Netflix with popcorn featured image

When it comes to streaming media, Netflix is the undisputable king. The company that started its run more than 20 years ago as a mail-order DVD rental service has since transformed its business model completely to match the ever-changing tech landscape.

As a result, the company now boasts more than 180 million subscribers worldwide, and secures a spot as one of the biggest media publishers in the world with its Netflix Originals program.

If you’re new to the platform or just want to learn more about how it all works, you’ve come to the right place. In this extensive guide to the world’s largest streaming platform, we’ll cover everything you need to know about Netflix. Want to get started? Click the button below!


What is Netflix?

What is Netflix

Netflix is the world’s leading media streaming platform, operating in nearly every country in the world. It was one of the very first players in the streaming industry when it made the transition in 2007, and the bet has paid off with hundreds of millions of subscribers around the world.

The streaming service was initially built on the back of licensed content from other distributors, but Netflix began funding its own original programming in 2013. The first of these all-new “Netflix Originals” was House of Cards, which broke new grounds for streaming-only media.

Since then, Netflix has significantly ramped up the production of original content, putting a strain on its relationship with other publishers. Other new streaming services, like Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, and Disney Plus, have grown to become serious competitors, as well.

Even so, Netflix remains the biggest fish in the pond. In fact, for many people the brand has become synonymous with streaming, with phrases like “Netflix and chill” entering the public lexicon.

How does Netflix work?

Netflix not only has one of the biggest libraries of any streaming service, it’s also one of the easiest to use. Once you sign up and log in, you’re greeted with a friendly interface that lists popular shows to watch, as well as breakdowns by category.

Read also: The best streaming shows on Netflix, Prime Video, Disney Plus, and more

As for how exactly Netflix works, all of the video files are stored on a remote server, and selecting a movie or show will start the stream. It may take a few moments for the stream to start, but as long as your connection is stable Netflix should buffer, or pre-load, the new few seconds or minutes to avoid any studders.

As you watch more movies and shows, Netflix will begin recommending new shows based on your watching history. These can be hit or miss, so it’s generally better to get recommendations from friends or trusted websites.

Netflix connection requirements and data usage

Many consumers still have data caps and low bandwidth plans, so data usage on Netflix can be a major concern. No matter whether you’re connected on a mobile phone, laptop, or smart TV, without a good connection your experience will be hindered.

Netflix lists the lowest possible connection at .5 Mbps, but the recommended speed for a decent streaming experience is 1.5 Mbps. You can see a full list of recommended internet speeds for Netflix below.

  • .5 Mbps — Minimum required speed.
  • 1.5 Mbps — Recommended speed.
  • 3.0 Mbps — Recommended speed for SD streaming.
  • 5.0 Mbps — Recommended speed for HD streaming.
  • 25 Mbps — Recommended speed for UHD (4K) streaming.

Data consumption is also a concern for many, so we’ve run some tests to see just how much data Netflix uses. You can see the results in the table below, or read more analysis in this article, where you’ll also find tips on how to reduce Netflix data consumption.

ResolutionNetflix estimatesOur measurements
(approximately)
Low (480p)300MB per hour200-350MB per hour
Medium (720p)700MB per hour650MB-750MB per hour
High (1080p)3GB per hour2.8GB-3.3GB per hour
1440pNA4.2GB per hour
4K (with and without HDR)7GB per hour6.5GB-11.5GB per hour

Is Netflix worth it?

Is Netflix worth it? Netflix on phone

Netflix is the premier streaming service with an enormous catalog of content, but it’s also one of the most expensive. With so many great competitors out there, it’s worth asking the question: Is Netflix worth it?

The answer for the vast majority of users is yes. For casual streamers the basic plan at $9 unlocks a truly game-changing amount of media to stream, although it’s limited to standard definition.

Read also: The best streaming services — Netflix, Disney Plus, and more

For couples and small families, the standard plan at $14 lets you stream on multiple devices simultaneously and bumps the quality up to 1080p (HD). This is really a baseline for those looking to stream on a bigger screen or TV.

The answer gets a bit more complicated if you want to stream in 4K quality. Unless you plan on sharing the account with friends and family (up to four streams are allowed), the $18 a month price tag is pretty steep.

This is especially true when compared to other streaming services, which offer 4K quality at a much lower price. Disney Plus, Prime Video, and Apple TV Plus all offer 4K as part of their base plans, all of which cost less than the cheapest Netflix offer.

What the experts think

There’s no question about it: experts agree that Netflix is the streaming service to beat. With an enormous catalog that no other streaming service can hope to match and several must-watch originals, Netflix is one of the few streaming services that can completely replace your cable subscription.

