumer technologies, but has a special interest in audio and video products, like spatial…
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