Netflix download option breathes new life into old tablets

Netflix download option breathes new life into old tablets

Shortly after Steve Jobs announced the iPad in 2010, I wrote a column titled, “The iPad is Underwhelming.” Boy, was I temporarily wrong.

For about three years, iPad sales kept climbing into the stratosphere, but sales started to decline in 2014. Apple’s tablets – along with tablets from other companies – have since been on a steady decline.

Back in 2010, I wrote, “The problem with the iPad is that it doesn’t do anything that you can’t already do with a smartphone and a laptop,” which remains largely true.

What I didn’t realize is the people would flock to any easy-to-use and easy-to-carry device with a great screen.

But that was before today’s “phablet” – phones that are big enough to rival small tablets. Now, many people who might have carried a tablet back in the first half of this decade are satisfied with what they can do with an iPhone 7 Plus, a Samsung Galaxy S7, a Google Pixel XL or any of several excellent phones with screens that – while decidedly smaller than the original iPad – are big enough to make tablets a bit less desirable.

I bought one of those early iPads, but it mostly hung out in a drawer. I rarely used it. Then I bought an iPad mini, thinking that the smaller form factor would make me more likely to take it along. It didn’t. That, too, lives pretty much in a drawer along with a couple of Android tablets I picked up over the last few years.

On the other hand, I use my smartphone multiple times every day. Unlike those tablets that are too big for a pocket, my smartphone is always with me. I don’t have to plan to bring it along, nor do I have to put it into my backpack. It just hangs out in my pocket, ready for me whenever I want it.

When I can, I prefer using a computer. At home, I have a Mac mini attached to two large screens. I love all that screen real estate as well as the terabyte of storage on the Mac and the ability to work with a mouse. When I travel, I carry a 3-pound laptop – currently an HP Spectre x360 or a MacBook Air, which I’m happy with because of their decent keyboards and more-than-adequate screens.

But, like most people today, I’m often out and about, so if I need to check email, catch up on the news or even read a Kindle book, I’ll reach into my pocket for my ever-present smartphone.

One thing I rarely do with my phone, however, is watch TV shows or movies. For me, it’s not as enjoyable as watching them on a larger screen. So, when I’m in a hotel room and want to watch a movie, I bring out my laptop.

Some airlines let passengers use laptops as well as mobile devices to watch video, which they stream via the plane’s Wi-Fi network without having to make an internet connection.

But free video streaming isn’t available on all flights, and there are times when I’d rather watch something else. On most airlines, the Wi-Fi is much too slow to use services like Netflix. There are even times while on the ground when the internet is either non-existent or too slow for streaming.

Now, relief has arrived. Netflix just made it possible to download TV shows and movies to watch online – so when I am next on a plane, I will be able to access Netflix content.

However,  there is a catch. You can only download Netflix’s video programs to iOS or Android mobile devices. You can’t download them to laptops. A less bothersome catch is that not all Netflix programs can be downloaded, but there are plenty to choose from.

So, now that Netflix is allowing people to download video to a mobile device, those tablets taking up space in my drawer don’t seem so underwhelming. I’m still not enamored with them as production devices, but they will let me watch movies and TV shows offline, so I might just bring one along on my next trip.

If you are tempted but don’t have a tablet, there are many to choose from, but Amazon Fire tablets are great values. As far as I can tell, you won’t be able to download Netflix videos on a Fire tablet, but you can download Amazon Prime videos if you’re a Prime member.

Netflix’s decision to let customers download video to their mobile devices is a great first step. Now I’m hoping it will offer this feature for Mac and Windows users, for those of us who prefer to carry a laptop rather than a tablet. Laptops typically have more storage than tablets or phones (essential for large video files), and many have excellent screens and speakers, adding to the user’s viewing pleasure.

It’s all about choice. Companies like Netflix should let users access content on whatever device works best for them, rather than dictating how customers should consume their content.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Published at Thu, 01 Dec 2016 22:38:12 +0000