OnQ Blog

4K Ultra HD is coming to mobile devices. Are you ready?

Jan 12, 2015

Qualcomm products mentioned within this post are offered by Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. and/or its subsidiaries.

Walk down the television aisle of a major electronics store and you’ll quickly notice that 4K Ultra High Definition is the hottest technology of the year. Top of the line 4K televisions feature razor sharp picture quality with four times the resolution of the 1080p HD TV many people have in their living rooms. By 2018, Qualcomm estimates more than 500 million 4K-enabled smartphones will ship. As a video content distributor or mobile device manufacturer, you might be wondering what you need to take advantage of this trend. I’ll break it down for you.

You Need a Better Display
There are a few 4K televisions available, but mobile devices have actually been leading the charge beyond 1080p with many affordable devices featuring 1440p or higher resolution displays. The Amazon Kindle Fire 8.9 HDX, LG G3, and Samsung Galaxy Note 4 are just a few examples of devices with displays well above 1080p. Some Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ powered devices can even output 4K Ultra HD video using an MHL 3.0 adapter with a 4K TV. The Snapdragon 810 processor has plenty of power to drive a 4K display. You can see this in action in our recent demo using a prototype adapter.

You Need a Better Codec
Though wildly popular, the H.264 codec is not the best option to deliver 4K pixels. The new H.265, or High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC), compression standard was created to ensure that devices would have the storage and bandwidth necessary for feature length, 4K movies. Many Snapdragon processors can now play HEVC videos. Snapdragon 810 can go all the way up to 4K Ultra HD HEVC video.

You Need a Better Standard
DVD and Blu-Ray can’t handle Ultra HD or HEVC. So a consortium of companies formed the Secure Content Storage Association (SCSA) to standardize a new format for encoding and delivering truly 4K resolution movies, which you’ll want to use if you’re developing 4K video content. A collection of SCSA movies can be stored on a single hard drive or SD card. The SCSA has defined the security and video profiles needed for 4K movies. The first 4K SCSA titles just recently became available to consumers late in 2014. Snapdragon 810 is the first processor available from Qualcomm Technologies that supports the SCSA standard.

You Need Better Software
A new video format needs a new video player and Saffron Digital has the solution. Saffron Digital has supplied a demonstration version of an SCSA compliant media player suitable for Android devices. The demo app properly parses SCSA video files and proves that Android tablets can play the same 4K movies as SCSA televisions. The Saffron Digital media player is fully compatible with the Snapdragon 810 processor.

You Need Better Movies
20th Century Fox was quick to leverage the new SCSA standard to release some of the first Ultra HD movies available for purchase. Several titles are currently available. They range from classics like Edward Scissorhands to modern hits like The Other Woman and X-Men: Days of Future Past. Each movie is available in several resolutions from H.264 HD to HEVC 4K.

You Need to See It to Believe It
Last week at International CES in Las Vegas. Qualcomm demonstrated a Snapdragon 810 powered tablet running a Saffron Digital app, playing SCSA movies from 20th Century Fox on a 4K resolution display. The stunning Ultra HD movies were shown on an Android tablet and were more than some watered-down, mobile versions of these great movies. They were the exact same, 4K HEVC videos consumers purchase for their living room. The movies are packaged in the exact same SCSA media file format that is commercially available today

Next Steps
If you are designing an Ultra HD mobile device or set-top box, consider the Snapdragon 810 processor with SCSA support for the best Ultra HD movies available. If you’re a video content distributor and need access to this processor, take a look at the Snapdragon 810 Mobile Development Platform to develop, optimize and test your software.

Opinions expressed in the content posted here are the personal opinions of the original authors, and do not necessarily reflect those of Qualcomm Incorporated or its subsidiaries ("Qualcomm"). Qualcomm products mentioned within this post are offered by Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. and/or its subsidiaries. The content is provided for informational purposes only and is not meant to be an endorsement or representation by Qualcomm or any other party. This site may also provide links or references to non-Qualcomm sites and resources. Qualcomm makes no representations, warranties, or other commitments whatsoever about any non-Qualcomm sites or third-party resources that may be referenced, accessible from, or linked to this site.

William Frantz