Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Rockin’ with Netflix


This blog is also posted at InterAksyon.com.

Popular video streaming platform Netflix originally rolled out its global service in January this year but it was only last May that they officially announced their presence in the Philippines. Of course, for the more enterprising video streaming platform users out there, Netflix has been available in the country for quite some time now.

Nonetheless, the availability of Netflix locally is definitely a welcome treat, this despite the other video streaming options such iFlix and Hooq peddled directly by the telcos. Netflix, being a strong brand in the U.S., will definitely enjoy a great following among the locals, especially for its number of exclusive content with titles like DareDevil, Jessica Jones, and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt among others.

However, people who haven’t experienced Netflix locally often ask: What about Internet speed? And people who have experienced Netflix would often answer: What about it?

Yes, notwithstanding the country’s perennial problem with Internet speed, the Philippines is still very much ready for Netflix. Here, let me try to convince you.

This writer has been using Netflix for over a month now; subscribed to the 3Mbps offered by a local telco; bandwidth chopped among other WiFi users at home. In my crude calculation, the 46-inch HD Sony Bravia smart TV used for Netflix streaming gets less than 1Mbps. And the experience? Simply incredible.

At first load, there will be some pixelations on the video. But that would last for just a few seconds. After that it’s smooth sailing all the way. Not once did this writer experienced any lag nor see that tedious buffering icon. Like stated earlier, this country is definitely ready for Netflix. No doubt.

“It’s what we call Adaptive Streaming,” said Jonathan Friedland, chief communications officer at Netflix, in an interview with local media at their Manila launch in May. “This means that the quality or the bitrate that comes into your device — mobile or otherwise — is measured in the milliseconds; you don’t see any buffering, so the pictures are constantly adjusting according to conditions around you.”

In other words: Netflix has its own technology to adapt to any Internet speed or bandwidth that you might have on any devices a Netflix subscriber may be using — fixed or mobile. And that said technology works. Yes, even with the often dismal Internet speed that we have. Netflix, you rock!

“We have this complexity based encoding,” said Friedland. “We can make data log lighter depending on the content, and with our own content delivery network called Open Connect designed for video, this reduces latency.”

However, those lucky enough to have high-speed Internet allow users to sign up for plans that include high-definition (HD) and Ultra-HD viewing. These are ideal for streaming on large screens.

Although, not all content is available on HD or Ultra-HD, but those that do will play in 720p or better with a fast enough Internet connection — at least 5 Mbps for HD and 25 Mbps for Ultra-HD.
So, that’s how they do it at Netflix.

Now, when in doubt about your Internet speed, just go to fast.com powered by Netflix to check if you got the speed to stream those videos.


At Los Gatos

Enjoying Netflix is not enough for this writer. And fortunately for me, together with other tech journalists from the Philippines, we got a chance to drop by Netflix’ Los Gatos headquarters in California, this after visiting other Silicon Valley tenants such a Facebook, Google and Apple.

At Netflix, we found out, that their engineers constantly test several gadgets at their laboratories to ensure quality of service on all range of devices capable of video streaming. These include televisions — from the smallest screen smart TV to the latest model available in the market — and not to mention smartphones, tablets, and even game consoles like the Sony PlayStation and Microsoft Xbox.

The tests, said Marlee Tart, corporate and technology communications manager at Netflix, are needed to ensure that the app will work on all the tested devices and the video content from Netflix will play without a hitch.

Hey, some of those TVs have an exclusive easy access Netflix button right on the remote. Neat!
Furthermore, to better enjoy Netflix on mobile devices, the video streaming company introduced Cellular Data Controls, a new tool that can help users greater control how much data is used when streaming on cellular networks. So, make sure to put this tool into good use, especially those with data cap.

Where to look for this data control on your mobile device?

On iOS and Android devices, cellular data usage can be adjusted in the App Settings from the menu. One can select a lower or higher data usage setting that would work best for the data plan.

So far, Netflix has delivered over 3 billion hours of videos in 190 countries to over 81 million subscribers. That’s really not bad.

It is suffice to say that the best time to stream video from Netflix is now.

This blog is also posted at InterAksyon.com.
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