jay's old blog

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Netflix needs to enable offline mode

A few months ago, Netflix made a bold move and rolled out its services to India (and pretty much the rest of the world). That's fantastic news because Netflix knows how to do streaming right. They have a nice catalog and they also have some very cool originals. The app interface is simple and useful and subtitles make it possible to enjoy the media even without headphone in crowded places. 

The problem is, Netflix is sticking to its 'no offline' guns.  

This may not be a problem in developed countries like the US and Europe. Folks who live there are probably used to getting decent net connectivity no matter where they go. When I say decent, I am looking at a speed of 1 to 2 MBPS which is sufficient to stream video at lower quality (although Netflix does not let you choose the video quality the way YouTube does) and enjoy entertainment wherever you are. That's pretty much the point of a streaming service.  

The problem is, here in India, we don’t have the 1 to 2 MBPS wherever we go. Free wifi at malls and pizza places are fast enough to use whatsapp (and not much else really). The only place where we can get reliable speeds are at our homes and most of the time, the home is not where I really want to watch Netflix. I want to kill the commute time, or waiting in the queue time or at the bank or at the restaurant or at the mall and so on and so forth.  

Now, there is one place where speeds are not a issue and that's our mobile carriers. I use Vodafone, and my goodness, do they provide good speeds. That is just on 3G. I have used their 4G as well, and the speeds are incredible and the coverage is excellent. In fact, I am overjoyed that such great speeds are available in our country. The issue here are the data caps. For instance, at the time of this writing, I am paying through the roof (2500 rupees – roughly 38 dollars – for a measly 16 GB data) every month. At most, I could watch 20 movies before Vodafone downgrades me to an 'unlimited' speed of an incredible 64 kbps (which is just good enough to use whatsapp at a sending rate of one word per minute).  

I thought that perhaps, when the 4G rollout happens, the data caps would be eased. Nope! To think of an example, using 3G/4G in India is kind of like owning a Ferrari. It is so awesome because it is so fast and incredible but I can only drive it for a 100 kms and then do nothing else with it. I understand that data caps are inevitable but I only pray that someday, the cost will come down. I am holding out hope for Reliance Jio to shake things but I have been misled before. 

So yes, Netflix, please enable offline mode. YouTube and Hooq are doing it already and so can you.

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mobile operators in India and the 3G and 4G irony

I have previously written about my hatred and love for mobile operators in India. Overall, there are some things that are pretty good about mobile operators (for instance, our call rates are definitely lower than most countries) but there are some bad things too. Call drops are one obvious candidate (it's clear that the Indian mobile scene is almost like a cartel now, what with identical call, SMS and data prices across, well, everybody) and of course, most of them have stopped bothering with investing in new infrastructure. In fact, not one day goes without me hearing complaints from other side (when I call people) that they can either not hear or the call just outright disconnects. 

Anyway, the whole call drop thing is a story for another day. Today's story is how ironical the data plans that are offered by mobile operators are. Especially there odd data caps and the prices they charge for it.  

As part of my job and hobby, I get to meet a lot of students. I also get to meet a lot of people as well. Many of these folks have the most minimalistic mobile data plans. Most of them either use a 50 MB per week packs, or just stick with a 500 MB plan with 2G speeds. Some have decided to not have a data at all as they can get WiFi at home as well as office. Every time I ask them, why won't they just upgrade themselves to 4G/3G and a higher data pack, they say 'what's the point. We cannot use it anyway!'. In fact, if someone were to ask that question to me, I would be giving an identical response.  

The reason is, well, the insane prices and the data caps that operators charge here in India. For instance, on my phone I have a 8 G 'unlimited' plan with 3G. I will come to the 'unlimited' part in a while. For the 8 GB of data I am paying 1250 rupees plus service tax and clean tax and education cess and so many other stuff. Overall, I am paying roughly 1400 rupees (give or take a few rupees) for access to 3G 8 GB data. Thankfully, I am on Vodafone which has fantastic speeds where I live and travel (and I travel a lot!) and that means, I can easily get 10 MBPS no matter where I am.  

Now, I also have an Apple Music subscription as well as Netflix subscription. Further, I use YouTube of course. A typical album (with 10 songs) on Apple Music will run me about 150 MB. A single 2 hour movie on Netflix will cost me 700 to 900 MB. Half an hour of YouTube will cost me almost 300 MB. That means, a day of regular consumption will easily eat up 1.5 GB on my phone. That means, my 8 GB quota will be over in less than a week. Of course, this does not include other data consumption stuff like emails, whatsapp, photo sharing on Facebook and Instagram.  

Now, coming to the 'unlimited' part of my data plan. You see, once I consume my 8 GB, I still have net connectivity at a super awesome blazing speed of 64 kbps. Yep! For some reason, Vodafone (my favorite mobile operator about whom I have heaped praises like crazy) assumes that a speed of 64 kbps is useful for me. Well, it does not. In fact, even email won't sync at that speed. If it does, it usually takes about a minute or two. Browsing is impossible because neither Bing.com and Google.com can respond at 

that speed and of course, we can say goodbye to using messengers or streaming video.  

So, what exactly are mobile operators playing at? Does it really make sense for me to continue paying 1400 rupees for 8 GB of data every month? With such high prices, how exactly will an everyday individual, students, professionals or anybody for that matter, afford such data? 

Now, the entire country and all its mobile operators are going gaga over how fast their 4G is. Seriously though, they are still keeping the same data caps as they did with 3G. That means, with 3G I can finish my data cap in 7 days and with 4G (at least twice as fast) I can finish the same data cap in 3 days.  

Awful is the only way this situation can be described. However, I am fingers crossed for Reliance Jio. Apparently, they are going to shake things up and I hope they do.

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