Neflix is extending its subscription service for movies and television show to Apple’s iPhone platform, according to a widely-echoed MultiChannel News article. The new iPhone operating system (available for all versions of the hardware) follows an open video streaming standard, so developers like Netflix can develop apps for streaming video straight to the iPhone, where previously the only native video app was YouTube.
Other commentators have correctly pointed out that Apple and AT&T are unlikely to let Netflix stream movies over AT&T’s wireless cellphone network. They assume that any Netflix app for the iPhone would be restricted to WiFi, but that ignores a third possibility: an offline mode that obviates the need for a connection in order for movies to play.
Slacker’s Blackberry app, its hardware player (updated) and Spotify’s possibly-to-be-approved iPhone app each include a caching feature that lets you listen to hours and hours of music while offline, with nary WiFi nor cellphone connection in range.
How? Those music-streaming apps can store great swathes of music on iPhone’s memory, so you can access them as if the phone were connected. The Spotify app lets you keep 3,333 songs on the iPhone, for instance, which means there’s more than enough room for a NetFlix video-streaming app to store two or three movies locally.
You wouldn’t be able to tote around an entire movie collection on the iPhone this way, but that’s not the point. Carrying one or two movies at a time would fit perfectly with Netflix’s traditional business model, in which consumers pay to have any three (or so) discs in their possession. A Netflix iPhone app could replicate the same process, with users checking one movie back in so they can check out another back out.
More importantly, it would allow you to watch films even when the only connection you have is AT&T’s — which, when it comes to some video streaming apps, is like having no connection at all.