Netflix in Uganda Hands on Review: Video Streaming has never been this good

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[/blockquote]When the King of online streaming comes knocking on your doorstep, you can’t resist the urge to let them into your life, and that is what I exactly did ever since Netflix officially launched in Uganda last week. According to a poll we carried out, over 85% of Techjaja readers were willing to give Neflix a try, which means the service has potential, but there is a catch, it uses more global bandwidth than cat videos and piracy combined, which means it won’t spare your data plan once you get hooked.

Netflix traffic is bigger than everything right now: bigger than YouTube, bigger than the Pirate Bay, and much bigger than any other streaming video service. With previously only 65 million subscribers across sixty countries, its launch in 130 countries including Uganda last week will see this figure skyrocket to hundreds of million subscribers. But does biggest mean best, will Ugandans be able to switch from other avenues of watching movies and TV shows? Let’s find out. [section label=”How much does Netflix cost”]

How much does Netflix cost?

We’ve already seen the pricing of Netflix’s service also shown in the table below with more details. It is one of the simplest streaming services around, you pay a monthly fee – which you can cancel at any time – and then get unlimited access to its full range of movies and TV shows. The only real complexity comes with the three different subscription options available, though the same volume of content is available across all of them, so there is no limitation when it comes to content.

 BasicStandardPremium
Price after free month ends (USD)$ 7.99$ 9.99$ 11.99
Price after free month ends (UGX)UGX 27,080 UGX 33,900UGX 40,600
HD availableNO YESYES
Ultra HD (4k)NONOYES
Screens you can watch on at the same time124
Watch on your laptop, TV, phone and tabletYESYESYES
Unlimited movies and TV showsYESYESYES
Cancel any timeYESYESYES
Recommended internet speeds1.5- 3 Mbps 5 Mbps 25 Mbps

The Basic package is UGX 27,080 per month, which makes it a little cheaper over a full year, and for that you get access to the standard definition streams – so no HD for you – but if your bandwidth is limited that’s no biggy. It also limits watching to only a single device at any one time.

The next step up is the Standard package which will deliver the Full HD, 1080p streams at UGX 33,900 per month that also allows you to watch on two discrete devices at any one time. Netflix will by default recommend this package, and you are free to change it based on your heart’s desires. That’s a great option for sharing within a small family. If you’ve got a bigger family the Premium subscription might be for you.

At UGX 40,600 per month you can watch on up to four different devices concurrently, but this higher tier is also the one which will allow you to watch Netflix’s burgeoning 4K Ultra HD content library. So long as you have a compatible TV anyways.

Also Read: How to Manage your data usage on Netflix.[section label=”How can I access Netflix”]

How can I access Netflix?

There are a huge range of devices on which you can access your Netflix account and, impressively, they will all synchronize too. Watch a show on your desktop browser and you can pause it and pick up in the exact same place when logging back in on your big screen TV. As well as your computer and built-in TV applications there are also Android and iOS apps as well as a whole suite of set-top boxes that will give you access to Netflix’s video library. Those with XBOX or PlayStation consoles can also enjoy the service, not forgetting Android TV, Apple TV and also Chromecast.

One of the biggest show stoppers most Ugandans have faced in trying to register for the service and most get stuck at the point when Netflix requests for payment details. The service allows all credit and debit cards/ VISA ATMs, Master Cards and Paypal, but with no mobile money option, penetration of the service might be hard this side of the Sahara. If you have a Paypal account with an expired VISA card you can still sign-up for this one-month free trial.

 

Netflix payment options

It’s highly likely that if your device has a screen on it, then you’ll be able to get Netflix running. When you log into your Netflix account you will have to choose your profile, which can be password locked to avoid people stealing your account or your kids getting in and watching things which might not be appropriate. There’s even a dedicated Kids profile which gives an alternative layout and discards inappropriate content. [section label=”What are the killer features of Netflix”]

 

Netflix kids content

What are the killer features of Netflix?

There is another reason for having discrete profiles and that’s because Netflix’s recommendation algorithm will learn your preferences in terms of what you watch. It will then be able to tailor what it places highest on the home screen more towards the sort of content it thinks you prefer.

