Netflix Streaming Quality Controls Let You Reign In Mobile Data Usage And Avoid Overage Fees

Netflix wants to put you in control of your mobile data usage when it comes to its iOS and Android smartphone apps. Up until today, Netflix held all the cards and adjusted video quality settings on its end (and hence how much cellular data is consumed) when users were on a cellular connection.

Now, Netflix is opening up user-selectable settings that allow you to sip data (at the expense of video quality of course) or gulp it down to the max, if you’re one of the few with an unlimited data plan. Making the adjustment is as simple as navigating to App Settings and then selecting Cellular Data Usage. From there, you will be able to select from Automatic (Default), Low, Medium, High, or Unlimited options. If you’re on a Wi-Fi connection, these quality settings are disabled altogether.

With the Low setting enabled, you’ll consume about 1GB of cellular data for every 4 hours of video. Cranking it up to High will consume 1GB of data per hour. And if the Unlimited option box is checked, you can count on eating through 1GB of data in just 20 minutes.


“The default setting will enable you to stream about 3 hours of TV shows and movies per gigabyte of data. In terms of bitrates, that currently amounts to about 600 Kilobits per second,” explains Eddy Wu, Netflix Director of Product Innovation. “Our goal is to give you more control and greater choice in managing your data usage whether you’re on an unlimited mobile plan or one that’s more restrictive.”

Netflix first announced its intentions to provide customers with granular controls over cellular data consumption back in March after it made it known that it was capping its streams on wireless networks like Verizon Wireless and AT&T.

“In an effort to protect our members from overage charges when they exceed mobile data caps, our default bitrate for viewing over mobile networks has been capped globally at 600 kilobytes per second,” said Netflix’s Anne Marie Squeo at the time. “It’s about striking a balance that ensures a good streaming experience while avoiding unplanned fines from mobile providers.”

Naturally, neither AT&T nor Verizon were too happy about the revelation, with Jim Cicconi, AT&T senior executive of eternal and legislative affairs, stating, “We’re outraged to learn that Netflix is apparently throttling video for their AT&T customers without their knowledge or consent.”

The updated Netflix iOS and Android apps are now available for download from the App Store and Google Play respectively.