Netflix has finally released an app for Android, although only for smartphones and not for tablets. You can download the app now from the Android Market.

Unfortunately, Netflix playback is supported on just five phones right now: the HTC Incredible with Android 2.2, the HTC Nexus One with Android 2.2 or Android 2.3, the HTC Evo 4G with Android 2.2, the HTC G2 with Android 2.2, and the Samsung Nexus S with Android 2.3. For the owners of these devices, Netflix is touting four main features of the app:

  • It's part of your Netflix unlimited membership.
  • Watch as often as you want.
  • Resume watching where you left off on your TV or computer.
  • Browse movies and manage your instant Queue right from your phone.

The limitation to just five Android phones is quite annoying, especially given how long it took Netflix to finally offer an Android app. It may have been better to wait until the company could support more devices before releasing the app. On the other hand, pushing out the software early will result in valuable feedback from early adopters which can in turn be useful for developing the next version.

Netflix tried to explain that because the Android platform has evolved so rapidly, there are significant challenges associated with developing a streaming video application for the ecosystem. The biggest one is the lack of standard streaming playback features that the Netflix app can use to gain broad penetration across all available Android phones. Currently, the lack of standardization means Netflix has to test each individual handset.

The streaming giant says only phones that have requisite playback are being supported right now. The company does, however, expect to work with ecosystem partners to expand playback support to more phones. In fact, many of the technical challenges should be resolved in the coming months, and we should see a Netflix app that works on a large majority of Android phones.