Apple TV+, Netflix and Others Reduce Video Streaming Quality

By Chand Bellur

March 29, 2020 at 3:19 p.m. PDT

  • The COVID-19 pandemic forces billions to stay at home to avoid spreading the disease.
  • Streaming services, such as Netflix, Apple TV+ and Amazon, account for 80% of all Internet traffic.
  • Apple TV+, Netflix and Amazon have all throttled video streaming quality to maintain broadband speeds.

Streaming Services Throttle Video Quality Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

If you’re reading this article right now, you’re probably at home, sheltering in place amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. For most, this isn’t a scary prospect. Although the disease is mild in most patients, those with underlying health problems may require hospitalization. Most of us are staying at home to flatten the curve, preventing hospital overcrowding. Others are raiding stores to stockpile toilet paper and food staples.

Many have lost their jobs, either temporarily or permanently. There’s no point in finding a job right now, as employers are not hiring. The federal government will assist the unemployed; however, it’s a relatively weak package for most. At best, people can pay their mortgage/rent, buy food and subscribe to streaming video services.

The latter activity causes problems with Internet service providers. With so many people at home, video streaming becomes problematic. As everyone binge-watches their favorite shows, Internet services are exceeding capacity in some areas. To avoid critical Internet failures, at this time of crisis, corporations like Netflix, Apple and Amazon are throttling video quality.

How Bad is Streaming Video Quality?

Different streaming providers throttle video quality in various ways. Apple is, by far, the most aggressive. Throttling video down to 3G speeds, Apple’s data management is extreme. Video looks grainy, with fewer frames per second. Both Netflix and Amazon still serve high definition video; however, 4K UHD is off the table for now.

Although users can download Apple TV+ videos, quality is not guaranteed. One can change preferences, indicating a desire for “up to” HD quality. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic and unusually high Internet traffic, users will get SD quality, at best.

It remains unclear how long substandard video quality will persist. Most Apple TV+ subscribers enjoy a free subscription as part of purchasing a new device. While it’s hard to gripe about a free service, Apple’s competitors offer superior video quality.

For now, it remains unclear whether Apple’s severe video bandwidth throttling will lose subscribers. I’m more inclined to use Netflix than Apple TV+. When it comes down to it, however, content is king. As viewers grow tired of the same old Netflix shows, they may turn to Apple TV+ as an alternative.

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