Netflix will be increasing video compression—so what about Apple?

In most cases, that'll result in smaller file sizes that give customers more video for their bandwidth buck. So, why don't we already have that, especially for download services like iTunes where we could also save on storage? Don Melton, explains:

Netflix is talking about the bitrates for their 1080p videos soon being as low 2000 Kbps for the simple stuff. That's down from the 4300-5800 Kbps range they're using now. And I'm sure they can do that on the low end without any perceivable loss of quality while streaming.But can Apple and Amazon sell 1080p videos — averaging about 5000 Kbps now — at bitrates as low as 2000 Kbps — less than half that average size — without a perceived loss of value?I don't know. It's hard to predict because consumers… well… we're f*****g stupid.

Sadly, Don's speaking truth. For years, media and customers were obsessed with megapixel count in cameras, resulting in high numbers on shredded sensors and generations of compromised photos. Likewise music, where reporting and purchasing was based on bitrate with little no regard for the codecs and respective advantages thereof.

Would reviewers and customers appreciate the value of lower-sized video downloads? Probably not, but I bet Apple could either sell us on the advantages, or weather "the f*****g stupidity" long enough for us to come to understand the value.

(Don went into far more detail on the latest episode of his podcast (opens in new tab), co-hosted by yours truly.)

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

  • "Whether", not "weather"! Sent from the iMore App
  • Nope. Weather is correct, as in weather the storm.
  • Yes Rene is correct. Sent from the iMore App
  • It's technically correct, but awkward wording.
  • ^ Wrong.
  • I really hope this does improve some of their compression near black - because sometimes it can be downright hideous. Very nice to hear. Also hope it doesn't create a discernable difference in to the areas that are to be more compressed, but it sounds like they know what they are doing. I'd personally be fine with an overall increase in bitrate. My internet can handle it and my EF9500 would appreciate it ;)
  • They are dropping the quality not improving it. What will improve is download speed. I suppose if you have a very large screened TV set, you might not appreciate what they are doing at all. But maybe they have a very smart plan on how to do it so that it still doesn't show. Posted via the iMore App
  • A question more worth asking is when will Netflix offer offline viewing... Until they do, the stream-only service isn't really all that comparable to Apple or Amazon, except for slow-holiday-news-time blog postings ;-)
  • I like this idea. I personally still buy physical disks and buy the version with the electronic copy for download from iTunes. The copy I download is typically 4GB which is totally unnecessary. Most of videos in my library are about 800MB - 1.2GB which is more than adequate for streaming through my house or using on my iPad. The huge files are for the most part not needed.
  • Yep. I see the same thing on my videos. Doesn't make sense. Sent from the iMore App
  • For non hd, 800mb files are good on average.
    But i dont want SD movies, i want hd, and that low of file size dont cut it Sent from the iMore App
  • In the world of the cloud I don't understand why this should be looked at as a good thing. I want the best quality product possible. I don't care if the file is large as it streams in real time or gets deleted after use. It's worrying that with one hat on they (Netflix) are selling 4K streaming but on the other looking at reducing std hd stuff.
  • Because many of us have data caps on our internet.
  • Well, honestly, too bad. It is ridiculous for them to drop quality on everyone, to placate people and ISP's. We buy large 4K sets for the ultimate quality and for me, this crap will only force me to buy more physical media. Sent from the iMore App
  • You want ultimate 4K quality and honestly think Netflix is the place to get it?
  • That's completely NOT what I said. What I said was, we buy 4K sets for the ultimate picture quality, so degrading that with overcompression, will drive me to purchase more physical media. I never claimed that 4K Netflix was the be all end all of picture quality, although in its present form, it's quite good.
  • With more in-house compression, Netflix will save on CDN costs, as will consumers whose ISPs are trying to screw them on data usage.
  • Can't we have our choice like we do with music...? Stream a bigger file if I'm going to watch it on my 65" TV and a smaller one when watching it on an iPhone...? Sent from the iMore App
  • Good idea. Sent from the iMore App
  • You can already do this. Unfortunately you can only do it on their website through a desktop browser. I have a profile titled "mobile" for use with my phone or whatever when I need to have a lower bandwidth sent to me. Otherwise Netflix just detects the highest quality your connection can handle and sends it to you.
  • I agree. Why not allow the client the option. If they're at home on fast internet with no bandwidth cap, give them good quality. If they're on a phone, let them choose lower quality with more compression. I would actually prefer they do device detection and base their quality on this and then allow the consumer the option to turn this off an choose their quality. Win Win.
  • way to keep it classy, oh, never mind!
  • Why wouldn't they use vbr or h.265? Sent from the iMore App
  • Double posted, whoops
  • This is hilarious. Companies aren't doing this to help consumers, they're doing it to save themselves money in the long run. But sure, Rene, go ahead and paint consumers as stupid for wanting the content they are paying for. You have different priorities than others when it comes to watching movies, that's cool. But please don't make coverage about this issue about how you think the people with different priorities are stupid.
  • Trouble with "perceived quality" is that it can't stand up to the real thing. The comparison is to the current gold standard- a physical Blue Ray disk. How much quality would be sacrificed in favor of compression? Sent from the iMore App
  • Netflix already looks like garbage for their 4k content. Hopefully they are going to reduce bitrate just for people on the cheap plans and people with the 4k plan they can increase bitrates? Just a thought in their business strategy and the possibility to get people to sub to the 4k package
  • They should be going in he opposite direction entirely. 5mbit is way too low for anything. Blu-Ray is 20-40mbit - that's what Netflix should be aiming for.
  • What about x265 encoding?
  • No one is jumping on h265 wagon because the **** license it's to expensive.
  • This is why I am using a streaming service. iTunes music files are nearly at lossless file sizes. Instead of taking advantages of mp4's excellent low bitrate quality. They up the bitrate needlessly. In most cases. 128. Or just a littler higher than 128 is imperceptible or nearly imperceptible vs the master. Same with ogg vorbis. It also has great low bitrate performance.