Netflix gives Android users a new way to save on data

6 Feb 2020297 Views

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The data-saving AV1 codec is being rolled out on selected titles for Netflix users streaming on Android devices.

Android users streaming Netflix content on mobile devices might start seeing a drop in their data usage thanks to the introduction of AV1.

In a blog post published yesterday (5 February), the Netflix technology team revealed that the streaming platform has started using the AV1 codec on the Android mobile app. Netflix claims this codec offers 20pc more efficient video compression than the VP9 codec currently in use across the platform.

How to save data on Netflix streams

The AV1 codec is available only on selected titles (exact details have not yet been revealed by Netflix) for users who activate the Save Data feature in their playback settings.

To enable this feature, users of the Android app must open the More tab and navigate to App Settings. If you open Mobile Data Usage under the Video Playback settings, you will find this is set to Automatic. You can toggle Automatic off and select from the Wi-Fi Only, Save Data or Maximum Data options.

Screenshot of Mobile Data Usage settings on the Netflix Android app with Automatic toggled off and Save Data selected.

Mobile data usage options in the Netflix app. Image: Elaine Burke

Netflix’s goal is to eventually deploy AV1 on all platforms and the company says it is working with hardware manufacturers on expanding its compatibility.

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For now, though, this roll-out is targeting users streaming on mobile who may face limitations from their data allowance or network coverage.

Because of the computing power required for AV1 streaming, concerns have been raised that where users save on data, they might expend on battery power, so that’s a balance users may have to weigh up.

What is AV1?

AOMedia Video 1, also known as AV1, is an open, royalty-free video coding format specifically designed for streaming video online. It is the product of the Alliance for Open Media, a consortium that counts Netflix, Amazon, Google, Apple and Mozilla among its members.

The Alliance for Open Media is committed to enabling high-quality online video streams and AV1 has been developed with data efficiency as a priority.

AV1 streaming is also available on YouTube under the site’s playback and performance settings. However, YouTube advises that AV1 streaming in standard definition is capped at 480p resolution and HD streaming with AV1 requires serious computing power. Additionally, only a limited selection of HD content on YouTube is available in this format.

In the spirit of making AV1 widely available, Netflix is sponsoring an open-source effort to optimise performance even further.

Elaine Burke is the editor of Siliconrepublic.com

editorial@siliconrepublic.com