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Netflix Finally, Finally Arrives on Android

Thursday Netflix finally launched its video-streaming service on the Android platform after what seemed like decades of waiting. Like the iOS client, the app is free to download and install, but users will need a membership in order to stream their favorite episodes of Glee straight to their Android-based device.

But as previously reported, the service will be limited to a specific number of phones using the Snapdragon processor due to DRM reasons. Sadly enough, that means only five Android phones actually support the service: the HTC Incredible (with Android 2.2), the HTC Nexus One (2.2, 2.3), the HTC Evo 4G (2.2), the HTC G2 (2.2) and the Samsung Nexus S (2.3).

"The Market download will initially be available only on select phones that currently have the requisite playback support," explains Roma De from the Netflix product team. "We expect to quickly add to the number of phones that can download from Android Market as we work with ecosystem partners to expand playback support."

Roma De goes on to explain why the service is limited to these five specific phones, blaming a lack of standardization.

"Because the platform has evolved so rapidly, there are some significant challenges associated with developing a streaming video application for this ecosystem," Roma De said. "One of these challenges is the lack of standard streaming playback features that the Netflix application can use to gain broad penetration across all available Android phones. In the absence of standardization, we have to test each individual handset and launch only on those that can support playback. We are aggressively qualifying phones and look forward to expanding the list of phones on which the Netflix app will be supported. We anticipate that many of these technical challenges will be resolved in the coming months and that we will be able to provide a Netflix application that will work on a large majority of Android phones."

For those who just can't wait another year or so for Netflix to iron out the details, PlayOn offers software that will beam Netflix content straight to an Android device, no questions asked. The setup requires a PC connected to a broadband connection, installed server software that resides quietly next to the clock in the taskbar, and the client app that can be downloaded for free.

The catch is that PlayOn requires Android 2.2 "Froyo" and Adobe Flash installed on the device, as playback is based on Flash technology (even though Flash is inexcusably too large and eats up too much internal memory). Nevertheless, this is a good alternative to bringing Netflix to an Android device, especially if it seems that the service will never arrive for older hardware. PlayOn works really well and even pipes content over 3G connections.

Still, for those with compatible Android devices, the Netflix client can be downloaded from here.