Netflix Acknowledges Lazy Viewers by Allowing Us to Watch Partially Downloaded Content Offline

Illustration: Martin Gee

If you’re in any way a traveler like I am — nervous, overprepared but always forgetting one thing (it’s usually hair gel, why is it always hair gel?), showing up for a flight two hours early — then downloading movies and shows to your mobile device probably isn’t at the top of your pre-airport list. For starters, most airlines have a fairly robust catalogue of newish movies and random TV episodes at your disposal, just an easy, mindless click and scroll away. But precious downtime on a plane can also mean the chance to catch up on the sensational (but underappreciated — during Pride Month, no less!) second season of Special, or the Zack Snyder zombie movie in which Tig Notaro shot her scenes by herself on a green screen that you’re trying to dissect for gaps in realism. You try to download it before you lose Wi-Fi, but your Uber is outside and you’ve only gotten 45 percent through the process before it cuts out. Tragedy ensues!

Today, though, Netflix has made it clear that it sees you with a newly launched feature that allows Android users (on phone and tablet) to start watching downloaded content before it finishes downloading. If you have an Android device (with OS 7.64 or later), that feature is available to you right now; if you’re an iOS user, fear not, as Netflix has also announced plans to begin testing the partial-download trick in the coming months.

If you’re trying this out today, the partial-download is available via either your Continue Watching or your Downloads menu. It comes five years after Netflix first introduced downloaded content for offline viewing, though due to licensing and ownership rights, the service’s full catalogue is not available. A quick scroll of the app does, however, list popular shows like Schitt’s Creek, Big Mouth, and Happy Endings as available (all prime plane viewing, honestly). If you really want to take the guesswork out of your offline viewing needs, Netflix’s Smart Downloads feature makes it easy by deleting a downloaded show after you’ve watched it, downloading the next episode without asking you to lift a finger. How convenient is that?

Netflix Allows You to Watch Partially Downloaded Content Now