Some Pixel owners have noticed over the last couple of monthly updates that their phones have lost Widevine L1 status, falling to L3 and rendering them incapable of playing back some DRM-protected content at high quality. More simply, that means they can't play HD content in apps and services like Netflix. By far the majority of devices are not affected and the cause isn't immediately clear. Google tells us it's aware of these reports and working on a fix, and devices from other manufactures may also be affected.
Some folks using the new ASUS ROG Phone 3 are having issues playing back HD content in certain apps like Netflix. The cause, as some of our more savvy readers might expect, is an issue with Android's Widevine DRM system, with some phone owners reporting that their L1 Widevine state has been lost, relegating them to standard definition playback. ASUS has now fixed the problem with a software update after initially asking customers to send in their phones to get back HD playback.
Netflix users are probably familiar with the "Smart Downloads" feature that allows your device to automatically pull down the latest episodes of shows you watch, just in case you end up with a hankering for some TNG or Great British Baking Show later when data is harder to come by. Supplementing this existing feature, we've spotted a new "Downloads For You" feature that expands that functionality to shows and movies you haven't watched yet. Paired with that, the Playback Specification diagnostics screen and in-app brightness controls are also rolling out more widely.
Disney, lord and master of almost all entertainment media, will soon grace us with yet another subscription service. It's not taking any chances with you filthy pirates, though. Disney+ will reportedly require the most stringent type of Widevine DRM. So, it might not even work on your device.
It's a bit of a bummer that the OnePlus 7 is only able to stream Netflix at "HD" resolution — that's below the full 1440p resolution of its beautiful display, after all. But if you decide to unlock the bootloader for future root/ROM adventures, then you'll have to make do with just non-HD 480p Netflix streams.
Today's theme seems to be DRM. Security researcher David Buchanan has managed to crack open Widevine L3, one of Google's less secure Widevine DRM implementations used by apps like Netflix and Hulu. Once decrypted, streams using the DRM method can be played back in "plain old ffmpeg" — trivially easily, in other words.
Xiaomi's Pocophone F1 has already made waves in the smartphone industry for being incredibly affordable; a ~$300 phone with a Snapdragon 845 processor is virtually unheard of. Budget phones are inherently going to have some tradeoffs, and a less-obvious one has been discovered: lack of support for Widevine L1 DRM.
OnePlus' phones are a great value, but they've each individually had a few drawbacks. One negative they all had in common, though, was a DRM deficiency. None of the company's handsets supported the correct Widevine level required for HD playback in Netflix. Distress on the subject came to a head late last year, and OnePlus surprisingly announced that it would add the feature in the future. In a comment on OnePlus' forums today the company confirmed that it was now able to update handsets to support it, but the process will require that you physically send the phone back to OnePlus for the update.
The OnePlus 5T is one of our favorite phones at AP. It's a fantastic value, improving on its predecessor without costing a whole lot more. But there is still one unfortunate disadvantage to using one. Like OnePlus' older phones, it doesn't support the correct DRM level for HD playback on services such as Netflix. But OnePlus has promised us that this will be corrected in the future for the OnePlus 5 and 5T.
This May, Netflix started blocking rooted and unlocked devices from downloading the company's app on Google Play. It was an unfortunate restriction that locked out many people and stirred up a lot of anger. Over the last week, some of us at AP have started noticing the app reappearing, even though our devices still don't pass SafetyNet/Google Play device certification.