However, being the top dog means everyone is gunning for you, and there are now a host of Netflix alternatives to choose from. Most of these compete on price, and if Netflix continues to bump the cost of its service, experts think it may start losing out on more budget-conscious consumers.

To combat this, Netflix is testing a cheaper mobile-only subscription in certain markets, but it’s unclear if this will catch on. Other mobile-only services, like Quibi, have completely failed to capture an audience, although Netflix does offer a better spread of quality content.

What users think

Just taking Netflix’s incredible 180+ million subscriber count into consideration, it would appear that users agree that Netflix is the most desirable streaming subscription on the market. Our own polling confirms this, as you can see below.

If you could only pick one, which streaming service would you choose?

Netflix captured an impressive 63.92% of the vote, with Amazon Prime Video in a distant second at 13.32%. Disney Plus, Hulu, and HBO Now also got a small percentage of the vote, but others failed to make any impression at all. Check out the full analysis here.

Of course, the question stated that you could only choose one streaming service, so it makes sense that the option with the largest catalog would be most users’ first choice. It doesn’t mean that other services are not worth subscribing to, but it does give you an idea of just how far ahead of the competition Netflix really is in the minds of normal users.

The service is so ubiquitous that most TV remotes and streaming devices have a built-in Netflix button, although this addition isn’t as popular with everyday users as you might think.

Online, many users bemoan the ever-increasing prices of Netflix’s subscriptions, but it hasn’t stopped millions of new subscribers around the world from joining the service every month. Netflix also has a fairly generous family sharing program, although you have pay for the more expensive plans to unlock more simultaneous streams.

Where is Netflix available?

Netflix countries

The better question is where isn’t it available? Netflix can be streamed in nearly every country in the world, although the content and pricing will differ in each region. That said, you can use a Netflix-friendly VPN to access more content from other countries around the world.

As of 2016, Netflix is available in more than 200 countries in the world, with just four countries not having access to the service. Here are the countries that cannot access the service:

  • China
  • Crimea
  • North Korea
  • Syria

Crime, North Korea, and Syria are excluded because Netflix is a US-based company, and relations between the US and these countries are strained. China, however, may soon be added to the list of supported countries. There is a growing list of Chinese-language content on the service, and it’s already available in Hong Kong.

How much is Netflix?

Netflix pricing EU

Netflix pricing has become one of the most controversial elements of the service, with frequent price hikes to cover the cost of new Netflix Originals and licensing deals. The cheapest plan in the US is now $8.99, but it’s limited to standard definition, which will look pretty bad on most televisions or computer screens.

The standard plan bumps this up to HD quality and two streams for $13.99 a month, and the most expensive premium plan features full 4K quality and four streams for $17.99 a month.

All plans allow you to download content to view offline, although the number of devices you can download to is the same as the number of simultaneous streams. So on the standard plan, for example, you can only download content to two devices.

Read also: Forget Netflix, watch these free movies on YouTube instead

For those of you old enough to remember, Netflix began its run as a mail-in DVD rental service, and there are still plans that offer this today. It’s only available in the US, but there are plans that include both DVDs and Blu-rays for all kinds of movies and shows that you can’t otherwise stream on Netflix.

There are two plans that allow renting DVDs on Netflix at $7.99 and $11.99 a month. The first allows just one DVD at a time, and the second allows two. If you want Blu-rays in addition to DVDs, those rates jump up to $9.99 and $14.99 a month, respectively.

There’s also a mobile-only plan that’s available in select markets, including India. It’s significantly cheaper than other plans, but can only be used on one phone or tablet at a time in SD quality.

Here’s a quick breakdown of how much every Netflix plan costs around the world, as well as what it offers:

  • Mobile plan: ₹199
    • One stream (phone or tablet only) in SD quality.
  • Basic plan: $8.99/9.99 CAD/€7.99/£5.99/₹499
    • One stream in SD quality.
  • Standard plan: $13.99/13.99 CAD/€11.99/£8.99/₹649
    • Two streams in HD quality.
  • Premium plan: $17.99/16.99 CAD/€15.99/£11.99/₹799
    • Four streams in HD or UHD quality (if available).
  • DVD plans: $7.99/$11.99 (US only)
    • Rent one/two DVDs at a time, with no late fees.
  • Blu-ray plans: $9.99/$14.99 (US only)
    • Rent one/two DVDs or Blu-rays at a time, with no late fees.

Netflix may adjust these prices in the future, but we’ll keep this article up to date with the latest. If prices do increase, subscribers will receive an email notification in advance. If it’s getting too pricey, check out our guide to unsubscribing below.

