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Change iTunes Video Quality on iPhone, Mac and Apple TV

Change iTunes Video Quality on iPhone, Mac and Apple TV

published by Chand Bellur
August 7, 2014 at 6:58 p.m. PST

iTunes offers 1080p video quality, however, not everyone wants to download large video files. This article covers how to change iTunes video quality settings on the iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Apple TV and Mac.

Why Change iTunes Video Quality?

The 1080p video content on iTunes offers remarkable resolution and a high frame rate. Unfortunately, this means you have to download very large files. A 48 minute episode of Breaking Bad is a whopping 1.89 GB at 1080p. Depending on the device you will watch this on, 1080p may be overkill. If you have an Apple TV 2, for instance, it only displays video in 720p. There’s no sense downloading 1080p if you end up watching it on an Apple TV 2.

Many people have limited Internet access. Some have a cap on the amount they can download. Others must pay for each gigabyte of data downloaded. This is common with data plans for the iPhone. If this is the case, you can avoid costly data charges by changing the iTunes video quality setting.

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How to Change iTunes Video Quality on the iPhone

There is no global setting on the iPhone to change video quality. It is possible to do this with iTunes on the Mac, which is covered in this article. Users can adjust the video quality of iTunes Movie Trailers. It is also possible to download an HD purchase from the iTunes store as SD.

iTunes Movie Trailers is not a stock app on the iPhone. It is a free download from the App Store. Once you have it installed, you can adjust video quality by playing back a trailer. Press the SD or HD button to toggle between standard definition and high-definition videos.

adjust video quality for the Trailers app

If you have purchased an HD movie or TV show in iTunes, it is possible to download the SD version on your iOS device. Unfortunately, Apple’s support site presents misleading information on how to do this. This cannot be done from the Downloads screen in the iTunes Store app. Instead, go to the screen which allows you to purchase the movie or show. From here, scroll down to the bottom of the screen and tap on “Also available in SD”.

select SD content from the iTunes Store

You can also do this from the individual episode’s screen. Finally, tap the download button for the movie or TV show. It will download in SD instead of HD.

Unfortunately, you cannot change HD video quality (720p vs. 1080p) directly on your iOS device. This can only be done using iTunes on your Mac or Windows PC. This article covers how to change this setting on the Mac. Changing the HD video quality setting is global — it will change the setting on all devices using your Apple ID.

How to Change iTunes Video Quality on Apple TV

Apple TV makes it easy to adjust video quality. Simply click on Settings > iTunes Store > Video Resolution. From here, you can set the video resolution to 1080p, 720p, or SD. One can also adjust the quality of previews.

How to Change iTunes Video Quality on the Mac

iTunes for the Mac offers the ability to manage video quality for all of your devices. To change video quality, click on Preferences from the iTunes menu at the top of the screen. Next, click on Store. Select your desired video quality for high-definition downloads, then click OK.

change video quality using iTunes for the Mac

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It is possible to download the SD version of an iTunes movie or TV show, even if you have purchased the HD version. This is useful if you don’t have the time, bandwidth or are worried about using too much data on a limited plan. First, select TV Shows or Movies from the drop down menu on the top left of the main iTunes window. Next, click on the show you would like to download. Click on the more button (the angle bracket in a circle) to the right of the show title. Select “Show in iTunes Store”. Click on SD on the left side of the screen, underneath the image for the show. Finally, click on the episode you would like to download. You can follow this same process for movies.

Video Quality Management Needs Improvement

It can be confusing to manage video quality between Apple devices. Apple TV is by far the easiest. iOS devices are limited in this respect. Apple needs to add a setting to toggle 1080p or 720p directly on an iOS device. The iPhone, in particular, is often used with limited data plans. On the small screen, the difference between 1080p and 720p is hardly noticeable. In fact, it is barely noticeable on flat screen TVs below 40 inches. 720p video is almost half the file size of the 1080p version. If you are paying per GB, this can add up fast.

Although it is possible to change HD video quality settings, it is not easily accomplished. Even switching to SD is cumbersome. These options should be presented on the iTunes Store app’s downloads screen. There should also be a global setting for the specific device under Settings > iTunes Store. This just goes to show, as good as Apple products are, there is always room for improvement.

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