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Netflix is finally rolling out Spatial Audio support for iPhone and iPad users

netflix spatial audio
(Image credit: Shutterstock.com)

It’s been a long time coming, but Netflix has finally begun rolling out support for Apple’s Spatial Audio technology on the streamer’s iOS app. 

That means users watching on iPhone or iPad with either the AirPods Pro or AirPods Max can now benefit from immersive 3D surround sound, which works by recalibrating audio based on your head position.

Before being officially confirmed by Netflix, the feature was first spotted by Reddit users, and is now slowly appearing on Netflix apps worldwide – though you’ll need an iPhone 7 or later (or a recent iPad) with iOS 14 for Spatial Audio to become available on your device.

When it does become available, you’ll be able to toggle Spatial Audio via your device’s Control Center. It’s also worth ensuring your Netflix app is updated to the latest available version.

The move comes after Netflix confirmed in February that it was neither testing Spatial Audio support nor had any plans to do so in the near future. At the time, the streamer was only testing “multi-channel support for built-in speakers.” 

Those official assertions didn’t quite line up with rumors we’d heard, though, one of which suggested Netflix had been testing the feature since December 2020.

Still, we’re happy to see that Spatial Audio has finally arrived on Netflix for iOS, bringing the streamer in line with rival platforms already offering the feature – including Disney Plus, HBO Max, and (unsurprisingly) Apple TV Plus


Analysis: Bringing surround sound to the sofa

Netflix already supports Dolby Atmos which, of course, extends to far more devices than the Apple-specific Spatial Audio, but it makes sense for the streamer to finally offer the tech to AirPods Pro and Max users who want to make the most of their headphones or true wireless earbuds.

apple airpods max

The Apple AirPods Max (pictured) and AirPods Pro work with the company's Spatial Audio tech (Image credit: Apple)

That doesn’t mean both audio options are identical, though. Like Dolby Atmos, Apple’s Spatial Audio tech applies directional audio filters to 5.1 and 7.1 content, placing sound in a 3D sphere to generate the illusion of surround sound. However, Spatial Audio takes this one step further by using the built-in accelerometers and gyroscopes inside Apple’s earbuds and headphones to track the position of the user’s head in relation to their iPhone or iPad.

Essentially, then, when you watch films on an iOS device, the sound will always be placed correctly based on the action on-screen – turning your head or shifting the position of your device won’t interrupt the immersive feel of the audio.

Of course, Spatial Audio isn’t going to rival the sound you get from a real cinema, but it’s great that Netflix has finally given some Apple users the option to enhance their home viewing experience.

Axel Metz

Axel is a London-based Staff Writer at TechRadar, reporting on everything from the latest Tesla models to newest movies as part of the site's daily news output. Having previously written for publications including Esquire and FourFourTwo, Axel is well-versed in the applications of technology beyond the desktop, and a degree in English Literature means he can occasionally be spotted slipping Hemingway quotes into stories about electric sports cars.