Read also: Here’s how to cancel Netflix

How to get Netflix for free

If even the basic Netflix price is too steep for you, there are a few ways to get access for free. In the United States, new customers used to get a month for free as part of the Netflix free trial service. However, the service recently ended that feature for US customers, although it may still be available in a few countries.

Thankfully, a free Netflix trial isn’t the only way to gain access to the platform without paying. One is by taking advantage of Netflix’s account sharing program to use the same account as a friend or family member.

There are many other offers from service providers around the world that package a Netflix subscription with another service for free or at a discounted price. Check out the link below for more details on how to get Netflix for free.

Read also: How to get Netflix for free and save as much as $190 per year

How do I get Netflix?

How to get Netflix

Signing up for Netflix is easy, and can be done from any browser, mobile device, smart TV, or compatible set-top box. It’s easiest to sign up on a computer, so we’ll run through those steps below.

First, navigate to the Netflix signup page, then click See The Plans. From there, you can get an overview of all of the plans available in your region and select the one that’s right for you. Note that you can upgrade or downgrade at any time, so you don’t have to worry about choosing the wrong plan.

Once you’ve selected your plan and clicked Continue, the next step is to enter your email and password. After that, enter your payment information and you’re ready to stream! Click the button below to get started.

What devices does Netflix support?

Netflix device support

Netflix supports just about any device with a WiFi connection. This includes PCs, smartphones, tablets, most smart TVs, set-top boxes, Amazon Fire TV devices, Blu-ray players, and game consoles. It’s one of the most accessible streaming platforms out there, with more than a decade’s worth of integrations in popular tech.

The Netflix app works with Android, iOS, and Windows Phone devices. The latest Android app requires Android 5.0 (Lollipop) or higher, and for Apple devices you’ll need iOS 5.0 or higher.

On older TVs, Netflix can also be casted to any compatible Chromecast device, although AirPlay is no longer supported by the platform. 

One of the most notable devices that isn’t supported by Netflix is the Nintendo Switch. Given that both Hulu and YouTube are already available on the Switch, hopefully it’s just a matter of time before it’s officially supported.

What’s on Netflix?

Best shows on Netflix

The best thing about Netflix is its incredible catalog of movies and shows, which include more than 200 Netflix Originals that you can’t watch on any other platform. 

Netflix Originals have come a long way since the launch of House of Cards back in 2013, with a string of hits like Stranger Things, Narcos, 13 Reasons Why, The Crown, and more. New content isn’t slowing down, either, with the company funding and producing more and more shows and movies every year. Check out some of the latest at the link below.

Read also: What’s new on Netflix: The latest shows and movies to stream right now

Other media companies like Disney and HBO have caught on to the streaming business and pulled all of their content from Netflix to host on their own platforms. This could continue as the streaming market continues to fork off new services and platforms.

If you’re not sure what to watch, here’s a quick rundown of some of the most famous and popular shows and movies on the platform.

Best Netflix shows

best netflix shows Altered Carbon season 2

While Netflix’s library of shows is constantly changing and differs in every region, the sheer quantity of it ensures that you’ll always have something to watch. You can check out the full list of our favorite Netflix shows in the US at the link below.

Read also: The 12 best TV shows on Netflix you can binge right now

For those on the fence about the platform, here are a few of the most famous Netflix original shows, which should be available on the platform no matter where you live in the world.

  • Altered Carbon — A cyberpunk action-thriller that takes place nearly 400 years in the future, where humans can transfer their consciousness into a new body to avoid death (if they can afford it).
  • Black Mirror — A dystopian sci-fi anthology series picked up by Netflix after two seasons on the UK’s Channel 4. Taking after older anthology series like The Twilight Zone, each episode is a self-contained story.
  • The Crown — A historical drama about the life of Queen Elizabeth II. The actors change every two seasons (as the characters age), and it has won a number of awards for acting, directing, cinematography, and more.
  • Dark — A mind-bending German sci-fi series where you slowly unravel the complex narrative of a small town as characters travel through time 33 and 66 years into the past.
  • GLOW — A comedy-drama about a troop of aspiring professional female wrestlers in the 1980s. Stars Alison Brie and Marc Maron among others.
  • House of Cards — A political thriller that put Netflix Originals on the map in 2013. Kevin Spacey was the frontrunner until he was removed from the show after allegations sexual misconduct.
  • Narcos — A crime-drama about the Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar and his cocaine empire, which is consistently rated as one of the best Netflix shows of all time.
  • Orange is the New Black — A comedy-drama about life in a women-only minimum-security federal prison. It won six Golden Globes and several other awards throughout its seven-season run.
  • Russian Doll — A comedy-drama created by and starring Natasha Lyonne. It features a Groundhog Day-like time loop where the main character returns to her birthday party every time she dies.
  • Stranger Things — A smash hit sci-fi-horror series about a group of nerdy friends and a girl with incredible powers living in the town of Hawkins, where a portal to an alternate dimension causes all kinds of supernatural events.
  • Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt — A sitcom about a woman who escapes a doomsday cult at age 29 and adjusts to the new world around her with an upbeat attitude.
  • The Witcher — A fantasy-drama based on the works of Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski. It stars Henry Cavill as Geralt of Rivia, a powerful monster hunter known as a witcher.

