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Netflix's upcoming HDR toggle might save your movie experience (APK teardown)

This could make Netflix a more pleasant experience on Samsung phones in particular.
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Published onMay 30, 2024

Netflix logo on smartphone stock photo (1)
Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority
TL;DR
  • Netflix for Android could gain an HDR toggle, according to an Android Authority teardown.
  • This would allow you to switch between HDR and SDR video playback on the service.
  • There are several potential benefits to disabling HDR video playback.

Netflix has long offered HDR support on Android phones, giving you a more immersive viewing experience for supported content. What if you don’t want HDR on your device, though? Well, you couldn’t disable this feature up until now. But that could change in a future version of Netflix for Android.

An APK teardown helps predict features that may arrive on a service in the future based on work-in-progress code. However, it is possible that such predicted features may not make it to a public release.

Android Authority and leaker AssembleDebug dug into a recent version of the Netflix app for Android (version 8.117.0 build 3 50695 beta), discovering evidence of an HDR toggle as an experimental setting. This would allow users to choose between an HDR and SDR stream when watching content on their Android devices.

“Android Allow SDR/HDR Stream Selection (sic),” reads the excerpt of one string. “Additional Switch Button To Choice SDR/HDR Streams for Streaming (sic),” reads another string.

Why would an HDR toggle be a welcome feature?

An HDR toggle would possibly alleviate issues that some Samsung users have seen when watching HDR content on Netflix. We reported that the Galaxy S24 Ultra delivers dim picture quality (including dim highlights) when viewing HDR content. By comparison, SDR content looked just fine in our experience. This seems to be the case for several other Samsung phones too. So disabling HDR playback might result in a more pleasant viewing experience for these users.

This would also be handy for people who simply don’t want to be blinded by their phones while watching content on Netflix. We’ve seen several complaints on Reddit from people who are virtually blinded by their screens while watching content in a dark room. The in-app brightness slider might be to blame, but switching to SDR could be one workaround.

There are also a couple of other reasons why you might want to disable HDR playback on Netflix. HDR video playback can be more power-hungry than SDR video. In fact, Microsoft specifically noted that you can’t play HDR video by default on your unplugged laptop as it consumes more power. So this toggle would be handy for people wanting to eke out more juice on their phones. HDR video streaming can also consume 5% to 10% more data than SDR streaming, according to a Dolby executive (h/t: Pocket-Lint). That means there are potential bandwidth savings on offer by switching to SDR video, although this isn’t a given for every platform.

These strings aren’t a guarantee that Netflix will gain an HDR toggle, especially as the button seems to be an experimental setting in the app. But it certainly seems like there are users who might benefit from the ability to disable HDR.

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