How to set up smart downloads on Netflix, YouTube and podcasts

How to set up smart downloads on Netflix, YouTube and podcasts

Image of a phone with automatic download settings on

Netflix is ​​an app with an automatic download option.
Photo: David Nield/Gizmodo

Having all your music, audiobooks, podcasts, movies and TV shows stored in the cloud is a great idea – you can access them from any device and it frees up storage space on your gadgets. The only time it’s a problem is when you can’t connect to the cloud: your internet goes down, or you don’t get a strong cell signal, or you’re traveling.

Just about every streaming app out there has a safety net, in the form of an offline caching feature that allows you to temporarily store certain parts of the content on your phone, in case you’re cut off from the network. What you may not have realized is that a handful of apps can now do this automatically, saving things locally that you’re likely to like.

While it’s not quite the same as selecting movies and playlists yourself, activating these automatic offline features can be very useful when you’re caught at short notice – perhaps your router has failed, or you need to unexpectedly go on a trip, or whatever it may be. It is. Here’s how to get these functions configured in advance.

We have included three apps that have this type of feature included. The ‘smart’ downloads option has yet to come to the likes of Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Prime Video and Disney Plus – they all offer manually triggered downloads, but we hope they can push out smarter downloads in the not-too-distant future, to make offline listening and viewing even easier.

Enables smart downloads on Netflix

Credit to Netflix, which doesn’t just let you cache movies and shows manually – just tap download button on any listing page – but also has a Smart Downloads feature that saves movies and TV shows in the background, ready to launch from your phone when they’re needed.

Press Downloads button at the bottom of the mobile interface app, then select Smart Downloads. There are two rocker switches you can turnn on: Activate Download the next episode and the app will do just that by caching the next episode for shows you’re currently watching. Enable Downloads for youand Netflix will download a selection of things it thinks you’ll like based on its recommendation algorithm.

screenshot of Netflix's Smart Download section

Screenshot: Netflix

The settings below allow you to decide how much of your phone’s storage space will be given over to smart downloads in Netflix, and you can even split this up by profile. Further down you can see how much space is left on the phone and how much Netflix is ​​taking up.

All your downloads, whether triggered manually or smartly, can be found on Downloads tab inside the app. If there’s something Netflix has saved that you’re not interested in, you can get rid of it by either tapping the pencil icon (top right) and choosing what you want to delete, or by tapping the downloaded icons to the right of each item .

How let YouTube will download automatically Recommended Videos

To be able to download YouTube videos to your phone, you must be a paid member of the YouTube Premium Club, which will cost you $12 a month. Once you have handed over your money, you will seh download buttons next to videos in the app.

If you don’t have the time or determination to manually download videos, YouTube will do it for you. Tap your profile picture (top right), then select Settingsthereafter Wallpaper and downloadsand then activate Smart downloads. You can also choose Download quality to set a default video quality level (which of course affects the storage required for your clips).

screenshot of YouTube's download section

Screenshot: YouTube

All YouTube says about the videos it chooses to download is that they’re “recommended” videos — so they’ll be the ones pushed at you as you browse the app. The list is updated every seven days.

To find your downloaded videos in the YouTube app, tap Library and then Downloads. You can view (and if necessary delete) videos from here, but there is no way to set how much storage space to allocate to the feature. When we tested it, 10 videos were saved locally.

Smart downloads on YouTube Music

Not to be outdone by YouTube, YouTube Music can also set up some offline content for you, without you having to pick and choose what you want. YouTube Music has a free tier, but you need the paid plan ($10 per month) to download music to your phone for offline listening.

You’ll find small download buttons (the arrows pointing down) in various places in the YouTube Music interface on mobile, and you can tap one of them to save playlists, albums, and songs to your device. Press Library and then Downloads to see all this saved music in one place.

screenshot of YouTube Music's download section

Screenshot: YouTube Music

Maybe you don’t want to go to the trouble of picking out music manually, in which case the app will do it for you. From Downloads screen, tap the gear icon (top right) and turn on Smart downloads (Android) or Download an offline mixtape (iOS) rocker switch. Using the sliders below, you can choose how many songs and how much storage is used for the feature.

This different approach is a little strange: the offline mixtape appears as a playlist on Android and iOS, but its maximum song limit (up to 100 tracks) can only be set on iOS. On Android, you can store up to 500 songs (including offline mixtapes) through the Smart Downloads feature. Not all of these albums and tracks will be in the offline mix, but they can all be found Downloads screen below Library.


Most podcast players worth their salt will automatically download new episodes of podcasts you subscribe to if you want. In the Pocket Casts app, for example, you can tap the settings wheel icon on a podcast page, then turn on Automatic download switch to have new episodes downloaded as they air.

In the meantime, if you’re in the popular Overcast podcast player for iOS, you can find the relevant option by going to a podcast listing page and then tapping Settings, Downloadingand Download automatically. It will save you saving and saving new episodes automatically, and you can even send them to custom playlists in Overcast.

screenshot of Pocket Casts

Screenshot: Pocket Cast

Maybe you’re using the default Apple Podcasts app that comes with your iPhone, in which case you’ll find the option you need by opening a podcast, tapping the three dots in the top right, then choosing Settings and Download automatically: You can choose all new episodes, no episodes at all, or somewhere in between based on a specific number of episodes or when they were released.

Whichever podcast player you prefer, you should find a similar option somewhere, which means you will never be stuck for something to listen to when you don’t have an internet connection. It’s a good idea to have several podcasts set to download automatically, just for variety.

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