Does Netflix on the iPhone Require Wi-Fi?

By Editorial Team

Updated September 09, 2022

Does Netflix on the iPhone Require Wi-Fi?
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One of the benefits of having an iPhone (or Android) smartphone is the ability to stream Netflix video anywhere over the internet, which is possible on all iOS devices through a dedicated app. The required internet connection can be either Wi-Fi or a cellular connection such as 4G. However, streaming Netflix over 4G can cause problems with data plan caps, so the Netflix app enables you to set it to work only over Wi-Fi.

Does Netflix on the iPhone Require Wi-Fi?

Streaming without Wi-Fi is possible on Netflix, but you will need a mobile internet connection to watch something you haven't downloaded to your device previously. So the Netflix iPhone app will work without Wi-Fi, but you can't stream anything unless you have some form of internet connection. The only alternative is downloading episodes or movies you want to watch when you're offline while you have a connection.

Download the Netflix iPhone App

Although Netflix is an online service with a web interface, you won't be able to watch videos on the website using your iPhone or Android directly through the browser, according to NoteBurner. Instead you must use a dedicated iPhone app available from the App Store. There's no charge to download or install the app, but you'll need a valid Netflix subscription to use it.

Use a Data Connection or Pre-Download

Netflix is primarily a streaming video service, meaning you usually don't download video files but rather watch them as if they were a live broadcast – though you can rewind, fast forward and pause playback. This means that in most cases, watching videos from Netflix on the iPhone is only possible if you have an active internet data connection. The app doesn't care whether it's a Wi-Fi network or a 3G or 4G data connection.

However, if you want to know how to stream without Wi-Fi and if you won't want to use mobile data either, you can now download select titles, according to Netflix. Simply click the "Download" button (a down-arrow with a horizontal line underneath) next to any qualifying titles or episodes.

Think About Data Caps

Many cellphone networks have fixed monthly usage limits on some or all of their cellular data packages. Since you usually don't download large files as you might on a desktop or laptop, streaming video will often be the smartphone use that consumes the most data. Android Central found that streaming HD-quality video uses between 0.9 and 1.5 GB of data per hour (for 720p and 1080p, respectively). This means that if you had a 10 GB data plan, you could get around 6 hours, 40 minutes of 1080p streaming on your monthly allowance.

Data consumption may be slightly less on the iPhone as it has a lower screen size and resolution, but there's still a significant risk of hitting your monthly limit if you stream without Wi-Fi. Depending on your service agreement, the consequences of this could include paying overage fees for the excess data use, having your data connection slowed for the rest of the month, or having your data connection blocked for the rest of the month.

Check iPhone App Settings

Until May 2012, the Netflix iPhone app would automatically try to connect via whatever method was available to get online, whether it was Wi-Fi or 3G/4G. This could cause problems with excessive data use over 3G/4G, particularly if the phone and app connected this way without you realizing it. For example, you might be in range of a Wi-Fi network but not realize you hadn't connected to it and instead unintentionally connect through 3G/4G when you start the app.

Since the May 2012 update, if you open the "Settings" menu, you can set your iPhone to connect only via Wi-Fi. This isn't a default setting, so you must have the latest edition of the app installed and updated, and then manually change the setting.