[Update: Screenshot] YouTube 15.12.33 prepares to add video quality preferences on Android

[Update: Screenshot] YouTube 15.12.33 prepares to add video quality preferences on Android

Update (3/25/20 @ 2:20 PM ET): A screenshot reveals what YouTube’s upcoming default video quality preferences will look like.

YouTube is by far the most popular video streaming service around the world. Because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, people have been generally advised to stay at home as much as possible. Naturally, this has caused a spike in the consumption of videos and related media content to beat the boredom that comes along. This, coupled with the increased internet usage as the world turns to digital solutions even more, has led to an unprecedented load on the internet infrastructure in many regions. While the internet infrastructure has largely held up so far, such casual-category consumption can be deprioritized to ensure that the infrastructure does not collapse in these circumstances. YouTube just announced that it would limit default video quality across the world to 480p for the next one month in an effort to ease internet traffic. Now, we have also found evidence that suggests YouTube is working on allowing users to set their preferred default video quality on the Android app.

An APK teardown can often predict features that may arrive in a future update of an application, but it is possible that any of the features we mention here may not make it in a future release. This is because these features are currently unimplemented in the live build and may be pulled at any time by the developers in a future build.

Currently, on YouTube for Android, you can only change the video quality on a per-video basis while you are watching the video. You can also choose to restrict high-quality streaming for when you are on Wi-Fi. The recent 480p limitation applies as the default setting for playback, but YouTube had also mentioned that it will allow users to watch in HD if they want to, but they will have to consciously make this choice. It was naturally presumed that this choice would be on a per-video level, as that would be enough of an effort to undertake for every single video consumed, which would have effectively dissuaded users from switching to a higher quality.

However, YouTube for Android v15.12.33 has added a new activity for a new setting page pertaining to video quality preferences, which suggests that users would be able to change the default video quality too.

<string name="persistent_settings_video_quality_title">Video quality preferences</string>
<string name="persistent_video_quality_auto_description">Adjusts to give you the best experience for your conditions</string>
<string name="persistent_video_quality_auto_label">Auto (recommended)</string>
<string name="persistent_video_quality_high_description">Uses more data</string>
<string name="persistent_video_quality_high_label">Higher picture quality</string>
<string name="persistent_video_quality_intro_description">Select your default streaming quality for all videos. You can change streaming quality in player options for single videos.</string>
<string name="persistent_video_quality_intro_heading">Video quality preferences <b>(BETA)</b></string>
<string name="persistent_video_quality_low_description">Lower picture quality</string>
<string name="persistent_video_quality_low_label">Data saver</string>
<string name="persistent_video_quality_mobile_network_heading">VIDEO QUALITY ON MOBILE NETWORKS</string>
<string name="persistent_video_quality_wifi_heading">VIDEO QUALITY ON WI-FI</string>
<string name="pref_settings_video_quality">Video quality preferences <b>(BETA)</b></string>

While this possible change makes sense in terms of choice, it is perplexing within the context of our extraordinary conditions. Users do deserve the option to choose better quality for themselves, and ordinarily, we would have stood by this choice. But such a possible change at this moment would defeat the very purpose of the 480p quality limitation. We do not have information on the qualities that would be presented to the user to choose, so we hope that the qualities are restricted on the upper end as this would be a mere minor inconvenience in light of our extraordinary circumstances.


Update: Screenshot

Jane Manchun Wong, reverse engineer extraordinaire, has shared a screenshot of YouTube’s upcoming default video quality preferences. The “Video quality preferences” section is clearly labeled as “BETA” and the description reads: “Select your default streaming quality for all videos. You can change streaming quality in player options for single videos.” Users can choose a default quality for mobile networks and on Wi-Fi. The options include Auto, “Higher picture quality,” and Data saver.