Apps Netflix

How can I download movies to watch offline?

download movies to watch offline
Movie machine: stuff your tablet with films for a journey

Not everywhere is flooded with super-fast Wi-Fi. You can stream or buy films from various providers, but which allow you to download movies to watch offline (on a plane, for example)? How much storage do they take? And can you save them to the SD card?

We’re going to look at the most popular streaming apps – Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, PlayStation Video, BBC iPlayer, Google Play Movies & TV and Flixster Video – and see what they offer in the way of offline downloads.

Can I download content for offline viewing?

In all the apps listed above, the answer is “yes”. The same applies on both Android and Apple, and in Apple’s own TV app (which, confusingly, includes films).

One partial exception is Netflix, which only makes a limited selection of its content available for offline download – access the menu from within the app and there’s a separate option for viewing just those titles that can be downloaded. It’s mainly Netflix’s own content and a limited number of films.

Can I download films to an SD card?

Downloading them to an SD card is a great way to stuff loads of content on your device, without crippling the internal storage. However, due to the ability to take the card out and copy it, many companies used to restrict this practice. Thankfully, this is rarely the case now. Apple devices don’t offer SD card storage, however, so you’re stuck with the internal storage.

Of the apps listed above, all of them allow downloading to an external memory card, except for BBC iPlayer.

It’s worth noting that most will not default to using external storage, so you will need to visit the individual app settings and change this first.

How much space will films take up?

I’ve downloaded films from all of the apps and checked their file usage versus the running times, to give a rough idea of how much storage they take up per minute of TV or film. In all cases, I’ve opted for the highest quality download option.

App MB/Minute
Amazon Prime Video 7.5 #
BBC iPlayer 12
Flixster Video 7.5
Google Play Movies & TV 18
Netflix 5
PS Video 11

# – Amazon Prime Video lets you set your download rate from 0.14 – 0.46 GB per hour

Netflix displays the download file size within its app. I downloaded the same film on Apple and Android devices, and recorded a rate of 16MB per minute on the iPhone compared to 5MB/minute on Android. It’s hard to say why there’s such a disparity – it may be down to the HDR output available on the iPhone.

Interestingly, Netflix’s own site states the figure to be around 50 MB/minute, which is 10 times the figure that I saw. Vide compression on each download is going to be different, so this may be a “worst case scenario” that Netflix is detailing here.

The average of the list above is about about 10 MB/minute. If we take the average film as 2 hours long, that’s 1.2 GB. So, slap a 128GB SD card in your Android device and you have space for around 100 films. That should keep you occupied on even the longest flight.

Now read this: How do I find hidden Netflix categories?

About the author

David Artiss

Currently working for a technology company based in San Francisco, David has worked in IT for nearly 30 years. He is a keen gamer and happily admits to being a gadget nerd too.

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