Most streaming platforms offer different playback qualities to their users. These have settings in the respective apps, but companies also limit aspects such as resolution or HDR to very select Android mobiles. How do you know which ones are compatible with the highest quality? We show you a little trick to find out.
The mobile not only offers access to messaging and games, watching movies and series is usually one of the ways to take advantage of the increasingly large screens. And Netflix is usually one of the most used, also other platforms such as Amazon Prime Video or Disney +: all offer a more or less bulky catalog that can be viewed in different qualities. As is often the case, not all mobiles can access the best playback conditions. But do you know why and how to find out if your mobile is suitable? The key is Widevine, a file protection system or DRM.
Widevine, the DRM that dictates playback quality
It is one of the key aspects of any Android mobile and the first thing you should look at to know whether or not your mobile can play streaming content at high resolution. Widevine is a protection or DRM system that ensures the reproduction of protected content to avoid copying and that can be shared. In Android most platforms use this system. And manufacturers certify their phones with Widevine so that we can access streaming applications.
One of the key aspects of Widevine DRM is that this divides devices into two levels for their playability: L1 and L3 (Widevine is L2 level, but not used on Android.) In terms of resolution, this is how both certifications work:
- Those mobiles certified with Widevine L3 They will have access to playback on Netflix, Disney + or Amazon Prime Video up to a maximum of SD resolution (standard or basic, up to 720p).
- Widevine L1 enables high resolution playback, above 720p. The decoding process is more demanding than Widevine L3, which is why many mid-range to lower-end mobiles are not certified for the higher level (the reason is often attributed to the contained hardware). In addition, having a Widevine L1 certified mobile means that it is also compatible with the lower level, L3.
Having a phone with Widevine L3 or L1 makes a notable difference since the quality of the reproduction differs greatly from one to the other. It does not matter that your mobile has an FHD screen if it is certified with Widevine L3: Netflix, Disney +, Amazon Prime Video and the rest of the usual platforms they will only download the SD version of the streaming; so you may see the content somewhat pixelated.
Even if your mobile has a high resolution screen, if your mobile has Widevine L3 you will see Netflix in SD
How do you know which Widevine level your mobile includes? You can check it as follows:
- Download an app that can read the DRM certification. For example, DevCheck Hardware and System Info. This app offers a multitude of information with everything that your Android carries, both in hardware and software.
- Open the application and go to the 'System' tab.
- Go down to where it says 'Widevine' and look at the security level, 'Security level'. There it will appear if you have L1 or L3. In the event that your mobile does not have Widevine certification, that part should appear blank.
With Widevine you can access content in SD or HD resolution, depending on the level of security in the DRM. And if your mobile does not incorporate any certification, as is the case with cooked ROMs, maybe a Magisk module will help you, like this one from XDA Developers. You need ROOT access.
Can your mobile play Netflix in HDR?
Apart from the resolution, which marks a fundamental aspect in the quality of any video, Netflix offers HDR playback to only a few phones. And here it does not matter that your mobile has a screen compatible with HDR standards: Netflix will only play that way if the phone is certified by the platform for it.
To know which mobiles are compatible with Netflix in HDR you need an officially compatible one. The list is immense, just take a look at this official Netflix page to find out.
Meeting the requirements does not imply the highest quality
Ok, your mobile is compatible with Widevine L1. It's even certified to play HDR content. Now, are you always going to access the streaming available with the highest quality? The answer is no, as other factors also come into play.
In addition to compatibility with reproduction standards and certificates, streaming depends on the quality of your network, whether it is WiFi or mobile. In this way, if your Internet connection is saturated, surely you can only access the playback in SD. You will even appreciate terribly pixelated scenes with drops in frames, against that you can't do anything.