Apple iPhone 15, the Kingmaker
Apple has 43% of the smartphone market almost double that of Samsung its closest competitor. So when Apple rolls out its newest iPhone model every September, the whole smartphone world is watching.
But this year video platforms like Netflix and social media platforms like Meta, TikTok, and X were also watching. Why? Because Apple’s release of the iPhone 15 includes chipset hardware support for AV1 video decode.
What is AV1?
Without going into a lot of technical detail, AV1 is a new video codec. It enables more efficient video compression than older codecs like the venerable H.264 that has served the video industry well for 20 years.
AV1 was started by the Alliance for Open Media (AOMedia.org), made up of large technology companies. One of the main business drivers for development of AV1 centered on an open and royalty-free video codec. This is different from the encoding royalty-based business model that HEVC, a competing codec, uses.
But chipset manufacturers have been slow to adopt AV1 up to now. We have reported recently that AV1 hardware decode support is very low to date. In 2023 Q2, AV1 hardware decode was below 4%. This is anemic compared to HEVC that is over 90%. But with Apple jumping in with their A17 Pro chipset and continued support from other big players in the AOMedia.org, the rollout of AV1 will pick up considerable momentum.
What Chip is Under the Hood of the iPhone 15?
Not all iPhone 15s are created equally. For AV1, only the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max will have AV1 hardware decode. These two models have the new A17 Pro chip that will support AV1 video via a dedicated AV1 decoder.
In other words, welcome to the world of fragmented support for AV1, even within high-end smartphones like Apple iPhones.
Android support for AV1
Prior to the Apple announcement, AV1 hardware decode was only found on high-end Android devices. For example the Exynos variant of the Samsung Galaxy S22 and the Google Pixel phones with Tensor provided this feature. You can see more detail by downloading and subscribing to ScientiaMobile’s free Mobile Overview Report (MOVR).
Bridging the Gap with WURFL Device Detection
It will be years before AV1 hardware-based decode support is ubiquitous, but there are device detection tools that video platforms can use to analyze audience readiness and ensure software-based decoding performance using a smartphone’s general CPU is adequate for AV1. WURFL device detection helps with both AV1 hardware and software playback.
For AV1 hardware decode, WURFL tracks all devices with chipsets that support AV1 hardware decode. For example, a video platform can use WURFL to instantly detect AV1 support and only send AV1 video to that smartphone or tablet. In fact, WURFL also provides AV1 level support, so you can instantly start a video session with the highest quality and bitrate video that the device’s hardware supports.
Or if your video platform has not made the AV1 transition yet, WURFL can detect your audience’s device’s AV1 capabilities and feed them into an analytics platform. That way you can gauge your audience’s readiness for AV1. You will have the data you need to make a sound business decision about when to start encoding in AV1 when device support reaches the tipping point.
For software-only playback, WURFL provides the highest AV1 software playback level of which the device is capable. With this software playback information, video platforms can strategically align on most commonly supported AV1 levels for encoding. And it can use WURFL to send AV1 video at the optimal playback level that is supported by real-world QoE testing. Contact us to learn more about how you can bridge the transition to AV1 using our software-playback capabilities.
What’s Next for AV1 on Smartphones?
For the OTT and streaming video industry, the iPhone 15 is a huge boost to AV1 video codec adoption in the long run. With Apple supporting AV1 on forthcoming phones, other Android chipset manufacturers will likely follow quickly.
Download our e-Book “Streaming OTT Video E-Book: Improve OTT and Streaming Video with Device Detection” to see the use cases that a growing number of OTT and streaming video platforms have for device detection. Or, check out WURFL InFuze to learn more about device detection.