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Netflix no longer works on rooted or bootloader-unlocked Android phones

Netflix house at MWC
Netflix house at MWC (Image credit: Android Central)

Rooted users started noticing the app gone from Google Play on their devices over the weekend, and Netflix eventually confirmed it did this intentionally. The streaming service is now using Google's Wildvine DRM to block the app from rooted devices that don't pass Wildvine's security status, and its Google Play listing will not appear for devices that fail a SafetyNet check, which not only rules out rooted phones but also unrooted phones that are bootloader-unlocked.

Netflix has long been wary of the Android platform over root and piracy concerns, so much so that it took years for the service to come to Android at all. Blocking rooted devices makes a certain amount of sense from its point of view, even if the vast majority of root users aren't using it for anything nefarious, but blocking phones simply because the bootloader is unlocked is going to cause a lot of headaches. Unlocking the bootloader on a phone will cause it to fail the SafetyNet check for Google Play, even if the phone's software hasn't actually been modified, and can be needed for processes like flashing sideloaded updates and even flashing the Android O Developer Preview.

There are ways around this, but it's also worth mentioning that root on the whole is far less necessary to the Android experience as it was years ago. Phones are more full-featured, even allowing users to theme their nav bar and alter the system UI nowadays if you buy the right phone. Wi-Fi tethering is offered out of the box on most phones — though yes, your carrier might charge extra for tethering.

If you've got enough reason to root, Netflix playing hard-to-get probably isn't going to stop you any more than the laundry list of other apps that don't play nice with it. That Netflix isn't playing nice with bootloader-unlocked phones that aren't rooted is slightly more dismaying, especially as a summer of Android O betas to sideload and test awaits us.

Ara Wagoner was a staff writer at Android Central. She themes phones and pokes YouTube Music with a stick. When she's not writing about cases, Chromebooks, or customization, she's wandering around Walt Disney World. If you see her without headphones, RUN. You can follow her on Twitter at @arawagco.

