Netflix pulls its Android Beta Program, says it was not meant for consumers to join

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Netflix confirmed this morning the existence of what appeared to be a new Android beta testing program, but says it did not intend to make it available to consumers via Google Play. In addition, the company tells us that features in the beta app should not be taken as indication of those planned for forthcoming releases. That said, some testers had reported seeing the option for a “Mobile Data Saver” setting on their devices after joining. This was mistakenly reported to be a feature of the Netflix beta, but it’s actually a bucket test ahead of a broader iOS and Android launch.

The data saver mode was earlier announced at Mobile World Congress 2016 as a forthcoming update that will launch on both the iOS and Android applications sometime this year. Reporters at MWC were allowed to preview the feature and take screenshots of it in action. Several users today say they’ve already spotted the option for a data saver mode appearing on their devices while streaming.

However, Netflix tells us that the feature has not been publicly released on either Android or iOS, nor has the company announced when that will take place. Those who saw the option were a part of a test unrelated to the beta.

The current, official release of the Android application only lets you choose whether streaming is limited to whether you’re on Wi-Fi or not, under the “Video Playback” options. There is no toggle for Mobile Data Saver in this section in the public release.

However, seeing the feature pop up in the wild is promising in terms of a public release in the near term, as bucket tests tend to precede a larger rollout.

In case you missed the news from MWC, the Mobile Data Saving feature is able to work out the best, most economical bandwidth and will allow users to reduce the video quality below full HD 1080p. There’s also a second button to allow HD to give you more control over your minimum quality levels for your streams, Netflix had told reporters.

For users with limited mobile data plans, this would obviously be a big benefit, as it would allow them to watch more of Netflix’s shows and movies without worrying about going over their limits and then getting caught with a larger monthly bill.

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The beta program was first spotted by the blog Android Police. Initially, the blog said the data saver option was new in the beta, but has since corrected that statement as some readers told them they already had the feature on their device.

Netflix said that the link for the beta program should be down, but it’s not sending users to a dead website. Instead, the message that appears simply says that the testing program “has enough testers” and isn’t accepting more sign-ups.

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It wouldn’t have been surprising to see Netflix running a beta program for consumers, so it’s understandable why some believed that to be the case. Today, a number of other major tech companies, including Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Twitter, Microsoft, and others, offer ways for early adopters to try out new features not yet released to the public by optionally installing a beta build of their applications.