Netflix has been hinting since February about an upcoming feature called "Mobile Data Saver" designed to help users reduce the amount of data consumed streaming shows on the go.
Netflix tests features by temporarily turning them on for a small percentage of customers, and this week a lot of people reported seeing a "Mobile Data Saver" option appear in their Netflix settings, leading some sites to report that the feature had launched.
Don't get too excited just yet - Netflix confirmed to TechCrunch that the feature is indeed coming, but it is still in limited testing with no release date targeted:
"However, Netflix tells us that the feature has not been publicly released on either Android or iOS, nor has the company announced when that will take place. Those who saw the option were a part of a test."
What is Mobile Data Saver?
It is hard to say definitively, since the feature is still in beta testing.
But from what has been seen so far - it seems like an easy way for users on the go to tell the Netflix app to sacrifice video quality to use less data, overriding your global resolution preference temporarily. In other words - it is like T-Mobile's "Binge On" feature that limits streaming resolution, only you do not have to be a T-Mobile customer to use this.
The Data Saver feature seems to only apply to cellular connections, so it may not be useful for people who connect to Netflix via a Wi-Fi hotspot (including a cellular personal hotspot), or via a router.
It is also unclear just how much data will be saved with the Saver turned on - once the feature is final we will have to do some tests to determine just how worthwhile this is.
But for RVers on the go - the more tools to help control data usage, the better.
Keep your eyes peeled for this addition to your data-saving arsenal. If you are a lucky randomly selected tester - you might even have it already!
UPDATE: On March 24th, in response to the controversy around Netflix throttling video for Verizon and AT&T customers, Netflix blogged about the upcoming Mobile Data Saver feature that will give customers control, saying:
"We’re on track to make it available to members sometime in May."
We can't wait!
UPDATE 2: On May 5th, Netflix released this feature. Read our news story with the details here.
Netflix is Also Re-Encoding
In addition to the Mobile Data Saver, Netflix is also re-encoding its entire library to use up to 20% less data while streaming - with the intention of doing so without a loss in visual quality.
The first 1,000 titles were supposed to be released in March, and the rest of the Netflix library will be upgraded over the course of 2016.
Of course - this is completely behind the scenes. Only if you obsessively monitor your data usage will you be able to tell when you are watching a stream with the enhanced compression - Netflix does not mark these titles in any way.
But any change that reduces data consumption is certainly welcome - and it is great to see Netflix working on reducing its digital footprint.