Netflix on iPhone: You’re Gonna Like It

I have to admit, ever since Liz gave me a Netflix (s NFLX) subscription as a Christmas gift, I’ve become a fan of the service. I use Netflix to repeatedly watch “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” on my Samsung connected TV. And when I’m traveling on a day trip or two, it’s on the iPad, and starting today, on the iPhone and iPod touch.

This app –- first announced at WWDC — is just yet another step away from the physical DVD for Netflix, which has seen its digital efforts gain momentum. Having figured out how to use Amazon Web Services (s amzn) to its advantage and leveraged falling prices of bandwidth, the company is finding that streaming can be a lucrative business, as we’ve chronicled often on NewTeeVee. The company has stated that its DVD-by-mail business will peak in 2013, and it’s steadily marching towards that by embracing a multitude of devices.

“Apple has changed the game for mobile devices,” said Reed Hastings, Netflix co-founder and chief executive officer. “We’re excited that our members can now carry Netflix around in their pockets and instantly watch movies and TV shows streamed from Netflix right to their iPhone or iPod touch.” (Netflix Press Release)

Click to read Morgan Stanley estimates on Netflix's device addressable market

Morgan Stanley analysts believe that there are about 30 million devices that run iPhone OS 3.13 or later versions, necessary for Netflix app to work properly. According to Morgan Stanley, there will be 72 million households that will have some sort of Netflix-enabled device by end of 2010.

Hands On Review

I live in one of those households,so to no one’s surprise, I downloaded the app on the iPhone 4 and also on an iPod touch. I’ve been playing around with it for less than an hour, and I can tell you that Netflix has taken a lot of steps to make this app ideal for the smaller screen and the iPhone platform. It’s different from the iPad app, for sure.

The app is simple and easy to use: one simple login screen and you’re off to the races. Because of the iPhone screen constraints, Netflix has done a good job of making it easy to navigate the service and quickly find the movies or shows you’re looking to stream to your device.

What I like the most about this app: the Resume button that resides at the top of the screen. One click, and you’re back to whatever you were last watching. It’s the kind of insight you get by studying viewer behavior for months, then baking it into your product. There are some other flourishes: like the genre menu that’s easy to navigate, and search is good.

I found that the viewing seemed so much better on the older iPod touch, which has a lower resolution screen compared to the iPhone 4’s Retina Display. The image doesn’t look as crisp on the iPhone 4, but it might be that I’m getting a low-resolution stream because of the vagaries of my Wi-Fi network.  Netflix talked about adaptive bitrate streaming at WWDC earlier this year when talking about the Netflix for iPhone app. I am pretty sure the app’s performance is going to suck on AT&T’s (s t) overloaded 3G network, at least in San Francisco.

Like most apps, it has its own quirks and issues. Scrolling could be better, though it is no worse than the iPad app. The whole user experience could be smoother, but those are minor nits, because the focus of this app is streaming video, and Netflix does a great job of that. The Apple Blog has a different take on the app and how it compares with the iPad.

Now if they only made it available for my BlackBerry…. That would make Netflix even sweeter!

Related content on GigaOM Pro: Slow and Steady, Netflix Pulls Ahead in Streaming Video (subscription required)