AV1 is the next-generation video codec developed by the Alliance for open Media, with advanced compression technology and a royalty-free model. Just like most video codecs, battery-efficient playback depends on hardware encoding support, which isn’t too common yet with AV1. Thankfully, that could finally change soon, as Qualcomm is reportedly planning to add AV1 support in future Snapdragon chips.
Protocol reports that Qualcomm is planning to add native AV1 decoding to its “upcoming flagship Snapdragon mobile processor,” according to industry sources. The chip has an internal codename of SM8550, which lines up with the model numbers of other Snapdragon 8-series chipsets — the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 is SM8450, last year’s Snapdragon 888 was SM8350, and so on. Protocol also says the chip is expected “at the end of this year at the earliest,” which lines up with Qualcomm’s usual release cycle for its top-end mobile chips.
AV1 video can already be played on many Android devices with software decoding, but hardware-accelerated decoding significantly improves battery life and playback performance. Qualcomm is also relatively late to the party — MediaTek’s first chipset with AV1 hardware decoding was the Dimensity 1000 in 2020. The Samsung Exynos 2200 chipset found in some Galaxy S22 phones also supports AV1 decoding, as well as Intel’s Gen12 integrated graphics found in Tiger Lake and Rocket Lake processors.
Netflix, YouTube, and other video platforms have started using AV1 video wherever possible, since it reduces bandwidth requirements for both the content provider and end user. Netflix started using AV1 video on the PlayStation 4 Pro and select TVs back in November, Google Chrome added a built-in AV1 decoder almost a year ago. As early as February 2020, Netflix was using AV1 for some shows and films in its Android app to reduce cellular data usage.
Hardware decoding support for AV1 in Snapdragon chipests will likely increase the popularity of AV1, and might push any remaining holdouts (coughApplecough) to also implement hardware decoding. Here’s hoping AV1 continues to knock H.265/HEVC down a peg — royalty payments for media codecs are so 1995.