Netflix was also the pioneer of binge-watching, partly thanks to its habit of putting its own shows live in their entirety as soon as they arrive on the service, but also because as soon as an episode of a show finishes the next one is ready to play in a matter of seconds, which is very cool. You don’t have to do anything, but sit back and let the entertainment flood in.

Netflix, has put in a huge amount of effort to create its own TV shows and has also recently started making the move into movies too, like the African based Beasts of No Nation. Here comes the sad part, key shows like Orange is the New Black and Political Drama, House of Cards will not be streaming in Uganda at least for now.

It struck a major deal with Marvel to create its TV version of the Marvel Universe – making discrete shows like Daredevil and Jessica Jones, as well as the upcoming Iron Fist and Luke Cage, before they combine in The Defenders ensemble. Disney has also been courted by Netflix, striking a deal which means all the new Star Wars films (bar The Force Awakens) will stream globally on Netflix first.

If we are to go geeky, Netflix’s dynamically-scaling streams mean you don’t need to choose the quality level you want to watch. If your bandwidth is low it will deliver just the standard definition versions, but if you’ve got the hardware and the capacity it will go all the way up to 4K Ultra HD resolutions if available. We, however, have a how to that will help you manage your data while using Netflix. [section label=”User Experience”]

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A worthwhile Data hog

Netflix content 2

We sure you’ve heard by now that this service requires tonnes of data for you to consider signing up for it, and that is true. But, will it be worth your data bundles? For starters we highly recommend to use an unlimited data plan. In our review we used mainly a PS4 gaming console and a Vodafone Unlimited bundled capped at 6 Mbps on a Standard Netflix Plan. It was also able to work on our ChromeCast paired with the Android Netflix app.

We watched one movie in High Definition (FHD-1080p) and one episode of How to get away with Murder in Standard Definition (SD) and about 3. 35 GB had gone down the drain by the time we were done. Netflix estimates SD movies will guzzle about 0.7 GB of data per hour for each stream of standard definition video, and up to 3 GB per hour for each stream of HD video. But, at the end of the day it comes down to the quality of your internet connection and how much you are willing to spend on data. We wouldn’t be fair if we put this in monetary terms since the price of data per GB differs per carrier and ISP in Uganda, we shall leave you to do that math for yourself there. Ultimately, unlimited and uncapped data plans are the best for this service, which is hard to get in Uganda at a considerably low price. I can see people by-passing the telecoms internet security just to enjoy this unlimited streaming.

In our tests, we discovered that even a 3G connection network works perfect to stream Standard Definition (SD) content. We highly discourage streaming in UHD or 4K, assuming that you even have a compatible screen you will be left with zero data before you even blink. But, no worries you have a free period of a month to make all these mistakes for yourselves. [section label=”Conclusion”]

Final Verdict

Netflix content

Netflix isn’t the only subscription streaming service vying for your hard-earned cash, Multichoice’s DSTV One is the nearest competitor. We have already seen how DSTV Now compares to Netflix.  For now, we can undoubtedly say that Netflix is still the best, at least when it comes to western content. The ease of use – and consistent deployment – of its mobile and browser apps makes it the most friendly of all the services out there. It’s also got a huge range of both TV shows and films to plough through. DSTV Now’s own service probably has the edge in the local quality, soccer and Live TV shows, and that’s one of the reasons why Netflix might die a natural death in Uganda.

Another reason why Netflix might not be such a big hit in Uganda is that– we badly need a last mile Fiber-to-Home solution in order to enjoy real high-speed unlimited internet, and one way to implement it is by using UMEME’s electricity distribution system. Since every home has electric cable that runs to it via UMEME, why not bundle it with an internet Fiber Optic cable. We believe the ultimate ISP who will succeed in Uganda is one who will have such a solution and our sources inform us that this is currently being rolled out by a local ISP.  With Roke Telkom and Google’s WiFi connection not being a viable competitor due to its speeds and low coverage. We expect the existing telecoms to come up with Netflix streaming packages, at least some of sources have informed this blog that this is now on the drawing boards of some major carriers in 2016.

There’s also the fact it’s there when you need or want Netflix you can easily ditch it for a month if you want to give it a rest for a while. Without a lengthy contract holding you hostage you’re free to come and go at will – though you’ll probably stay a while, there’s a wealth of ever-changing content on offer here.

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