Best Netflix movies

Okja - best movies on netflix

While Netflix’s original films haven’t gotten as much attention as its shows, the company has funded and produced plenty of fantastic movies. Of course, there are non-original films on the platform as well, so check out the full list of our favorite Netflix movies in the US at the link below.

Read also: The best movies on Netflix to add to your watchlist

Here are a few Netflix Original movies that are more than worth watching, and they should be streamable immediately no matter where you live in the world.

  • 1922 — A horror-drama adapted from a Stephen King novel of the same name. When a farmer’s wife wants to sell their land and move to the city, he’ll do anything to keep it, with terrible consequences.
  • The Ballad of Buster Scruggs — A Western anthology film written, directed, and produced by the Coen brothers. It features James Franco, Brendan Gleeson, Liam Neeson, and Tom Waits among others.
  • Enola Holmes – Stranger Things’ Millie Bobbie Brown plays Sherlock Holmes’ younger sister in this family-themed mystery movie.
  • Extraction – Chris Hemsworth plays a mercenary who has to protect the son of a Bangladesh drug lord in this high-powered action film.
  • The Irishman — A crime-drama from Martin Scorsese based on the book I Heard You Paint Houses. It stars a who’s who of mafia actors, including Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, and more.
  • The Little Prince — An animated family adventure drama based on the iconic children’s book of the same name. It’s the first full-film adaptation of the story, and features a star-studded cast of voice actors.
  • The Meyerowitz Stories — A comedy-drama about a family dealing with the overbearing nature of its patriarch. Adam Sandler is exceptional in a non-comedic role, alongside Ben Stiller and Dustin Hoffman.
  • Mudbound — A historical drama about two WW2 veterans who are welcomed back to the US in very different ways. One is white, and the other is black, and any equality they found at war did not come back with them.
  • The Old Guard – Charlize Theron plays the leader of a special ops unit that tries to help save humanity. The twist? This team is nearly immortal.
  • Okja — An action-adventure film directed by Bong Joon-ho of Parasite fame. It’s about a young girl whose pet pig is part of a diabolical research project, and her quest to bring it back to her farm.
  • The Platform — A Spanish-language sci-fi-horror movie about a man who’s stuck in an enormous vertical prison where only those at the top can eat. Fantastic acting and a strong screenplay make this worth the watch.
  • Roma — A Mexican drama about a housekeeper and family in 1970s Mexico City. This powerful film was nominated for and won several Academy Awards, including Best Foreign Film and Best Director.
  • Shirkers — A documentary about a Singaporean filmmaker and her estranged relationship with an American film teacher who stole her work and disappeared.
  • The Two Popes — A biographical drama about the period between Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis. It stars Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce.
  • To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before — A young adult romantic comedy about a teenage girl who deals with the fallout after her secret love letters to her past crushes accidentally make it into the wild.
  • War Machine — A satirical war drama about America’s war in Afghanistan. It stars Brad Pitt as a fictionalized character based on General Stanley McChrystal, a real-life general brought in to end the war.

Best Netflix shows and movies by genre

tiger king netflix

We have a number of other lists for those searching for Netflix content by genre. Find whatever you’re looking for in the list below.

Netflix vs the competition

Netflix might have gotten a head start in building its streaming empire, but other companies are clamoring to get a larger piece of the streaming pie. We’ve got a full comparison of Netflix alternatives that you can check out at the link below, but here we’ll go over some of the other heavy hitters in the industry.

Read also: Tired of Netflix? Here are 13 great alternatives to try

Amazon Prime Video

Amazon Prime Video Action and Adventure section shown on smartphone 3

Prime Video is easily the next best thing to Netflix — if not surpassing it in many aspects. Amazon is still slowly ramping up its original content, but it does offer a large catalog of shows and movies to stream. It also allows you to rent or purchase even more titles, although this can get expensive quick.

Read the full comparison: Amazon Prime Video vs Netflix: Which is the better streaming platform?

The real ace up Prime Video’s stream is its connection to Amazon Prime. The same subscription fee gets you access to not only streaming video, but also free shipping on orders, e-book rentals on Kindle, unlimited photo storage, and discounts at Whole Foods supermarkets.

