Google added 4K movies to its library back in late 2016, following the launch of the Chromecast Ultra. Since then, many people — myself included — came to realize that there was one big oversight: It's not possible to upgrade your existing HD movies to 4K. There was no upgrade pricing or even an option to remove a movie from your account and then purchase it again in 4K at full price. As it turns out, that issue will be rectified soon: Google is bringing upgrades to Play Movies, and it looks like they will be free.

Added sorting and layout options

Sorting and layout options

There's another change appearing for the Library tab. Look to the buttons in the action bar and you'll spot the standard icon for settings / filters / sorting options. It will open a dialog containing three options for sorting: Title, Date added, and Year released. Below that are options to view your collection in the standard grid layout or switch to a list view. The grid is a bit more space efficient, but the list includes extra information like the release year and runtime.

If you switch to TV Shows, the same layout options are available, but your sorting options are limited to just Title and Date added.

This change was triggered remotely, so it's possible you may not see it even with the latest version of the app.

  • Thanks:
  • Ray Nassar


Disclaimer: Teardowns are based on evidence found inside of apks (Android's application package) and are necessarily speculative and usually based on incomplete information. It's possible that the guesses made here are wrong or inaccurate. Even when predictions are correct, there is always a chance that products could change or may be canceled. Much like rumors, nothing is certain until it's officially announced and released.

The features discussed below are probably not live yet, or may only be live for a small percentage of users. Unless stated otherwise, don't expect to see these features if you install the apk. All screenshots and images are real unless otherwise stated, and images are only altered to remove personal information.

Free 4K upgrades?

Several new lines of text explicitly state that movies belonging to you have been upgraded to 4K. It should come as no surprise that Play Movies would eventually fix the issue of upgrading movies to the highest possible quality.

However, things get really interesting when you look for anything resembling upgrade pricing, buttons titled "Upgrade," or any other text relating to a cost or taking actions to upgrade your movies. There are none. One line clearly states that a number of your movies have just been upgraded for free, and the others seem to corroborate this phrasing.

<string name="interstitial_upgrade_description">Enjoy this higher quality on any supported 4K device</string>
<string name="interstitial_upgrade_header">%1$d of your movies just got a free upgrade to 4K</string>
<string name="interstitial_upgrade_cta">Check it out</string>
<string name="interstitial_upgrade_skip">Skip</string><string name="filter_upgraded_to_4k">Upgraded to 4K</string><string name="snackbar_message_multiple">%1$s of your movies were upgraded to 4K</string>
<string name="snackbar_message_single">%1$s was upgraded to 4K</string>
<string name="sort_by_upgrade_date">Date Upgraded</string>
<string name="upgraded_to_4k">Upgraded to 4K</string>excerpt from /xml/internal_preferences.xml
<CheckBoxPreference android:title="Enable 4K Upgrade Interstitial" android:key="enable_4k_upgrade_interstitial" android:defaultValue="false"/>

I'm reluctant to predict that all movies will get free upgrades. It's not stated in the text, but there's a fairly good chance that free upgrades would only apply to movies purchased in high definition, not the lower-priced standard definition movies. Apple made a similar offer earlier this year, giving all iTunes purchases of HD movies a free upgrade to 4k, so a move like this wouldn't be unprecedented.

It's also possible that there is still more text to come and upgrade pricing will exist for some movies. This brings up another question: What about SD movies?

While a free upgrade for HD movies wouldn't be surprising, it's less likely that SD movies will be given the same treatment. To that end, the lack of any buttons or text about upgrading those SD movies means that the original problem actually might still remain, but only for those people wanting to upgrade from standard definition. Who knows, maybe Google will surprise everybody and offer free upgrades for everything. We can dream, right?

What's New(-ish)

Unofficial Changelog: (the stuff we found)

  • Library filters [v4.6]

Library filters

Left: v4.5. Center + Right: v4.6.

This is now a somewhat old addition, but there wasn't time to write about it when it happened, and then it fell through the cracks on an Update Notes post, so here it is now. A row of filters was added to the Home tab earlier this year, but it was only good for sorting movies that were available from the store. As of v4.6, a similar set of filters has been added to the Library tab, giving you a little more control.

Strangely, the Unwatched filter shown in the screenshots above seems to be missing as of v4.8. I'm not sure if that applies to everybody... but really? That was easily one of the most useful filters. i'm not sure if Unwatched status was properly tracked or not (I certainly haven't watched all of the movies on my account), which may be the reason for removing the filter, but I'd still like to see this brought back.

excerpt from /xml/internal_preferences.xml
<CheckBoxPreference android:title="Show Unwatched Tag" android:key="library_management_show_unwatched_tag" android:defaultValue="false"/>

There happens to be a setting for the dev team that toggles the unwatched filter. I feel this is a good indicator that the filter was not permanently removed, but may be out of the UI while bugs are fixed.


The APK is signed by Google and upgrades your existing app. The cryptographic signature guarantees that the file is safe to install and was not tampered with in any way. Rather than wait for Google to push this download to your devices, which can take days, download and install it just like any other APK.

Originally posted Oct 12, 2018.