33 Comments
  • Do you think we'll just be able to grab the apk from a source other than the Play Store?
  • For now, yes. There's nothing stopping Netflix from disabling logins or playback on rooted devices though. At that point, either an older version or a patched APK will be needed, and Netflix could easily block access to both. While some may cry foul and say it'll just lead to more people pirating Netflix content, I doubt Netflix is too concerned. The rooting community may be vocal, but they are also a minority. I highly doubt it'll affect the company's revenues as much as people would think.
  • As someone with a non-rooted bootloader-unlocked phone, I'm mad. 😤
  • If you root with Magisk Manager, you can hide root and get around the safetynet check.
  • Indeed, it's working fine for me with this setup.
  • Thanks for the recommendation. I will try it later today on my Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 running Lineage OS.
  • The rooting community may be "a minority", but more and more phones are being sold with the bootloader unlocked. I see a quick reversal in Netflix's future, or a drop in subscriptions if they play hardball. True, you could just run it off your TV, but I don't like being dictated to, and I suspect a whole lot of other Android users don't either. On Android Pay I can understand Google's stance with blocking. But this makes zero sense!
  • Phones cannot be sold with an unlocked bootloader and still pass Google's certifications.
  • Exactly. The whole point of Android is not being told what to do ;)
  • Unlockable not unlocked. Even Nexus and Pixle phones ship locked. You have to go through the steps to actually Unlock it.
  • Is it just me, but the update seems to affect offline playback, as in it no longer keeps the screen awake. When I watch something I've downloaded, I have to keep tapping the screen every 45 seconds to keep the screen awake. Incredibly irritating. Streaming a video is fine, but not downloaded content. Tried it on both my Sony z4 tablet, and my Sony Xperia XZ phone, and both have same result.
    Literally cannot find anyone else complaining about this? App used to work fine until I updated it yesterday!
  • Yeah I noticed this on S7 EDGE. Intermittent fault though.
  • FU and your ad blocker popup
  • Want an ad-free experience? Use the app and pay to get rid of them.
  • Subtle text ads on the side are one thing. however, full-page background ads & pop-ups are an issue Android Central needs to address before I turn off my ad blocker on my personal computer.
  • The only thing I'll say is that I wish it would recognize that I'm a paid subscription user when I log into the site on a PC or Mac and extend that same ad free experience that I get in app.
  • Just get Tampermonkey for Chrome and add the Reek anti-adblock-killer to avoid their nonsense and that of other sites. http://reek.github.io/anti-adblock-killer/
  • That just confirms even more that I won't be signing up for Netflix anytime soon. I can understand their thinking when it comes to people stealing from them, but I had to root my phone just so I could get security updates. Root may not be quite as necessary anymore for usability and features, but security is another issue. My wife and I have the same phone, hers is stock and mine is on LineageOS. Her last security update was a year ago, and mine is a month old. Until Google gets the security updating process fixed, I will continue to root once the manufacturers give up on me and will continue to not be a Netflix customer. I see no good reason to get rid of a perfectly working phone every two years or so.
  • Reposting what I've written elsewhere: Let's be quite clear here: rooted phones are NOT the source of pirated
    TV and movie content on the internet. While it's quite possible that
    Netflix is doing this due to pressure from the studios, the reality is
    that this accomplishes nothing but making the studios falsely feel good,
    while inconveniencing a group of users, most of whom are doing nothing
    nefarious. I have rooted every Android phone I've owned and will
    continue to do so, in order to "fill the gaps" as Jason aptly put it.
    Whether it be to remove bloatware, fully back up ALL of my data, or get
    Android updates past the point that my manufacturer and carrier decide
    to support my phone, there are plenty of legit reasons still to root. You know what else is rooted? Desktop computers, and that is not
    changing. Netflix, banking apps, and these other things that are
    nonsensically are banning rooted phones from running them continue to
    run fine on desktop computers without restriction. There really is no
    point in banning rooted phones when that isn't even the source of the
    issue they're concerned about.
  • Based on tons of facts...not emotional hyperbole at all /sarcasm
  • I got rid of Netflix months ago, their content is garbage to say the least, nothing but braincells killing garbage.
  • If u say so
  • Feel free to unplug, read a book, and get outside....
  • Exactly, today's society has been dumbed down, the majority of the populations memory is that of a goldfish. Ask anyone about the history of the US or world history they will be completely lost. What exactly is Netflix teaching you, nothing, just burning your brain cells, wasted time that you will never get back .
  • It's easy to blame Netflix for this, but the real blame is the content creation networks that are afraid of piracy. They're the ones that threaten to deny Netflix the rights to their content, and Netflix can't afford missing their catalogs. Netflix is just trying to stay in business, and the fact of the matter is that even if every user with a bootloader unlocked phone cancelled their subscription, they'd lose far more if they lost the shows from entire networks. They fail to realize that if you make content easily accessible for reasonable prices, almost every person is going to take the legal route. They should spend less time worrying about piracy as a general problem and more time comparing the piracy rates for their shows on Netflix vs the ones behind their individual half baked apps.
  • what about Netflix VR .....on a Rooted phone
  • About time. Kudos to Netflix.
  • The Confederate Flag = Toilet Wipes.
  • Isn't a rooted Android phone the equivalent of a Windows PC running on an Administrator account? After all, there's a reason why they're called Superuser accounts.
  • Is anyone honestly using their Android phone to pirate movies and TV shows from Netflix?
  • I just unchecked auto update. Hopefully Netflix will play nice until my new phone, where I'll actually have the patience to try Magisk
  • My bootloader unlocked and rooted with SuperSu. Play store does not show Netflix as an installed app, but my phone is still running Netflix 4.6 with no problem. I guess their next step will be to block my login so I cannot use the older app?
  • So those of us who are rooted and had Netflix app previously installed are running Netflix 4.6 until they decide to go further and block login?