If you’re the sort of person who is always tinkering with settings to make sure you’re streaming in the highest possible quality – you’re in luck. Fans have long called on Google to remove the automatic limits on quality found in the YouTube app for smartphones and tablets. Until now, YouTube has restricted the streaming quality based on the resolution of the device you’re using to watch.
So, if your Android smartphone only has a 720p screen, YouTube will only offer streaming quality of 720p or more. Meanwhile, you’ll be able to stream the same video on your laptop or desktop PC as high as 4K Ultra HD quality (regardless of how many pixels are packed into your computer screen!). But why do YouTube fans want to be able to watch at higher resolutions than their screens support?
Well, the simple answer is that video compression, which YouTube aggressively employs across the board to ensure that you won’t gobble through an entire month’s allowance of 4G data when watching a single video on-the-go, means you’re rarely watching the advertised streaming quality. While a 1080p Blu-Ray disc is crisp, colourful, and razor-sharp… you’re unlikely to get the same look from a 1080p YouTube stream of the same footage.
This issue is only aggravated by incompatible aspect ratios that force you pinch-to-zoom to fill your smartphone or tablet screen with the video.
In a nutshell, even if your smartphone screen can’t display native 4K resolution footage …playing a highly-compressed 4K stream from YouTube will look noticeably sharper than its 720p counterpart. You’ll need to be careful when playing higher resolution files on your mobile data connection as it will use more 4G or 5G than a lower resolution file. So, if you’ve only got a meagre mobile data allowance every month, be careful.
After calling for YouTube to make the change for years, users on social news site Reddit noticed the change in the Android app. According to users, smartphones like the Pixel 5, which only has a Full HD display equipped and would previously have topped-out at 1080p are now capable of streaming 4K (2160p60) within the YouTube app.
Unfortunately, the change doesn’t appear to be universal quite yet. While reports are growing on Reddit, Express.co.uk has not seen the update in our own apps, so it seems likely Google is running a trial roll out for the moment.
Fingers crossed, the change starts to become more widespread in the coming weeks and months.