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YouTube Undergoes Major Update, But Not Everyone is Happy

YouTube's latest update promises better video quality with less mobile data consumption.
However, owners of older devices might not share the enthusiasm.

Over the past few years, 4K videos have become increasingly common across all platforms, offering a noticeable improvement in image quality. But what users may not see are the significant changes happening under the hood, particularly in the realm of video file compression and decompression codecs. The previously used H264 codec is being gradually replaced by the AV1 codec.

The AV1 codec is better equipped to handle high-resolution content, delivering enhanced image quality. Yet, this upgrade is not without its drawbacks.

Google has started supporting the AV1 codec for Android devices, and YouTube will soon follow suit. Specifically, a version known as libdav1d, developed by the creators behind the widely-used VLC media player, will be implemented. Recognized as the most advanced solution, this codec has been supported by all Android 12 and newer devices since the Google Play System Update in March 2024.

According to _Android Police_, Google has begun gradually introducing this change in the YouTube app. However, not all feedback from users has been positive. Older and less powerful devices have been reported to drain their batteries significantly faster. This is due to these devices decoding videos through software instead of the previously used hardware method, which places a greater strain on the battery.

On the bright side, besides enjoying higher video quality, the AV1 codec consumes less mobile data. This means that users with limited data plans can watch more videos. Unfortunately, this does not translate to improved battery life. The only users who can truly celebrate this update are those with newer devices that support AV1 hardware decoding.
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