One of the biggest draws of the Galaxy Nexus is the 4.65-inch high-definition screen; literally a pocketable 720p HDTV display. But some video services still stream standard definition video. Here’s how to get HD video from Netflix on the Nexus and what it looks like.


One of the biggest draws of the Galaxy Nexus smartphone is the 4.65-inch high-definition screen. It’s literally a 720p HDTV display that can be carried in your pocket. The only problem is: Most mobile video services catered to lower resolution displays since a 480p stream scaled to 800 x 480 or 960 x 540 — two common resolutions for other Android phones — is good enough. Netflix is one of those services where a true HD stream would benefit the Galaxy Nexus, as well as future phones with high-resolution capabilities.

Once again, gadget enthusiasts have come to the rescue: Droid Life found a build of Netflix on the XDA Developers site that brings higher quality video to the Galaxy Nexus. I uninstalled the official Netflix app and replaced it with the one found on XDA and can already see a positive difference. There is one downside though: This tweaked version of the Netflix software doesn’t properly display in full-screen, meaning the software buttons on the Nexus take up some precious pixels.


To illustrate the difference, I captured screenshots of two movies, Iron Man 2 and Star Trek, in nearly the exact same spot in the films. You should see more detail in the HD screen caps as a result. The difference is more noticeable when watching the video; I quizzed my wife by swapping between the two versions and showing her the same video sequences and she felt the quality difference was dramatic. And it should: Scaling 480p video up to a 720p screen isn’t ideal. An optimal experience would be to start with high-quality source video and scale it down for a display.

Ideally, Netflix should bring higher quality video to its official app and as more phones launch with HD displays in 2012, I assume it will. Google already streams high-definition video through the Android Market to HD-capable phones, so it actually has an advantage here. On the flip-side, streaming higher quality video means using more bandwidth, and since unlimited data plans are going away in most cases, this solution may be better left to Wi-Fi networks. Either that or use a mobile broadband data monitor tool such as Onavo, which we highlighted last week.

While one could argue that watching HD video on a small screened device is overkill, I noted earlier this year that the smartphone is becoming the set-top box. With a simple adapter, I can watch Netflix in high-definition on my HDTV via my phone with this version of the app.

  1. Resembles more of a tech demo IMO. I’ve been watching full-length movies on my smartphones since 2004, and it provides a nice, personal viewing experience. But I find them a tad too small sometimes. My netbook’s 10″ 1366×768 display, on the other hand, is far superior and I can play any HD codec or file format out there without issue.

    I think a 1280×720 display on a 7″ slate may be my sweetspot. I genuinely hope Intel and Microsoft can deliver next year.

  2. Kevin, have you been tracking how much data a 720p movie uses?

    1. Ha, who cares!? I’ve got unlimited data!!


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