Google could force AV1 for Android 14… and Apple doesn’t even support it

According to XDA-Developers, Google can force AV1 codec decoding with Android 14, which Apple doesn’t support at all.

The AV1 logo

AV1, a modern codec

AV1 – to AOMedia video 1 — is a free codec that does not require any royalties. It was developed as the successor to VP9 (powered by Google) and as an alternative to HEV (H.265), another widely used modern codec. AV1 is considered better than HEVC: its creators say it is up to 30% more efficient. And the codec has already been widely used for a few years: Google (with YouTube) or Netflix, for example, offer a lot of videos encoded in AV1.

Apple does not support it

However, for users of Apple products, the situation is quite simple: AV1 is not supported. The OS tools don’t handle the codec, and Apple chips don’t decode its hardware. To play videos in AV1, it is of course possible to go through Firefox, Google Chrome or VLC, but they all contain a software decoder, which is less energy efficient than a hardware decoder. Furthermore, this solution is processor dependent and therefore requires a fast CPU for 4K or 8K videos.

macOS Ventura integrates an AV1 decoder.

This lack of support isn’t set in stone: Safari accepts images in AVIF, which is the “still image” version of the codec (in the same way that HEIC is equivalent to the HEVC codec). Similar to macOS Ventura integrated -one plugin for software decoding (AV1DecoderSW.bundle).

As expected, Safari will be able to display AVIF images on macOS Ventura and iOS 16

As expected, Safari will be able to display AVIF images on macOS Ventura and iOS 16

Hardware or software decoding?

Returning to Android, a question arises: will Google impose hardware or software decoding? Currently, support remains quite limited in smartphone chips, and one of the major SoC vendors (Qualcomm) only supports AV1 since Snapdragon 8 Gen. 2. This is the latest chip and it is expected to be in high-end smartphones by 2023.

Among other manufacturers, support varies: Amlogic (specializing in chips for TV boxes) supports it, as does Google with its Tensors and Samsung with its Exynos 2100 and 2200. In the PC world, Nvidia has integrated it into its GeForce since the RTX 3000, Intel in its Xe chips and AMD in its RDNA 2 GPUs, hardware decodes AV1, while the M1 and M2 chips seem unable to do so.

Radeon Pro W6800X Duo from Mac Pro decodes AV1 (but not under macOS).

Considering the market, we can therefore assume that Google should settle for a software decoder, possibly with the option of hardware decoding being imposed only on new products and not on updated ones, in order to avoid disregarding millions of smartphones.

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