updated 04:25 pm EDT, Thu May 12, 2011
Android gets Netflix at last
Netflix answered one of the largest complaints about Android on Thursday with the first publicly available version of its app (free, Market) for Google's OS. The app is virtually identical to the one released for the iPhone last August and lets users both manage their instant queue as well as watch videos themselves. Use, as always, requires a subscription starting from $8.
The app launch nonetheless illustrated an issue with the splintered Android user base. As mentioned in advance, only a handful of phones can use the Netflix app, all of which are using Snapdragon processors but still don't represent a complete picture of the user base. The starting five include both the Samsung Nexus S as well as four HTC phones, including the Evo 4G, the original Incredible, the Nexus One, and the T-Mobile G2. Other Snapdragon-equipped phones, like the Droid Incredible 2 and Thunderbolt, weren't mentioned.
Users have tried to force install Netflix on devices but are currently encountering crashes and other problems getting it to load. Verizon will load it on the LG Revolution when it ships.
Netflix had previously warned that the inherent nature of Android 2.x made ubiquity impossible where it was relatively easy on iOS. Google didn't implement a consistent copy protection platform until Android 3.0 and won't have it in phones until Ice Cream Sandwich in the fall. Without it, a media service like Netflix has to write a copy protection scheme for each processor architecture and sometimes even for individual devices, making it impossible to guarantee access.
Google's recently launched Android Movies app works because it uses the existing YouTube movie rental system as a gatekeeper.