Netflix Thinks Small

Netflix beefs up its iPhone and iPod Touch app.  

Rick Munarriz
Rick Munarriz
Sep 19, 2012 at 12:00AM

Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX) has spent the past few years pushing its presence outside the PC box. Most of its initiatives have centered on ways to make it easier for subscribers to experience the digital service on TV screens, but the company's never lost sight of the importance of portable devices.

Netflix announced on Tuesday that it's upgrading its app for Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL) iPhone and iPod Touch. The timing of the update may very well be coinciding with the new smartphones and media players that Apple is putting out in the coming days, but the new app is also available for earlier Apple products.

The new app tries to make the interface with Netflix's streaming service as smooth and versatile as its recently updated iPad app, despite the screen-size limitations of the iPhone and iPod Touch.

There are a lot more video tiles now available to scroll through as subscribers load up the application for something to watch. The top row features all of the shows that have yet to be watched to the end, letting members pick up where they left off.

Tap on any title once for more information, or tap twice to begin watching the video.

The categories are also more useful. Clicking on the "Children and Family" genre displays popular recommendations by target age group.

Is the upgrade going to be the catalyst that gets the stock moving in the right direction? No. The stock has shed more than 80% of its value since peaking last summer. A simple App Store update isn't going to change that.

However, the move will keep Netflix ahead of the competition. When Redbox parent Coinstar (Nasdaq: CSTR) and Verizon (NYSE: VZ) introduce their streaming platform later this year, it's a safe bet that it's going to have a strong smartphone component. Verizon is the country's largest wireless carrier, so you know it's going to be thinking about small screens.

Staying on top is often harder than getting there, so Netflix knows what it's doing by continuing to invest in improvements to its streaming applications for portable gadgetry.

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