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How To Lower Your Netflix Data Usage

Posted by Brad on January 14, 2019

If you deal with data limits on the regular, there’s no doubt you’ve gotten that dreaded text notification, letting you know that you exceeded your plan limit and were charged an additional $15 or so for an additional 1GB of data. That’s fairly common on smartphones, and happens in a roundabout way with even some ISPs (Internet Service Providers).

Our consumption habits are largely the reason why this happens — after all, services like Netflix just seem to eat up gobs and gobs of data during a binge session or a week full of movie watching. So if you’re concerned about your data usage, you might think that you have to cut your watching habits at least in half, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Stick with us, and we’ll show you how you can reduce your Netflix data usage, and without changing your media habits!

Offline Viewing

So if you don’t want to stop watching as much content as you do, but you really need your data usage to go down, it’s worth looking into Offline Viewing with Netflix. Netflix for the longest time didn’t have a way for you to download content for offline use, but now, as long as you have an active Netflix subscription and the latest version of the app, you can download content offline.

This is a great way to save data because you can use your home wireless connection to download all of the content, and then just play the content offline later when you’re ready. When you’re playing it offline, you won’t use any data — you could even have your phone in Airplane Mode, and you could still play it!

Downloading content off of Netflix is actually really easy. Keep in mind that not all movies and TV shows can be downloaded offline, so it all depends on what you want to download for later consumption. Still, the process is easy. Open up the Netflix app on your phone or tablet, and then select a TV series or movie that you want to download. For this example, we chose “The Protector”, which can be downloaded for offline viewing.

Tap on “The Protector” (or your chosen series) and scroll down to where you see the list of available episodes. You should see a Download icon next to each one. Tap it on the episodes that you want to download, and then when it’s finished, they’ll be accessible from the My Downloads section in Netflix.

Change your mobile data usage

You can actually save a significant amount of data by adjusting your mobile data usage options within the Netflix app itself. This essentially adjusts the streaming and audio quality, helping you save more data over time.

Whether you’re on your phone or a cellular tablet, you have four options to choose from:

  • Automatic — This one is selected by default, where Netflix automatically determines a good cross between video quality and mobile data savings. This generally means that you can watch about four hours of content per 1GB of usage.
  • Wi-Fi Only — By selecting Wi-Fi only, you won’t be able to play any content, other than offline content, unless you’re connected to a wireless network.
  • Data Saver — Data saver is your best option for saving data with Netflix on the go. Select this option and you can watch around six hours of content per 1GB of data usage. Keep in mind that you might experience worse audio or video quality on this option.
  • Unlimited — The previous three options are what’s going to save you the most data while on the go. Unlimited, however, will not save you any data. In fact, by selecting this option, you release the monster within. Netflix will be allowed to use as much data as it wants, potentially using up to 1GB of data per 20 minutes of watching, depending on hardware support and network speeds.

If you’re trying to save data, Unlimited is obviously not the one to go for; however, Automatic or Data Saver are both excellent options to keep Netflix under control while you’re streaming on the go. Actually adjusting these settings is quite easy:

  1. With the Netflix app open on your tablet or smartphone, select the menu icon. Depending on your device, this could be the three-line hamburger menu at the top-left corner of the screen or the vertical three-dot menu on the top right of your screen.
  2. Select App Settings.
  3. Next, select Cellular Data Usage. Note that this menu will only appear if you’re on a device that supports cellular data usage. So, it won’t show up for a Wi-Fi only tablet.
  4. Finally, just select your preferred settings — either Automatic, Wi-Fi Only, Data Saver, or Unlimited — and save your settings.

Congratulations, Netflix will automatically start saving you data when you’re streaming!

What about on Wi-Fi?

Some home wireless connections might not give you unlimited data, and that’s especially true when it comes to DSL packages or satellite Internet packages. That said, you might be wondering how you can save data on Netflix while you’re at home, too. Luckily, Netflix has you covered.

Saving data is an easy formula — Lower Quality = Less Data Consumed. And that’s exactly what we can do to save Netflix while you’re at home. There are three different quality options that we can choose from:

  • Low Quality — This will use around 0.3 GB of data per hour of content watched
  • Medium Quality — This will use roughly 0.7 GB of data per hour of content watched
  • High Quality — This use about 3GB of data per hour of content watched in HD. If you have a 4K/Ultra HD supported device, this will scale the content up to that, and use about 7GB of data per hour of content watched.

As you can see, High Quality isn’t really going to save you any data here; however, if you have it set to High Quality, changing to Medium or Low Quality could reduce your data usage exponentially. In most cases, by default, quality settings are set to Medium, so it won’t be nearly as much savings as going from Medium Quality to Low Quality, but could still save you a decent amount long term (not necessarily immediate).

Here are the steps to take to change your quality:

  1. Head over to www.Netflix.com and log in with your account credentials.
  2. Once you’re in, choose the profile that you want to change the video quality settings for. Keep in mind that since it is set per profile, you’ll have to change them for each profile that you want to save data on.
  3. Once you’ve chosen your profile, go to Account and then click on the Playback Settings link.
  4. Now, just choose the video quality that makes the most sense for you and your data plan, and then save your changes.
  5. Repeat as necessary for any other profiles on your account.

And that’s it!

Closing

As you can see, Netflix can potentially eat up a lot of your data, whether you’re on a mobile data plan or a limited wireless connection. Luckily, Netflix has a handful of internal tools to stop you from going over your data allotment and potentially incurring overage charges that you didn’t want to happen!

How do you save data while watching Netflix? Let us know in the comment section below.

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