Netflix has a mobile device lab in California which allows it to test its platform under a variety of Wi-Fi and mobile data conditions.
This has led to the company implementing an optimisation feature that reduces data consumption when streaming using mobile data, without a discernible reduction in video quality.
The streaming service has implemented this feature on iOS and Android, and dynamically alters content bit rate depending on the motion in each segment of a video – saving users a lot of data.
We have noticed the effect of this feature in previous Netflix mobile data usage tests, with streaming on mobile data using notably less data than when the same show is streamed over Wi-Fi.
To see if this optimisation has improved, or at least continues to offer less consumption on mobile data, we tested Netflix usage on mobile data and Wi-Fi.
We used two Nokia 5 smartphones for this test, which support 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi and have a screen resolution of 720 x 1,280.
We connected one device to a high-speed Wi-Fi connection and left the other’s mobile data enabled with an active LTE connection before starting Netflix and watching content.
Data usage was monitored using the My Data Manager app for Android, which delivers data consumption readouts for separate applications.
The Netflix account used for the test was set to automatically adjust streaming quality, and the MyBroadband speed test app was used to measure the speed of both connections.
At the time the Netflix test started, the devices scored the following speeds.
|Device||Download Speed||Upload Speed|
|Nokia 5 (Telkom LTE)||21.56Mbps||2.88Mbps|
|Nokia 5 (Wi-Fi)||26.57Mbps||9.62Mbps|
We then played the first episode of two separate shows on Netflix, measuring data usage after each episode.
We tested both the hour-long pilot episode of Altered Carbon and the 20-minute first episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine to note any difference over extended streaming sessions.
Streaming quality on both smartphones during the test was clear and smooth, and there was no buffering or skipping for the duration of our test.
The data usage was monitored before and after each test to determine exactly how much data was used on the mobile data and Wi-Fi connections.
As with our previous results, the Wi-Fi data usage for each episode measured considerably higher than the mobile data usage, despite both streams offering visually similar quality.
A comparison of the mobile data results and the Wi-Fi data results is below.
|Data usage||Mobile data||Wi-Fi|
|Altered Carbon Ep. 1 (58 minutes)||174MB||296MB|
|Brooklyn Nine-Nine Ep. 1 (21 minutes)||75MB||119MB|
The test showed that the mobile data optimisation feature delivers major data savings that seem to increase over time, making it valuable when watching movies and long episodes.
It should be noted that this is not the only feature within Netflix that aims to conserve mobile data usage.
Users can also choose to download full episodes to their smartphone for later viewing, removing the need to stream shows over mobile data – as long as you have time to prepare your shows beforehand.