Today, while most of the U.S. was sleeping, Apple approved the Netflix update which brings universal support for iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. On the iPad, it doesn’t do much beyond adding a new icon, but I couldn’t access Netflix until I updated.
The home page shows you different categories, then lists a couple movies from each. One of the interesting things about the app is that the tabs on the bottom are translucent, so you can see the content below them when you’re scrolling through a list. From what I can tell, the application is a browser that just loads a custom mobile site. When your playback times out, it’ll ask you if you want to resume. It also does this when you switch back to it from another app using fast app switching in iOS 4.
Playback loading is what you’d expect from a streaming app. Not terribly fast, but not terribly slow. The app also supports streaming over both Wi-Fi and 3G, which should be a boon for on-the-go movie-watchers. You can’t manage your mail queue from it, only your instant queue, which is a bummer.
The iPad version of the Netflix app had it’s share of strange issues. It’s unfortunate that those issues have carried on into the iPhone app, and some have gotten worse. Scrolling is jerky and nowhere near as buttery smooth as we’ve come to expect from iPhone apps. I also experienced a bug where the tabs would partially vanish, staying half visible after ending playback. However, searching is fairly snappy, and it hasn’t yet crashed.
Overall, Netflix for iPhone is about the same as Netflix for iPad: It works, but it’s not polished. Hopefully, Netflix will work to address this in future updates. Netflix does require a subscription to use, which costs at least $8.99 a month for a standard subscription. There is a free one-month trial.
Related GigaOM Pro Research: Netflix Company Profile