Jul 152010
 

On June 7, John Ciancutti, VP of Personalization Technology for Netflix announced the availability of Netflix for the iPhone “this summer”. A month later, not a word more about the port. The topic’s discussion thread on the Netflix board is filled with “where is it?” posts with nary a peep from management in reply.

So what could be the holdup? I mean, the app exists for the iPad; it’s essentially the same port. These announcements are usually followed by a product in relatively short order. What could be responsible for the delay?

Unlimited. Data.

You see, there’s a shitload of iPhone users out there (present company included) that didn’t think a $5/month savings on their AT&T bills was worth it – especially when 3G streaming media options were in still their infancy.

There are 14 million Netflix subscribers and over 35 million iPhone users. This is in no way scientific (and doesn’t account for Microsoft’s Silverlight abomination, which doubtless adds overhead) but while monitoring my Netflix stream on my laptop, the smallest pull I could achieve was about 250kb/second. If this is even close to what an iPhone app would pull, AT&T’s network would be toast.

AT&T may be stonewalling until more people switch to capped plans or new users join (unlimited data is no longer an option for new accounts); it may have no intention of allowing the app it at all. I don’t believe the company is in any position to allow its network to be jammed up any further, and that’s exactly what Netflix on the iPhone would do.

Update: On August 26, Netflix finally released their iPhone port. In my testing, it played flawlessly over WiFi and just about as flawlessly over the black hole of 3G also known as Manhattan (there was a 2 second period of stutter when I first started “Objectified”). The only 2 drawbacks in my limited experience: you can’t manage your DVD queue from the app and for some reason the “Resume” button means “Start me over”, which is annoying. All in all, a great addition to the iPhone and a huge win for people who decided to stick with unlimited data on their AT&T plans.

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