Love Netflix on Your Phone? Here's How to Make It Even Better

Learn how to get the most out of your small-screen streaming experience.

Jason Chun Associate Writer
Jason Chun is a CNET writer covering a range of topics in tech, home, wellness, finance and streaming services. He is passionate about language and technology, and has been an avid writer/reader of science fiction for most of his life. He holds a BA from UC Santa Barbara and an MFA from The New School.
Jason Chun
4 min read
Netflix ads tier on a phone

You don't need an internet connection to watch Netflix movies and shows that you've downloaded to your device.

James Martin/CNET

If you have a Netflix subscription, you have access to some amazing shows and movies right now, as well as some NFL football games later this year. It's all easily accessed from your smartphone or tablet.

Although you can no longer share your Netflix account with friends and family on the ad-supported basic plan, one of the great things about Netflix is that you can watch all your content without a TV. If you're on the go or you don't have access to a large screen, you can always pull up the Netflix app on the device that's in your pocket; you don't even need Wi-Fi.

We've put together a list of tips to maximize your small-screen streaming experience. For more, learn about Netflix's "secret menu" and discover these 16 underrated Netflix tips.

Adjust brightness when changing environments

You probably don't have easy access to a TV in your backyard (unless you happen to own this TV in a briefcase), but your phone or tablet will do in a pinch. One challenge of watching Netflix while outdoors is that your screen won't look very bright, especially if you're sitting in direct sunlight.

In case your phone's auto-brightness feature isn't working, you can adjust the brightness manually, and you don't even have to exit your show or movie. All you have to do is give your screen a tap and you'll see a brightness slider appear on the left side of your screen. 

Cast your video screen to a smart TV or Roku

Even if you don't have Netflix on your TV, you might still be able to watch your favorite content on your biggest screen. You can do this by casting your Netflix show from your phone or tablet. 

Sign into Netflix on your Apple or Android device and then look for the Cast button in the upper or lower part of your screen. Tapping that button will bring up a list of devices for streaming. While you have the option to connect your devices using a cable, you can also do it wirelessly using Chromecast.

This can also be helpful if you want to use your phone as a remote control, allowing you to search for shows by typing directly on your phone. It's much easier than navigating a keyboard using the arrow keys of your regular remote.

Note: Casting from your phone/tablet to a TV isn't available on Netflix's cheapest ad-supported plan. 

Control your mobile data usage

If you have a limited amount of monthly mobile data, you can control how much of it Netflix uses. In your phone or tablet app, go to the My Netflix tab at the bottom of the screen, then tap the hamburger menu (three horizontal lines) in the top right corner. 

Peter Butler/CNET

Tap App Settings, and under Video Playback you'll find an option to customize your Cellular Data Usage. You have four options: Automatic, Wi-Fi Only, Save Data and Maximum Data. 

  • Automatic: Netflix balances video quality and data usage, with an average target of 4 hours of streaming per GB of mobile data

  • Wi-Fi only: Netflix won't use any mobile data

  • Save data: Netflix will stream about 6 hours for each GB of mobile data

  • Maximum data: Netflix will stream at its highest quality, up to 1GB of data per 20 minutes of video 

Download movies and shows for offline viewing

Downloading video is especially handy when you're getting ready for a long trip on a train or plane where Wi-Fi is spotty at best. If you're traveling with kids, you can keep them entertained for hours by having the live-action Avatar the Last Airbender adaptation downloaded to your mobile device ahead of time (or you can watch it yourself and see how it compares to the original animated series, which is also available on Netflix). 

Peter Butler/CNET

To download movies and shows for offline viewing on the Netflix app, select a title and hit Download under the Play button. You can view everything you've downloaded in the My Netflix tab at the bottom of your screen. Be aware that some content isn't available for download because of copyright issues or other factors. 

Lock your screen to avoid accidental interruptions

You're about to see a big reveal in the newest season of Love is Blind, when your thumb accidentally brushes against your screen and pauses the action. Even if the pause only lasts two seconds, it's an annoying interruption that takes you out of the story. Luckily, there's a way to keep that from happening.

Peter Butler/CNET

While watching your movie or show, tap the screen once, and then tap the "Lock" button at the bottom (between "Speed" and "Audio & Subtitles"). This will keep your video playing uninterrupted until you tap the "Screen Locked" button and select "Unlock."

Set up picture-in-picture viewing

To watch Netflix while using other apps, simply start playing a movie or show, and then exit the Netflix app. Your video should continue to play in a small pop-up window while you browse your email or open Google Chrome to look up "syzygy" (if you're watching 3 Body Problem). 

Note: Picture-in-picture viewing is not available on Netflix's cheapest ad-supported plan. 

For more, learn how to stream on a budget with these money-saving tips.