One of the key features that helped Chromecast fly out of the blocks on its US launch was a free three-month subscription to US streaming service Netflix. In fact, so popular was it that Google canned the subscription deal after just 24 hours.
However, with Netflix not officially available in Australia at time of writing, and Chromecast requiring some pretty intense workarounds to support Netflix down under, you’d be forgiven for thinking that’s where the story ends. But it doesn’t, not by a long shot – you can watch Netflix here in Australia right now streamed from your ADSL modem over Wi-Fi. From there, you can watch it on your TV using an Android-powered mini PC via HDMI, or on your Android smartphone or tablet.
But you can go a step further and watch it via your Galaxy S3 and Galaxy S4 phone (very likely the Galaxy S5 and Galaxy Notes as well) on your TV without any cables in sight. You can even use the phone as a remote control, pausing video, setting the volume, choosing content..
Here’s what you do:
Netflix in Australia suffers the curse of geo-blocking, digitally blocked to Australian IP addresses. However, Unblock-us.com is just one of a number of online VPN-like services that can make your computer appear as though it’s somewhere else.
Once you sign up, you point your network DNS addresses to the Unblock-us.com settings and presto – your computer now looks for all intents and purposes as though it lives in the US, the UK or anywhere you choose that Unblock-us.com supports.
It costs just US$4.99 a month but the good news is you get a 7-day free trial to test it out.
STEP 2: Get Google Play to push the Netflix app to your phone
Trying to install Netflix via Google Play on your smartphone in Australia is usually an epic fail. The Google Play app has IP address recognition – you can even head to http://play.google.com, search for Netflix and all you’ll see is a bunch of third-party ancillary apps.
But if you head straight to the actual Netflix app page on Google Play from your PC, not only does it appear, you can direct Google Play to install Netflix to any of your compatible Android devices.
Just click on the Install button under the app title, select your chosen device and the next time you boot that device, down comes the Netflix app.
STEP 3: Set your device to Unblock-us.com
So the next step is to get your Android device pointing to Unblock-us.com’s DNS IP addresses.
If you don’t know how, it’s only slightly more complicated doing this on Android than your PC – just follow the ‘Setting DNS addresses’ Step-by-Step guide below.
STEP 4: Join Netflix Australia
Now your Android device is pointing to Unblock-us.com, your next step is to sign up to Netflix. It’ll normally cost you US$7.99 a month, but new subscribers get the first month free.
Even so, you’ll need a credit card – we’ve successfully used NAB MasterCard and Commonwealth Bank cards to sign up with. The one trick you need to remember is that Netflix needs a valid US postcode, but don’t use ‘90210’ – we recommend using ‘19706’ instead as the US state of Delaware has no sales tax.
Once you’re in, pick a movie or TV and enjoy.
Is this all strictly legal? Well, consumer group CHOICE believes Australians should be given the opportunity to get around geo-blocking (and so do we), but the legality of bypassing geo-blocking hasn’t been tested in the courts.
We can’t imagine too many companies are willing to be the first seen to crack down on consumers, so it might be a while yet before that happens. That said, since Netflix doesn’t officially stream content to Australia, you’re very likely breaking its terms and conditions – but according to a report in The Australian newspaper in March 2014, Netflix has between 50,000 and 200,000 Australian subscribers, so you’ll be in good company if you are a ‘T&C breaker’.
STEP 5: Stream Netflix to a TV with Miracast
But if you want to wirelessly stream your Netflix content to your TV, there’s one more step. Miracast is a wireless HDMI service built into Jelly Bean/Android 4.2 and newer releases under various names such as ‘AllShare Cast’, ‘Wi-Fi Direct’ and ‘Miracast’. Provided your device also has the right hardware, it allows screens and media content to be streamed to suitably-enabled devices – at video speeds.
The Galaxy S3 smartphone originally sold with Android 4.0.4 but Samsung began including its own AllShare Cast feature from its Jelly Bean/4.1 update (it’s now called Screen Mirroring since Jelly Bean/4.3).
What’s more, it’s compatible with Netgear’s tiny $60 PTV3000 Push2TV Miracast adapter. The PTV3000 is dead-easy to use – plug the USB power adapter into one port and an HDMI cable from your TV into the other. Flick your TV to the appropriate HDMI input and you should see the PTV3000 boot up.
With your Miracast dongle in place, go to your Galaxy S3/S4 (the S5 should work as well), head to Settings, scroll down and tap on AllShare Cast/Screen Mirroring/Wi-Fi Direct and allow it to search for new devices. When it finds the PTV3000, tap to link to it – it’s pretty much just like pairing up to a Bluetooth device.
Once it pairs, you should now see a mirror of your phone’s screen on the TV after a few seconds. Launch the Netflix app and sign in. Pick a movie or TV show and it should start playing – on both the device screen and on your TV. You’ll see a small delay between the two, but that’s normal and you should still be viewing true video frame rates.
The PTV3000 supports Miracast, Wi-Fi Direct and Intel WiDi display mirroring so depending on your device, there may well be more than one way to get wireless HDMI working. There are some online reports that not all Miracast-enabled devices are compatible with one another. But at the very least, unless your Android device specifies otherwise, you’ll need Android 4.2/Jelly Bean installed to have screen mirroring available.
Setting up Netflix on MK808 mini PC
While the MK808 and other mini PC Chromecast alternatives may or may not have Miracast capabilities (depending on the model you buy and the OS version it’s supplied with), you can still get it playing Netflix on your TV. Just follow steps 1 to 4 above, then follow the following steps:
STEP 1: After signing up to Unblock-us.com, click on the ‘How To Setup’ hotlink on the webpage, scroll down to Android, select it and note the primary and secondary DNS address (188.8.131.52 and 184.108.40.206 at time of writing.)
STEP 2: On your Android device, head to Settings/Wi-Fi and long-press on your Wi-Fi network. On the context menu, tap ‘Modify network config’.
STEP 3: Tick the checkbox next to ‘Show Advanced Options’, then come down to IP settings and change the box from DHCP to Static.
STEP 4: Write down your existing IP addresses for DNS 1 and DNS 2 before replacing them with the Unblock-us.com addresses noted in Step 1. Save, exit and reboot.
WARNING – revert DNS settings after watching Netflix
Because you’re now effectively re-routing all net traffic on your device through Unblock-us.com, we recommend you revert your device’s DNS settings back to original before you do any sensitive stuff like online shopping or banking.
We don’t have anything against Unblock-us.com, we just think it’s a wise and prudent precaution. And don’t forget to reboot.
Netflix on your credit card? Expect a call…
Since Netflix isn’t officially available in Australia, signing up to the US service will almost certainly guarantee you a call from your bank to check it’s a legit transaction – at worst, it could see your credit card temporarily suspended (it did with us!). But once you flag it with your bank, you’ll be fine from then on. Better too much security than not enough!