Update (9/11): As we recently reported, a select few smartphones started getting YouTube HDR playback support, but Google’s very own Pixel and Pixel XL were missing from that list. That’s because the Pixel duo does not have the necessary hardware acceleration. Or so we thought. It turns out, you can still watch YouTube videos in HDR on your Pixel device thanks to Google’s software decoder. As Google explains to Android Police, the company is “using a highly optimized software decoder and custom rendering stack, and [was] able to extend support to Pixel devices. Next generation mobile devices with hardware acceleration will perform even better.” It’s worth pointing out that because there are so many HDR standards across various video services and apps, this does not mean your Pixel phone will be able to play videos in HDR on sites like Netflix and Amazon. However, it sounds like second-generation Pixel phones will feature hardware HDR support, which should broaden your options.  

Previous (9/8): As far as looks are concerned, the Samsung Galaxy S8 and Sony Xperia XZ Premium could not be any more different from each other. Even with that difference, however, both devices feature HDR-capable displays, and you can now include YouTube as another app that takes advantage of their displays.

When viewing HDR content through YouTube on either device, you should now see HDR when you try to manually change the video resolution. Speaking of which, the maximum resolution currently sits at 1080p, even when playing 4K content. Even so, the content should still look nice and sharp on the Galaxy S8’s, Galaxy S8 Plus’, and Xperia XZ Premium’s displays.

As for whether HDR is worth having on phones, it is a bit of a toss-up. HDR content tends to be brighter with better contrast and a wider color gamut, all of which are pleasing to the eyes. However, because multiple phones use different HDR standards, things can get a bit confusing when it comes to support.

See also:
Three more devices get Netflix HDR playback support

Three more devices get Netflix HDR playback support

3 weeks ago

For example, Netflix HDR playback is available on the Galaxy Note 8, LG V30, LG G6, Xperia XZ1, and Xperia XZ Premium, but not the Galaxy S8, Galaxy S8 Plus, and Galaxy Tab S3. Samsung teamed up with Amazon to announce an HDR standard, but Amazon Prime Video currently does not offer HDR playback on smartphones. Google Play Movies & TV also offers HDR content, but you can only watch it on a supported TV monitor, not a smartphone display.

In other words, there does not yet appear to be universal support for HDR because there are so many HDR standards and because different companies opt for different standards. Even so, it should only be a matter of time until YouTube HDR playback arrives on more HDR-capable smartphones.

Williams Pelegrin
Having written news articles on video games for several years, Williams shifted his focus to mobile technology. From 2014 through the first quarter of 2017, he wrote for Digital Trends before joining the Android Authority squad. Make him feel welcome on Twitter and you might see a bit of happiness head your way (or articles, whichever comes first).