Netflix Verifies Reports Of Blocking Rooted Android Devices

May 14, 2017 - Written By Dominik Bosnjak

The Netflix Android app can no longer be downloaded by a vast majority of smartphones and tablets that are either rooted or have an unlocked bootloader, and the streaming service now officially confirmed yesterday’s reports on the matter, adding that the phenomenon isn’t an accident. Instead, following the 5.0 update for Netflix, the app features full integration with Google’s Widevine digital rights management (DRM) solution that actively prevents smartphones and tablets that aren’t certified by the Alphabet-owned Internet giant from downloading software it protects from the Google Play Store. In practice, affected users can no longer see the Netflix app on Google’s digital marketplace, and following a direct link to the listing from their devices will simply present them with a Google Play Store page that says “this version” of the app isn’t compatible with their handset or tablet.

While the listing itself has been blocked as of yesterday, the Netflix Android app still works on virtually every device that’s either rooted or has an unlocked bootloader, recent reports indicate. Owners of affected tablets and smartphones who sideloaded the latest, 5.0.4 build of the app claim they can presently use the service without any issues, while those who are still running the version 4.16 are reporting the same. It’s possible that the Widevine DRM will completely block the app from functioning on devices without Google’s security certification at some point in the future, but that has yet to happen, meaning that the latest turn of events is still just an inconvenience for rooted Android users who are subscribed to Netflix.

The Los Gatos, California-based video streaming company has yet to clarify whether the full integration of the Widevine DRM into its service was made in an effort to stop owners of unlocked and rooted devices from accessing Netflix or if that’s just an unfortunate side effect of the change that was made for another reason. Some industry watchers have speculated that the company is now looking to exclude rooted users from its ecosystem in an effort to prevent piracy, though that hasn’t been confirmed so far. An update on the situation is expected to follow in the coming weeks.