Why Smartphones are the Initial Products on HEVC Rollout Timeline

Nearly three years since the first HEVC smartphone was launched, the mobile phone industry is driving the high volumes of devices that operate with HEVC/H.265. You might not know it given all the focus on HEVC’s enabling of UHD products and services.

The mobile industry moves a lot more smartphones than the consumer electronics industry moves TVs. To date, Apple’s iPhones 6/6S and iPhone 6/6S Plus natively support HEVC for Facetime; Google’s operating systems, Android 5.0 and above include native HEVC support; and mobile chip makers such as Qualcomm, MediaTek, Intel and Samsung all include HEVC support in their latest products. DTC estimated there were over 313 million HEVC mobile handsets shipped in 2015, and forecasts that number growing to 1.5 billion by 2020.

Why is the pace of HEVC adoption in mobile handsets faster than any other consumer electronics device? Here are the main reasons:

First, the replacement rate on phones is much faster than other consumer electronics. Consumers might not upgrade their TVs or set-top boxes every two years but many do with phones. The average replacement time for TVs is about seven years. Of course, this drives quicker implementation of advance technology in the products.

Second and the most important, HEVC, in general, improves the overall mobile video experience. HEVC can deliver a higher quality picture at the same bit rates used for the same level of quality for an AVC encoded program with less bandwidth. Compared to AVC, HEVC uses about 30% less bandwidth.

Given today’s increasing appetite for viewing video on the go, consumers will gravitate more and more to watching videos from smartphones as the expense of digital video delivery over mobile networks is reduced. Several mobile wireless carriers are testing out the concept of offering a limited amount of video over their networks without charging consumers against their data plans. Verizon first launched a new mobile video service go90 in early October to target a younger demographic who spends more time watching video on their phones than with traditional TV. T-Mobile recently introduced Binge On service that allows its qualified consumers to stream unlimited lower-quality video from services like Netflix, HBO NOW, Hulu and others without charges against their data plans. And Sprint and AT&T likely will follow as well. However, so far if customers want to stream high-quality Video through any of these services, they have to use their data plans.

So far, we know that mobile providers must conserve bandwidth to effectively deliver a quality mobile video experience. More efficient video compression, which is accomplished in part with HEVC coding, would help drive the mobile video wave further. If the mobile industry wants to be the next primary video provider to consumers, they must solve their infrastructure capacity problem. They also must figure out how to get their customers to pay them a little bit more to watch high-technical quality Netflix video wherever and whenever their customers happen to be.