These extras might not enhance your streaming, but Amazon does offer a streaming experience that can compete with Netflix. The basic subscription unlocks all content at the highest possible quality, which often includes 4K. The main downside is a confusing interface that makes it difficult to find the content you want to watch. Check out the chart below to see what each service offers.

 Netflix BasicNetflix StandardNetflix PremiumAmazon Prime
Video Quality480p Max1080p Max4K Max4K Max
Simultaneous StreamsOneTwoFourThree
Same Program StreamOneTwoFourTwo
Monthly Price$9$14$18$13
Yearly Price$108$156$192$120
PerksNoneNoneNoneMultiple

Disney Plus

Disney Plus homepage 3

Disney Plus is a newcomer in the streaming market, but it’s shown remarkable growth in its first few months. This isn’t too surprising given Disney’s reputation and the massive catalog of content under its other properties like Marvel, Pixar, Star Wars, and National Geographic.

Read the full comparison: Disney Plus vs Netflix: Which streaming service should you choose?

The service’s original programming also already has a major hit on its hands with The Mandalorian. Disney has tons more content planned, too, and with such strong IP to back it up there’s sure to be more great movies and shows in the coming months. That said, it is Disney, so don’t expect any R-rated content to ever hit the platform.

Disney Plus is significantly cheaper than Netflix at just $6.99 a month, or $12.99 a month when bundled with Hulu and ESPN Plus. This basic plan offers full 4K streaming on up to four devices at once, which would cost $15.99 a month on Netflix. It’s still just gaining its footing, but Disney Plus might be the Netflix killer we’ve been expecting for years.

Hulu

Hulu netflix alternative

Credit: Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

Hulu might not have the same international reach as the two Netflix alternatives above, but it’s still a great option for those living in the US. It doesn’t have the same volume of movies as Netflix, but its relationships with major TV channels in the US let it stream new shows online the day after they hit TV waves.

Read the full comparison: Hulu vs Netflix: Which one is right for you?

There are a few great Hulu Originals out there like Handmaid’s Tale, but they don’t number anywhere close to other major streaming platforms. Still, it’s not hurting for content and there’s plenty of shows to binge-watch — new and old.

Hulu’s biggest drawback is that the cheapest plan, at $5.99 a month, includes ads. You have to pay $11.99 for ad-free streaming, which puts it around the same price as Netflix. That said, for true streaming fanatics, the Disney Plus-Hulu-ESPN Plus bundle is a great value at $12.99 a month, although it does include ads on Hulu.

Apple TV Plus

apple tv plus netflix alternative

The final Netflix alternative we’ll talk about here is Apple TV Plus. It’s a relatively new service, launching in late 2019 just before Disney Plus, and it’s been slow to take off despite having the full weight of Apple behind it.

Read the full comparison: Apple TV Plus vs Netflix: Which one should you pick?

Even so, Apple TV Plus is a great option because of its unique strategy of original-first content. At launch, the platform had only original content, which meant it had a smaller library of shows and movies, but you couldn’t watch them anywhere else.

Perhaps the best thing Apple TV Plus has going for it is price. At just $4.99 a month, it’s one of the cheapest streaming options out there. You can also get a free year with the purchase of any Apple device.

Other FAQ

Q: How many people can stream on Netflix at one time?
A: The answer depends on which plan you have. The Basic plan supports one stream, the Standard plan supports two streams, and the Premium plan supports four streams.

Q: Is Netflix available in 4K?
A: Some Netflix content is available in 4K, but you will need a Premium subscription to stream it in 4K quality.

Q: Does Netflix have ads?
A: No, Netflix does not have ads.

Q: Can you share a Netflix account with friends and family?
A: Yes, Netflix has profiles so you can share your account with others. Learn more about account sharing.

Q: Can Netflix detect VPNs?
A: Netflix has previously forbidden the use of VPNs, but there are VPNs that work with Netflix.

Q: Why is my Netflix so slow?
A: There are a number of reasons for Netflix is slow. Learn more about how to fix the issue here.

Q: Does Netflix work offline?
A: Yes, you can download Netflix shows and movies on as many devices as your plan allows simultaneous streams. Learn how here.

Q: How many subscribers does Netflix have?
A: The most recent estimates from October 2020 say Netflix has 195.15 million subscribers worldwide.

Q: Is Netflix increasing prices?
A: Netflix is constantly revisiting pricing, and the last price increase (of $1-2) was in April 2020.

Q: Can I delete my Netflix history?
A: Yes, you can delete your Netflix history. Learn more here.

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