Enjoy HEVC/ H.265 Video Playback on Android

H.265/HEVC comes as the successor to H.264/AVC which tries to offer the same level of picture quality as AVC, but with better compression. It becomes gradually the standard codec for 4K videos and camera video recording, so people start to love it, yet it is far from what I could normally call popular format for Android.

Even in such conditions, be sure of the fact that it is possible to watch H.265 videos on Android phones and here I am to guide you. Videos in HEVC format are therefore compressed, so they have to be decoded. Decoding can be done by the CPU of the device or by using a special chip, therefore we are talking about a certain processing power that not all handsets might have.

Android handsets manufactured after 2011 feature some sort of a hardware AVC decoder, but things are much newer for the HEVC standard. models produced before 2014 do not have an HEVC decoding chip. So, in order to find out if your device supports hardware HEVC decoding, don’t hesitate to give a try to an app that displays codec information such as Media Codec Info.

HEVC software decoding can be now done with the help of FFmpeg. This is normally found pre-installed on custom ROMs like LineageOS. It is implemented as an OMX decoding plugin for Android’s MediaCodec and it enables decoding of a big number of media formats that are officially considered unsupported by Android.

Despite of the fact that the FFmpeg implementation packs support for HEVC decoding, I must also warn you that it is sometimes disabled in favor of Google’s Software Decoder on newer ROMs. After all, Google advertises HEVC as a supported media format on Android from version 5.0. Support is available through Google’s software decoding implementation. The only issue is that software decoder is not guaranteed by Google to be available on all devices running Android 5.x and up.