12 Netflix Tricks You Aren't Using (But Should Be)

iStock
iStock

By Wil Fulton

It's difficult to remember my life before Netflix, and frankly, I'd rather not. The era of all-day binge-watching and having unlimited titles waiting patiently at our literal fingertips has completely revolutionized the way we consume media—but still, even the best things in life have some room for improvement. 

Here are 12 tips, tricks, and "hacks" (for lack of a better word) that will improve your Netflix experience dramatically, all compatible with the current, revamped version of the site. You may never leave your house again.

1. ADD ROTTEN TOMATOES RATINGS, IMDB LINKS, AND TRAILERS.

If you want to instantly improve your binging, your first step should be downloading the Netflix Enhancement Suite, a smorgasbord of vital add-ons in one succinct (and free) package. From pop-up ratings off of Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes (so you can separate the cream from the crap) to IMDb profiles, to trailers for basically every title, once you enhance, you'll wonder how you ever Netflixed without it. 

2. USE AN UNBLOCKER TO GET OTHER COUNTRIES' NETFLIX MOVIES.

Did you know other countries' Netflixes have movies and TV shows that aren't included on our US version? What the hell, right?! Why should Argentina get Modern Family, when we're stuck streaming five seasons of Undercover Boss? Unblockers like Smartflix (for free) or the pay-for-play Media Hint trick the site into thinking you are in another country, granting you access to literally hundreds of new titles. Though Media Hint isn't free, it may be a better option than Hola, considering the unblocker has landed in some hot water recently over security issues. Unblock at your own risk.

SCREENSHOT VIA FLIX ROULETTE

3. PLAY NETFLIX ROULETT.

Do you ever wish Netflix had a "random" button, so you didn't spend the prime of your life skimming over 4,000 titles, only to settle on rewatching Parks and Recreation for the hundredth time? Flix Roulette is this miracle device, and much more: you can pick directors, actors, or even keywords (like sexy thrillers featuring a strong bisexual lead) to help hone your searches. All-day Frank Stallone marathon, here I come. 

4. PUT AN END TO BUFFERING.

Buffering time is the scourge of bingers everywhere. How can one be expected to navigate Mad Men's dark themes and dramatic buildups, if the climax is snarled by the horrors of excessive loading? There are some workarounds here, but they only work for watching on a computer: while playing a title, hold down Shift+Opt (Shift+Alt for Windows) and left click to open up a "hidden" menu (called the Stream Manager) with buffering fixes and other streaming options. If you are using Chrome, press Ctrl+Shift+Alt/Opt+S to access this menu. If you're streaming on Wii, Xbox 360, or PlayStation 3 use the directional pad click up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, up, up, up, up.

5. WATCH NETFLIX AT WEIRD TIMES FOR BETTER VIDEO QUALITY.

One way to improve your video quality is streaming during off-peak hours (like early in the morning, late at night, etc.), according to a Digital Trends report. During the study, they found video quality and speed improved significantly during hours when fewer people were logged into the site binging. Finally, a legit excuse to quit your job and stay home to watch some high-quality Kimmy Schmidt

6. KNOW ALL THE COMPUTER SHORTCUTS.

These five keyboard shortcuts will make your binging more efficient, leaving you with even more time to scar yourself for life by watching Black Mirror:

F will give you full screen; Esc will take you out of it
PgDn pauses; PgUp will play 
- The spacebar will also pause and play
Shift + Right Arrow will fast-forward; Shift + Left Arrow will rewind
M should toggle your mute button, depending on your computer

SCREENSHOT VIA NETFLIX

7. MAKE SURE YOU'RE OPTIMIZING FOR HD.

Wouldn't you be embarrassed if you were paying for HD streaming, but weren't even using it? This is the case for many Netflixers, who neglect to check out their streaming settings -- just go to Netflix.com/HdToggle to make sure you're always set up for HD viewing. WARNING: if you like to catch up on Breaking Bad outside of Wi-Fi zones, this will seriously destroy your data plan (HD videos use up more data, duh).

8. CUSTOMIZE YOUR SUBTITLES.

If you're a foreign-film buff, but don't own 30 versions of Rosetta Stone, you probably rely heavily on subtitles. But even the biggest supporters of Fellini and connoisseurs of Kurosawa might not realize you can adjust the default Netflix subtitles to change color, size, font, and more -- based on your preferences, and what fits the title you're viewing. All you need to do is go to Your Account > Your Profile > Subtitle Appearance, and prepare to soak up all that delicious culture. 

9. BINGE WITH FRIENDS USING RABBIT.

If you're in a long-distance relationship and waiting to finish House of Cards until you and your significant other are reunited, the video-chat service Rabbit is a great alternative to FaceTime and/or Skype. Unlike the two previously mentioned video-chatting services, Rabbit allows you to launch a window that can be viewed by all the parties in the chat—inside that window, you can do whatever you wish, including streaming your favorite shows and movies. So essentially, you can latch onto someone else's viewing, with another window open to video chat and message in real time.  

10. WEAR NETFLIX SOCKS TO PREVENT SPOILERS.

There's nothing worse than nodding off during the third episode of House of Cards, only to wake up during an exceptionally spoilery scene in episode 10. That's the inspiration for Netflix socks, which sport an embedded pulse sensor that automatically pauses whatever you're watching when it detects you've fallen asleep, so you never miss a moment. They don't come ready-made quite yet, but this comprehensive tutorial has everything you need to make them yourself.  

