Apple could finally make its devices compatible with the AV1 free video codec

Open and free (no royalty), the AV1 video codec should arrive soon in Apple devices with software support. It is increasingly integrated into services like YouTube or Netflix.

When Apple announced the new M2 SoC, video streaming specialists looked closely at the hardware encoding and decoding characteristics. If the support for the ProRes, H.264 (AVC) and H.265 (HEVC) codecs represent an asset, Apple still ignores the hardware management of the AV1 codec. But the manufacturer could soon offer a software solution. Our colleagues from Neowin have discovered the arrival of a new variable in the documentation of audio/video libraries intended for developers. This kCMVideoCodecType_AV1 variable indicates that Apple plans to use the AV1 codec in iOS, iPadOS, macOS, tvOS, and watchOS.

(c) Apple

This would be a significant step forward for this free and open codec which promises better performance than its rival HEVC. It has been developed since 2018 by the Alliance for Open Media (AOM) consortium, which includes major players such as Microsoft, Google, Netflix and… Apple. In addition, this codec is increasingly used by Netflix and YouTube. It is supported by most browsers (Edge, Chrome, Firefox, Opera), except Safari.

On the hardware side, Intel has just announced AV1 hardware encoding and decoding on its Arc GPUs.

Note that hardware decoding is supported on Nvidia GeForce RTX 30 and AMD Radeon RX 6000 graphics cards, as well as with Xe GPUs of eleventh and twelfth generation Intel Core processors. Finally, Mozilla has just announced support for AV1 hardware acceleration in the Firefox browser, starting with version 100.

In short, Apple is one of the few tech giants to turn a deaf ear to the benefits offered by the AV1 video codec. If a software solution could arrive quickly, we will still have to wait for hardware acceleration. Maybe in a future Soc M2 Pro or M3?

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