YouTube on Android finally supports 4K HDR, just like iOS

YouTube Premium on a Galaxy S9
YouTube Premium on a Galaxy S9 (Image credit: Joe Maring / Android Central)

What you need to know

  • Google has rolled out an update to the YouTube app that brings more resolution options.
  • The app now supports up to 4K HDR on mobile.
  • A similar update came to iPhone 11 devices back in 2019.

Currently, when playing back YouTube videos on Android, users have the option of streaming up to 1080p, or Full HD content. This works for most phones as, barring a minority, 1080p is essentially the new standard resolution on all the best smartphones. Streaming 2160p, or 4K, will end up downloading larger file sizes and burning through your data needlessly if your phone can't natively display it. Now, users will have the freedom to choose it anyway.

Spotted this week by the folks over at XDA Developers, Google is bringing new streaming options to YouTube on Android phones and tablets. The company has enabled, via a server-side update, extended resolution options when playing videos on mobile. This means that phones with 1080p or 720p screens can now play back videos uploaded in higher resolutions of up to 4K. This also extends to HDR content.

Of course, as we already noted, your phone won't actually display 4K even if you do select a higher resolution since your device isn't built to handle it. Despite that, a higher-res video played back on a lower-res display does mean that users will still be getting clearer image quality despite not being able to take full advantage of the boost in resolution (you can check out this explainer on the topic). Google brought HDR to iOS in 2019 and 4K with iOS 14, so it's been well-overdue making its way to Android.

You don't have to do anything special to get this working. As it's a server-side update, just checking the resolution option to see if you have up to 2160p is all you really need to do.

Michael Allison