5 Reasons Why Apple’s HEVC (H.265) is a Huge Deal for Mobile Video

Wed, Oct 11, 2017

Apple HEVC for iOS 11 Teradek

In our previous post 4 Reasons Why HEVC (H.265) Matters and How You Can Start Using It Now, we discussed how HEVC is going to make streaming video much more efficient. But with people consuming more multimedia on mobile now than ever before, we wanted to take a look at how HEVC will influence the direction of video on mobile devices specifically.

These past months have seen enough Apple announcements and releases to make every Apple fanboy in the world (including us) giddy with excitement. iOS 11, High Sierra, Apple TV 4K, iPhone 8 and iPhone X - every update to Apple technology has the industry going berserk over how the tech giant is once again pushing the boundaries on what’s achievable.

But for us in the video world, the most notable release was iOS 11 and High Sierra’s support for HEVC encoding and decoding in all compatible devices. Since September 19, all iPhone 7 and up (and 2017 iPad Pros) can now fully deliver and receive video in the H.265 codec - a step up from H.264 that has been used since the very first iPhone was released.

So what does this mean for the video world? In the short term, not much! Dan Rayburn of Streaming Media wrote in his post that widespread HEVC support won’t be achieved without major industry shifts towards HEVC like streaming servers, transcoders and compatible hardware, and currently market adoption is moving at snail’s pace.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t predict how this will affect the video market. As handsets gradually become the predominant channel for video consumption, industry developers in the mobile space will begin focusing on adopting the new codec. This means apps, social media video sharing platforms and even non-Apple devices will start embracing the new codec. With HEVC now officially available on all newer iOS devices, you can bet that this will be huge for the video world.

So what does Apple’s implementation mean for mobile video? Let’s look at 5 reasons why HEVC in Apple’s new OS is bigger than we think. In addition, we’ve included two exciting Teradek announcements at the bottom as well.

1. Jumpstart Widespread Adoption

As probably the #1 industry leader in consumer tech, Apple is making a big splash in the video ecosystem with HEVC video encoding/decoding. Although not the first mobile phone to support HEVC (Samsung’s Galaxy S4 achieved this in 2014), Apple’s strategic implementation comes at a moment where file sizes are growing too big for the average consumer and the market is ripe for an effective solution. And let’s be honest - because it’s Apple, everyone is actually paying attention now.

Apple HEVC and why it matters
iOS 11’s HEVC will eventually lead to the development of HEVC support in apps and playback hardware.

While it’s true that HEVC-compatible playback is scarce right now, market saturation with HEVC-compatible iOS devices will inevitably drive developers to adopt the new codec. With iOS occupying 43% of smartphone market share currently, pressure will be mounting for the video tech world to adapt in order to stay competitive. From apps to video distribution platforms (YouTube, Facebook, etc.) to OTT devices (Roku, Fire, etc.), demand for across-the-board compatibility will jumpstart widespread adoption.

And at a time when more than 50% of multimedia is being watched on mobile devices, there’s no time like the present to introduce a more efficient solution to our storage woes.

2. Save Space in Camera Roll

That dreadful feeling of reaching maximum capacity on your phone.

If you’re a prolific smartphone user, you know how it feels to approach maximum capacity and be forced to choose between your apps or your wedding photos. Since cameras are constantly getting upgraded with every update, photo and video sizes have increased as a result, with some professional photos going up to 20Mbs nowadays.

HEVC is the next generation compression standard that promises either higher-resolution video at current file sizes or same-resolution video at half of current file sizes, with users already measuring 40-50% increases in efficiency. What this means is videos stored within iPhones and iPads will now only require a fraction of disk space that previous AVC video files occupied. This means more space for other videos and apps.

3. More Live Streaming

Live streaming on mobile devices will grow in popularity when live video platforms support it.

One of the biggest areas for utilizing HEVC video is in live streaming. Just in 2016, live video viewing grew by 81% from the year before, with this year projected to be even higher than that. Whether for personal or business purposes, live video makes up a huge portion of media consumption, mobile or otherwise.

With HEVC, streaming live video from iOS 11 devices will cost significantly reduced bitrates compared to current bandwidth requirements. That or higher quality video can be achieved without having to consume more bandwidth in the process. This is quite huge - lower upload data requirements means your audience won’t need to spend exorbitant amounts of data to view a pristine-quality live video, resulting in a smoother and better viewing experience overall. And according to Livestream, 67% of viewers say quality is the single most important factor in retaining interest in a live stream.

