Netflix has announced support for AV1 videos in its Android app. It boasts up to 20% improved compression efficiency over the largely dominant VP9 codec, and also possibly HEVC, which means huge mobile data savings. Netflix plans to enable streaming content in this royalty-free video coding format across all platforms eventually.
For people who watch a lot of content on their smartphones, a 20% enhancement in video compression can make a significant impact on the data plans they choose. Streaming in AV1 format also has the potential to deliver viewing in better-than-normal quality and stability, on spotty cellular networks.
Netflix makes it point to note that users will have to select the “Save Data” feature in their phone’s settings in order to watch videos in AV1 format. In addition to this, not all titles are currently available in this form. You might also need to watch your battery since hardware support might be an issue (or not) depending on the device you use.
Netflix is able to offer AV1 on Android phones thanks to the open-source dav1d decoder developed by the VideoLAN, VLC, and FFmpeg communities and sponsored by the Alliance for Open Media (AOMedia). AV1 is backed by a host of other tech giants like Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Intel, Microsoft and Nvidia.
Since there are too many participants in the HEVC patent pools, AV1 might hold the key to the future of high efficiency, open-source video encoding. And Netflix’s partial adoption of AV1 for streaming on Android is likely to cause widespread ripples in the business of balancing increasing high quality content consumption with data savings.
Also, there are few better ways for Netflix to keep users glued to their screens at all times than soothing their anxiety over data usage as much as it can.