Even Netflix Says Android Is Fragmented

Netflix has just released their Android instant streaming app. And that’s the good news. The bad news is that only a subset of handsets are supported. Unfortunately, it’s not really much of a surprise give the wide variation of deployed hardware and multiple versions of Android. As Netflix blogs:

In the absence of standardization, we have to test each individual handset and launch only on those that can support playback.

Of course, Android isn’t the only platform to experience so called fragmentation. In fact, beyond Apple’s tight control of its iPhone ecosystem, all mobile platforms share this trait. But know that if you don’t posses one of the first five supported Android devices, Netflix intends to keep plugging away:

We are aggressively qualifying phones and look forward to expanding the list of phones on which the Netflix app will be supported.

(via Engadget)

24 thoughts on “Even Netflix Says Android Is Fragmented”

  1. The first five supported handset/OS combos:

    1. HTC Incredible with Android 2.2
    2. HTC Nexus One with Android 2.2, 2.3
    3. HTC Evo 4G with Android 2.2
    4. HTC G2 with Android 2.2
    5. Samsung Nexus S with Android 2.3.

  2. Wish the EPIC was on the list… I still have a loaner from Sprint and would love to check it out. Ah well, maybe with the next update?

  3. Todd, you are incorrect. It’s not solely about running 2.2 or 2.3. It’s also about video capabilities, related drivers, content protection, and who knows what else. It’s why you can’t take a stock 2.2 and throw it on just any handset – there’s other integration work that needs to be done. But it’s the same with Windows Mobile, Blackberry, etc… it was (and probably still is) a constant struggle at Sling to keep current in terms of unique hardware and software characteristics related to resolution, rendering, etc.

  4. Hell yea! This is far better then what I thought netflix had said…I remember reading somewhere that only android phones with some DRM chip from qualcomm would be supported? What happened to that? Anyway I’m amazed that my current android ever got Netflix! This is not an example of Fragmentation as it is Netflix wanting to ensure a good playback experience. I mean can you install the netflix app on the first gen iPhone?

  5. Good memory, Ben. Here’s what Netflix said in 2010:

    Setting aside the debate around the value of content protection and DRM, they are requirements we must fulfill in order to obtain content from major studios for our subscribers to enjoy. Although we don’t have a common platform security mechanism and DRM, we are able to work with individual handset manufacturers to add content protection to their devices. Unfortunately, this is a much slower approach and leads to a fragmented experience on Android, in which some handsets will have access to Netflix and others won’t.

    Also what you’re probably remembering is a co-marketing thingy Qualcomm did at an industry event showing off Netflix streaming on their hardware using their chips.

    (I bolded the line above for Todd. ;) )

  6. @Dave

    “Todd, you are incorrect….It’s why you can’t take a stock 2.2 and throw it on just any handset”

    Sir you are making references to **hardware** – something Google has zero control over. Title of this post says “Android Is Fragmented”.

    Suggest post be retitled to read “Lazy carriers and greedy handset makers’ fragmented hardware won’t let use use new Netflix Android app”


  7. Well you kinda need hardware to go along with your mobile phone OS, no? :D Plus there’s the software carriers drop on top of and below Android. Maybe a more accurate title would be Android Ecosystem is Fragmented. Not sure your proposed change or mine would impact traffic, but for visual purposes I prefer the title fit on one line.

  8. Netflix for iOS requires iOS 3.1.3 or higher. The original iPhone supports iOS 3.1.3, so you can install Netflix on the original iPhone.

  9. Very weak, Netflix. I can only kind of understand playback not being supported for all phones (HBO, ESPN, VZ, etc all seemed to have figured this out), but at least let me see manage my queue on my Droid. I can’t even install the app.

    Oh, and my two cents is that the post title is quite accurate.


    *on my vintage 1994 x486 IBM PC

    …but that’s Dave’s fault, not mine!


  11. Seems to be playing out as expected. Kinda sad that some of the hot phones from what, 6 months ago like the Droid X aren’t on the list though.

    I did a quick Google for some stats on the installed base of various Android phones and came up with:


    from last November, so its a bit dated, but at the time the top ten phones covering 72% of the traffic were:

    1. Motorola Droid at 19% (not supported)
    2. HTC Evo (not the 4G) at 12% (not supported)
    3. Motorola Droid X at 10% (not supported)
    4. HTC Incredible at 7% (supported)
    5. Samsung Vibrant at 5% (not supported)
    6. Motorola Droid 2 at 4% (not supported)
    7. HTC Ally at 4% (not supported)
    8. T-Mobile myTouch 3G at 4% (nope)
    9. HTC Droid Eris at 4% (nope)
    10. HTC Hero at 3% (nope)

    So as you can see, on Android phones popular 6 months ago, only one of them supports Netflix as of now, for 7% out of the 72%. Not a great start.

    But hey, its a start.

  12. Glenn,

    As far as I know, there are only two Evo’s right now, the Evo 4G and the Evo Shift. I’m sure the Evo in your list is referring to the Evo 4G. So, that’s two phones.

    Yeah, not great, but I have an Evo so I’m not complaining too much!

  13. @Andy,

    Yup looks like you’re right. I did a Google search with a date range and came up with HTC Evo 4G articles and it looks like the Evo 4G shipped in June that year for Sprint. Sorry for the error.

    With that change the most telling models missing are ALL of the Motorola models which are incredibly popular at least in the US with Verizon (or were last I looked). Wonder if there’s a technical reason for that…

  14. Feeling better all the time about spending the cash for the Nexus One last year:

    – prompt updates to the latest Android version
    – support for just about every app (except those needing front facing camera)
    – 18 months old now and still supported
    – no ‘enhancements’ from carrier or manufacturer
    – no control over phone by carrier (wifi router functionality etc.)

    On top of all that, it will actually have cost me less than a subsidized phone after two years.

    Only ‘pure Google’ Android phones for me.

  15. Adam, I agree Android is a good thing. What’s seen on the platform isn’t unique at all and in many ways, they’re a victim of their widespread success. The “real” story is Apple’s unique approach and success in keeping things so tightly integrated and consistant. Compare to RIM, who similarly also produces their own hardware and software, yet experiences “fragmentation” issues. Like I said, this started way back when and was first most notable on Windows Mobile.

    Rev, beyond the software, the Nexus One also looks and feels sharp. One of my favorite handsets, from a physical standpoint, in recent memory.

  16. Running a rooted Gingerbread rom on my D1 and guess what? NETFLIX WORKS! If you’re rooted you know who gives these things out and all you need is the apk for the Dx/D2.

    Oh happy day. Honestly, this is pretty cool for me. Dr. Who and Farscape wherever I am, whenever I want? Yes please.

  17. I tried Netflix on my Evo over 3G, and it works GREAT! I only saw a couple of small lag hiccups. The only down side was the app drains the battery like nothing else I’ve seen before, and I have an extended life battery.

  18. Interesting that it works on rooted phones. Huh. You’d expect that the media companies would have required netflix to come up with something more sophisticated to break that.

  19. Not all rooted phones. I suspect Netflix hasn’t gotten around to validating everything, so they’re using a whitelist file, and there some handsets that haven’t passed QA. Some may be mostly usable if you go it on your own, others won’t be.

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