11. USE THE "NETFLIX BIBLE" TO FIND EXACTLY WHAT YOU'RE LOOKING FOR.

If browsing simple categories like "Action," or "Romance," just isn't scratching that itch, What's On Netflix has a veritable encyclopedia of weird, wild, and interesting subgenres that would never show up while skimming the surface of the site. They provide easy-to-use ID codes that can be added to the end of a provided Netflix URL, that will send you straight to the promised land. Try 6384 for "Tearjerkers," if you're looking to have a nice cry. 

12. CONSULT REDDIT FOR THE BEST TITLES TO WATCH.

On the other hand, if you have no clue what you're looking for, an excellent point of reference lies within the vast Internet wasteland/gold mine of Reddit, where the dedicated subreddit r/NetflixBestOf features a frighteningly motivated community of film and television fans that provides constant recommendations on notable titles they've stumbled across. And if you're specifically in the mood for a Netflix original, this ranking should give you some ideas, too.

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Why Robocalls Just Keep Getting Worse

iStock.com/Oleksii Spesyvtsev
iStock.com/Oleksii Spesyvtsev

Artificial intelligence was supposed to make life easier for all of us. In the case of robocalls—those persistent, indefatigable automated dialers that pester millions of people with often-bogus sales offers—it’s proving to be one of our biggest nuisances. Somehow, we’re powerless to stop them.

According to a recent NBC News report by Nigel Chiwaya and Jeremia Kimelman, they’re now worse than ever. NBC cited data from YouMail, a voicemail and call-blocking service for iPhone and Android customers, that demonstrated a staggering increase in robocalls: Americans received in excess of 4 billion of the calls in June 2018, up from more than 2 billion in January 2016. Telemarketing calls also topped the list of consumer complaints filed with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

How frequently you’re interrupted by these calls may depend on your region. Residents of Atlanta received an average of 68 robocalls in September. Those with a 202 area code in Washington, D.C. got 49 calls. On average, a U.S. resident can expect to receive 13 robocalls a month.

There are two possible reasons for the uptick in the calls. Phone apps that block unwanted or unfamiliar numbers are increasing in popularity, which may be prompting scammers and telemarketers to make more calls in an effort to get through. It’s also easier than ever to dispatch the calls, as new software programs make it a snap for anyone to set up a system to mass-dial potential customers. The effort is so cheap—sometimes pennies per call—that if even a small percentage of people respond, it’s worth the investment.

According to CBS News, 25 million Americans were drawn in by a pitch of this type last year alone, losing $9 billion to scams. (“Spoofing,” which can display a local number on a person’s caller ID function, can be an effective way to get an individual to answer the phone.)

What’s the FCC doing about it? This year, they’ve suggested multimillion dollar fines for companies targeting people with robocalls that use spoof numbers. That may deter domestic companies, but because many robocallers are located outside of the United States, it might not lead to a drastic reduction in the number of calls.

There was also hope that the National Do Not Call Registry, which allows consumers to request their number not be dialed by businesses, would lessen the volume. Unfortunately, law-abiding businesses make up only a fraction of those making the calls.

Industry experts have drawn comparisons to spam emails, citing the wave of unsolicited messages that blanketed the internet in the early 2000s before services were able to funnel them out of view. The same may hold true for phone carriers. AT&T offers Call Protect, a service that tries to caution users when an incoming call might be dubious. T-Mobile has Scam Block, which keeps an inventory of known scam numbers so it can block them from coming in.

For now, the best thing consumers can do is ignore calls from unknown numbers and hope technology—like Google’s Pixel smartphone, which will answer and transcribe calls for review, or Stir/Shaken, a cross-platform standard that might one day authenticate phone numbers—will be able to stem the tide of unwanted calls.

Unfortunately, the robocall epidemic could get worse before it gets better. It's being predicted that by 2019, half of all incoming cell phone calls will be from a non-human.

[h/t NBC News]

New Netflix Hack Lets You Control the App With Your Eyes

Netflix, YouTube
Netflix, YouTube

Watching Netflix could become a truly hands-free experience, Popular Mechanics reports. As part of the streaming giant's recent Hack Day—a biannual event where Netflix employees come up with experimental features—engineers debuted Eye Nav, a feature that lets Netflix iOS users navigate the app with simple eye movements.

Using Apple’s augmented reality platform, ARKit, Netflix engineers programmed the Face ID function for iPhone and iPad to recognize eye movements as gestures within the Netflix app. Users can control a cursor by moving their gaze around a screen, browsing the catalog and playing content without ever lifting a finger.

As you move your eyes, a yellow circle moves through the catalog, serving as a giant cursor button. A longer stare results in a click, while sticking out your tongue dismisses the current screen.

While the feature may seem a bit dystopian to some—why would you want Netflix to track every one of your tiniest movements?—it could actually be super useful for people with disabilities who might have an easier time browsing and selecting shows with their eyes rather than tapping the app with their fingers.

So far, Eye Nav is just experimental, but it could become a more permanent part of the mobile app in the future. Since it does require eye-tracking functionality, though, it likely isn't coming to your television anytime soon.

[h/t Popular Mechanics]

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