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The h.265 codec is finally complete, here's why it's going to matter to you

A new codec is about to come to a connected device near you, and it's called h.265. Here's why it matters and why you should be excited if you watch video.
January 28, 2013

Whether you like it or not, smartphones are only getting bigger and bigger with time. This has caused an explosion of video consumption while on the go. I’ve witnessed this first hand while using the public transportation systems in Singapore, Malaysia, and Taiwan. Being surrounded by people watching video made me want to be part of the in crowd, so I bought myself a Note II while in Kuala Lumpur. But enough about me, let’s focus on video itself.

We’ve made great advances with compression technology. You can easily squeeze a DVD quality film onto a CD-R that holds only 700 MB. Then 1080p happened. You can put a 1080p rip on a phone, but it’s going to eat up almost 5 GB. Some crazy people are going to want to stream that over a wireless network, so programmers had to come up with something new. Enter h.265, which is the sequel to the h.264 standard that pretty much every phone on the market supports.

With h.265, you get comparable quality at half the file size. That 700 MB DVD rip turns into a 350 MB file. That 5 GB 1080p rip turns into a 2.5 GB file. You get the idea. With storage becoming cheaper and cheaper, why invent a new codec? Because Ultra HD is coming. We’ve yet to see how big an Ultra HD rip is going to be, but let’s do some basic math. UHD has 4x the number of pixels as HD, so quadrupling that 5 GB file turns into 20 GB. If you could shrink that by half, you can see how it helps.

What are you going to have to do to watch h.265 video? The codec has finally been approved by the ITU, but sadly, you’re going to need a new phone. Video is something that normally has dedicated hardware for decoding and encoding. You can use a software decoder, but anyone who has done that will tell you that battery life goes to hell.

When are we going to see content appear in h.265? That’s a great question. Stay tuned!