Following recent updates, many Google Pixel phone owners are reporting issues with the Widevine level downgrading to L3 from L1, resulting in DRM-protected content not playing in HD resolution. For instance, Netflix is now capped at 540p.
Multiple users reached out to us complaining about the issue. Tipsters arguar, HydroPetro, and MSFJarvis on Telegram have said they experienced the issue on the Pixel 4a and Pixel 5. Tipster Devang Chhabria linked a Reddit thread with some Pixel 4a, Pixel 4, and Pixel 5 users reporting the same issue.
Meanwhile, a support thread on the Pixel forums features users complaining about the issue. We looked back a few months on Reddit and actually discovered people have been experiencing the issues with HD Netflix playback for a while. Some users have said they’ve encountered the issue after the April 2021 update, while others are reporting the issue has been happening for months.
When a phone is downgraded to Widevine L3, the DRM is software based and has no Trusted Execution Environment (TEE) for DRM encryption to run in. In most cases, Widevine-protected content will only play in 480p, which isn’t the most ideal scenario when streaming content.
In order to check the Widevine DRM level, you can follow this guide. As we reported, most Android devices that are certified by Google support Widevine L1, sometimes in combination with other DRM methods. Modified phones or uncertified phones, however, may only support L3 or L2. Software update can also cause Widevine DRM to revert to L2 or L3.
A service like Netflix has certified all Pixel devices for HD, which is Widevine L1, which the Pixel 3 and up are certified for HDR. It’s unclear what’s causing the issue, and users don’t appear to be getting any concrete answers from Google, whether that includes a future software fix or something the users can do.
Not every owner has encountered the issue. In the same support forums, some Pixel 4a and Pixel 5 owners claim they’re still on L1, so it isn’t affecting everyone. But why some people are encountering the issue and some aren’t remains unclear.
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