Of course, content creators will have to wait for live platforms to support streaming and downloading in HEVC before this will occur. But once they do, we can expect to see more live streams in both personal and commercial uses.

4. Handsets Will Eventually Dominate Video Consumption

Mobile accounts for half of video consumption now, with TV video expected to catch up soon.

In the past year, we’ve seen the ambitious reintroduction of a data plan so ancient, people had considered it an urban legend: the return of the unlimited plan. But while many reveled at the idea of having unlimited browsing power, low-cost data-capped subscriptions are still the de-facto plan for the majority of smartphone users. And when consumers have data caps, they’d rather spend that data on more useful things than streaming video.. like scrolling mindlessly through Facebook!

As CDNs gradually adopt HEVC though, the reduced data costs of watching a YouTube or Netflix video on iOS devices (and eventually all handsets) will drive up video media consumption considerably as people can watch better-quality video while using less data. Where a YouTube video at 1080p would previously require 2Mbps to buffer smoothly, that same video now only costs 1Mbps to get the same exact thing.

Whether this is using cellular data, slow public WiFi networks or any scenario where throughput is limited, HEVC will make video significantly more accessible for everyone. In fact, communications tech giant Ericsson recently forecasted that by 2020, half of TV viewing will be on mobile, and about 7 out of 10 individuals will prefer on-demand video over linear programming. With the injection of HEVC into the realm, this prediction is looking pretty feasible.

5. HEVC > VP9?

This is a bold claim, I know. The VP9 codec benefits from widespread browser, Android and SoC support, not to mention that if you’re on Chrome, it’s what you’re using to get your daily dose of YouTube videos (go to any YouTube video, right-click the player and choose Stats for nerds). Undoubtedly, VP9 is firmly embedded into the codec ecosystem and its successor AV1 will potentially see across-the-board implementation as well.

So will HEVC come out of the smartphone war on top? Most likely, at least in the mobile space. VP9 is only supported on Android devices, while HEVC is supported on iOS and certain Android phones as well. Ultimately, video services will opt for the codec which can maximize the amount of users reached, and HEVC is simply too accessible in the smartphone market to consider an alternative.

But it’s important to note that Apple is playing a dangerous game in the codec war. HEVC is entering a market that already contains 2 separate codecs (AVC & VP9), and the introduction of a third shows that fragmentation in the industry might be imminent. This will shift the burden of compatibility to content providers, who now have to contend with making their hardware and software support all 3. At the same time, VP9 is a royalty-free format while HEVC isn’t. In order for providers to tap into the market of iOS users, they’ll have no choice but to pay royalties because of Apple’s refusal to integrate VP9 into the iOS infrastructure.

Announcement: VUER App Now Supports HEVC Video from Cubes

For iOS monitoring users, we’re happy to announce that the VUER app can now view HEVC video feeds from compatible Cube devices. This will reduce bandwidth use on routers significantly, especially in situations where multiple iOS devices are pulling a feed from Cube.

Additionally, for the future-generation Cube 800 series, HEVC in VUER will drastically reduce the required bandwidth for transporting video in 1440p. Monitor and capture every detail of the shot from anywhere on set with a compatible iPhone or iPad.

Available on:

  • iPhone 7+ and up
  • iPad Pros

Bonus: Live:Air Action HEVC - Coming Soon

Currently, streaming HEVC-compressed content directly to online video platforms isn’t available yet. But luckily, a solution is in the works at Teradek! For content creators dying to go live in the new compression standard, Live:Air Action on iOS 11 will soon allow streaming in HEVC to supported destinations.

Since not many platforms can do this, users can stream directly to a Teradek Core account. Core is a cloud-based encoder management service that offers a number of important features, most notably transcoding HEVC to AVC (H.264). Once the feed is pushing to Core, it can be transcoded to AVC and distributed to any destination (or multiple destinations - a Core feature).

The purpose behind this application is to stream a high-quality video feed while only needing half of AVC bandwidth requirements. Core transcoding acts as a middle ground where it can be converted to a format compatible in all major video platforms but cost users no additional bandwidth.

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