YouTube for Android restricts maximum video streaming quality to 480p in India
COVID-19 has affected the world in more ways than one. Within the narrow scope of the smartphone and related tech industry, the pandemic has caused widespread supply chain disruptions as well as led to cancellations to major events such as MWC 2020 and Google I/O 2020. Further, the health advisories issued because of the pandemic have led to a heavy load on the internet infrastructure, as more people are turning towards the Internet to beat the boredom that comes along with staying indoors for a long period of time. Consequently, streaming services had decided to lower their quality proactively to ensure that the infrastructure does not collapse. Within this context, YouTube had mentioned that it would set 480p as the default quality for its videos while giving users a choice to switch to higher resolutions. Now, we are learning that YouTube for Android has restricted its maximum video quality to 480p in some parts of India.
We noticed that YouTube for Android had begun limiting the maximum video quality for playback to 480p for some of us in India. This restriction came into play even on videos that were uploaded in resolutions as high as 4K and which were previously playable in these qualities.
These restrictions appear to be rolling out regionally, with most reports centering in Mumbai and Delhi, while cities like Bangalore and areas of Gujarat, so far appear to be free of these restrictions (though these may very well get the same restrictions in the coming hours and days). The restrictions are in place irrespective of your internet connection and its quality, so it does not matter whether you are on mobile data (4G LTE) or on Wi-Fi. The ceiling is apparently in place for YouTube Premium users too.
Meanwhile, videos on YouTube on desktop appear to be unaffected, even starting off on a decently high 1080p by default on the same network.
YouTube has not yet communicated anything on these new restrictions. A maximum ceiling of 480p Standard Definition appears to be rather harsh, and 720p would have been a much more pleasant middle-ground. While we understand that the step taken is likely in the interest of the general public and to alleviate the avoidable load on the internet infrastructure, we do feel that 480p is just too low to be considered a feasible maximum for pleasant user experience. Since YouTube did not communicate this change to creators or viewers, viewers are blaming creators for uploading videos in Standard Definition. Note, YouTube had communicated only an intention to change the default quality to 480p with an option to jump higher, but this unannounced change removes all higher qualities entirely.
We hope YouTube becomes more proactive in its communication, and that it considers raising the hard limit to at least 720p.