Evidence was found in the code for Apple’s next major round of software updates – including for iOS on phones, iPadOS on tablets, macOS on Macs, and of course tvOS on Apple TV 4K – that Apple will support the AV1 video format from next-gen on your devices in the future.
AV1 has one big advantage: it is more efficient than current video codecs (a ‘codec’ is the algorithm by which a video is encoded for streaming and then decoded for viewing). That means you use less data to stream video at the same quality, or you can use the same amount of data to stream even higher quality video like 8K support without using large amounts of data.
AV1 is used by YouTube for all of its 8K videos, and Netflix has expressed a desire to switch to AV1 for all streaming in the future to reduce bandwidth usage. It is currently not supported on Apple devices.
But as noted by codeworkshop.net (opens in new tab) (through FlatpanelsHD (opens in new tab)), the AVFoundation framework in Apple’s software, which allows developers to tell software which codec a video will use, now includes an AV1 option in tvOS/iOS/iPad 16 beta.
This is a very strong hint that Apple will support AV1 in their upcoming updates, although we have asked Apple for confirmation and will update if the company responds.
Review: Will Apple TV 4K support 8K?
While having AV1 support is great on all devices to reduce data usage when watching videos on the go, or improve streaming quality for those with a poor connection at home, the big question for us is whether the current Apple TV 4K will be capable to support its 8K capabilities, or whether the new Apple TV (2022) will be required to support 8K.
There are two big questions about this. The first is the HDMI port on the current Apple TV 4K. It’s already an HDMI 2.1 port, meaning the connection itself can handle 8K at up to 60fps. Nonetheless, as noted by iMore (opens in new tab), Apple TV 4K doesn’t make full use of the higher bandwidth of HDMI 2.1, which would make 8K impossible as it stands. Think of it this way: the tube is big enough to handle the 8K flow, but the pump isn’t strong enough to fill the tube.
Could Apple update the bomb? The above article is from 2021, but as far as we know, Apple hasn’t done this until now, so it could be that there’s some hardware limitation besides the HDMI port that’s breaking it. Again, we asked Apple to confirm if this would be possible and will update if we receive a response.
The second question is the A12 chip that powers the Apple TV 4K. Apple chips haven’t included hardware decoding support for AV1 in the past, which means there can’t be ultra-fast, ultra-efficient decoding of this type of video running on a dedicated part of the chip. Instead, it will have to be done ‘in software’, which means using the chip’s overall processing power to decode the video.
The Apple A12 chip is nearly four years old, so the concern is whether it has enough power to decode 8K video in real-time.
Those concerns could fit with the main rumor about the new Apple TV set to launch later this year or early next: that its biggest change internally will be a newer A14 processor with more RAM. That might give it AV1 decoding power, and it might also be the processor that retains the ability to make full use of the HDMI 2.1 port.
It might take a while for that to happen, but if you have one of the best 8K TVs and are expecting more support, Apple is at least one step closer to helping you.