Netflix for Windows Phone review: Sharp video playback with an ugly design

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CNET Editors' Rating

3.5 stars Very good
  • Overall: 7.6
  • Installation and Setup: 9.0
  • Features and Support: 8.0
  • Interface: 6.0
  • Performance: 8.0
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good Video is sharp and easy to play on Netflix for Windows Phone over Wi-Fi and 4G LTE connections.

The Bad The app's Windows Phone-specific design is hard to navigate.

The Bottom Line Despite its undesirable design and occasionally slow performance, Netflix for Windows Phone is worth the free download to watch videos on your phone.

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Thanks to Netflix's many mobile apps, you can take the video-streaming service with you on your phone or tablet. In April, the company tweaked its Windows Phone app by adding 720p support.

But Netflix's Windows Phone app has a long way to go before it matches the features and performance of the iOS and Android versions. Additionally, Netflix for Windows Phone looks different from every other version of the streaming service for the Web, TV, iOS, and Android, which makes it harder to get around in if you're used to the others. Still, the app serves its main purpose by letting you catch up on your favorite TV show or watch a movie without headaches.

Design
As an avid Netflix user, I've used the service on the Xbox, PlayStation, Netflix's Web site, Android phones and tablets, and the iPad. On all of those devices, Netflix looks roughly the same, with one main screen that shows rows of movies and TV shows with only the videos' artwork. To find a video to watch, you swipe left and right through those rows.

Coming from that horizontal setup, the Netflix for Windows Phone design slowed me down. Instead of those rows, movie and TV show titles are shown in a list with the video's name, the year it aired, its Netflix star rating, and its movie or television content rating (such as PG-13 or TV-14). All that information on the screen makes the Netflix app look cluttered, and because you have to scroll up and down to look for videos, the app is tedious to navigate.

Netflix for Windows Phone has a vertical design. Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

You can use the app entirely in landscape mode, which makes it feel less cramped and easier to use, though I'd still rather the app used the standard Netflix design and let me scroll horizontally through movie and TV titles.

My other issue with the app's layout is that if you scroll down too quickly, before the app has a chance to load each section, the app will jump back to last section it loaded instead of letting you continue scrolling.

Getting around
To use the app, you must sign in to an existing Netflix streaming account, which costs $8 monthly. You can't sign up for a new account in the app, something you can do in the iOS and Android Netflix apps.

The main home screen on Netflix for Windows Phone. Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

Once you sign in, you'll see the home screen, which shows your most recently watched titles and the videos Netflix suggests based on your viewing history. All of the typical Netflix-suggested genres based on your viewing history are present, such as "because you watched Mad Men" and "movies featuring a strong female lead."

At the top of the home screen, you can quickly finish watching a video that you started in the app or elsewhere on Netflix by tapping the resume button next to the title of the video. TV shows will only show the episode name, which can get confusing if you don't know which show you watched last.

Swiping to the left of the home screen takes you to the genres menu, where you can browse videos in different, you guessed it, genres, such as TV shows, thrillers, and documentaries.

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Where to Buy

Netflix (Windows Phone)

Part Number: c3a509cd-61d6-df11-a844-00237de2db9e

Free

Quick Specifications See All

  • Category Entertainment
    Video and screencasting
  • Compatibility Windows Phone