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Smartphones & gadgets

Binge Netflix without eating up all your data

It’s great to have Netflix on your smartphone, particularly when you’re traveling. But if you’re out and about, and not on Wi-Fi, streaming video like that really eats up your data.

Unless you download videos ahead of time, Netflix eats up 5 Mbps just to run. Tap or click here to learn what speed is necessary for other streaming services. That kind of requirement will consume your data fast — unless you have an Android.

Android phones can download and stream Netflix content with AV1 video codec to cut down on the data used to stream video. How does it work and where can you get it? We’ll give you all the information so you can save data without skimping on video quality.

What’s AV1 video codec?

AV1 is an open-source video coding format designed to work with video transmissions over the internet. It compresses these transmissions as they come in so your phone collects smaller bits of data.

Since data is compressed, not cut down, the video quality remains the same so you don’t have to worry about streaming inferior content. AV1 can reduce download speeds by 20-30%, which means you can save 1 Mbps or more when streaming.

To give you an idea of how much that is, think about how much internet you need for your house. Tap or click here to evaluate how much internet speed you need.

A minimum speed recommendation for a household that streams video daily is between 20-50 Mbps, depending on household size. If you have any gamers in the house, you’re better off with 100Mbps to ensure no one gets a buffering icon during their Netflix binge.

AV1 is royalty-free and works with major companies like Apple, Google, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, Mozilla, Samsung and now, Netflix. So how do you get it?

How to install AV1 video codec

Here’s some great news: Netflix has added AV1 video codec formatting to its Android app. Select titles are automatically available to download via AV1, so you can access the compression format without downloading any extra apps.

There are only a few titles available through AV1, but Netflix plans to add more shows in the future, as videos are converted to the new system. This is currently only available to Android users who have enabled the Save Data feature.

Engadget explains the codec is still in its early stages and since there is little hardware support, it’s likely your device will use more battery power to download these files. So the choice to stream via AV1 is up to you. Sacrifice battery for data or the other way around?

To support this claim, Engadget explains you can use AV1 for YouTube. Just enable it instead of VP9 on the videos you want to watch, under the settings for Playback and Performance. When you do this, you receive a warning that anything above 480p requires a powerful computer, which leads us to our next point.

To get the best from new features, always ensure your apps and operating systems are up to date. Chrome 70 or later supports AV1 but if you haven’t updated in a while, you won’t be able to use it. You should always keep your devices and apps updated anyway, though. Tap or click here to see why.

AV1 has been in the works for a few years now, but it’s still a relatively new video format. Although it’s gaining popularity for its reliability and successful compression, videos still have to be converted to be used with it, so it’s a bit of a waiting game.

But for those who have Androids and are subscribed to Netflix, here’s how you can try AV1.

How to use AV1 video codec

To save data the next time you use Netflix, you just have to follow a few basic steps:

  1. Open the Netflix app on your Android phone or tablet.
  2. Tap on the main menu, then App Settings.
  3. Tap Cellular Data Usage in the list available to you.
  4. Turn on the Save Data switch. When it’s available, your phone will stream via the AV1 video codec automatically.

A similar Save Data feature exists in the YouTube app. To activate that:

  1. Tap on your profile picture in the YouTube app to access the general menu.
  2. Tap Settings, then General.
  3. Turn the switch next to Limit mobile data usage to on. You will now only be able to stream in HD while on Wi-Fi, but SD videos will be available in AV1 format, saving you data in two ways.

Netflix has taken a big step in data conservation by allowing an AV1 video codec on its app. While AV1 is only available on Androids, it should become available for iPhones and other mobile devices as it gains momentum.

If you have an Android, play with this new feature and see how you like it.

Like our Android update? Get more from Kim’s Weekly Android Updates newsletter.

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