iOS 14 lets you watch YouTube videos in 4K on iPhone and iPad

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YouTube in 4K iOS 14
Sharper than ever.
Image: Killian Bell/Cult of Mac

WWDC 2020YouTube videos available in super-sharp 4K can finally be enjoyed on Apple devices this fall. Not only will 4K content be available on Apple TV, but also on iPhone and iPad, according to the first iOS 14 beta.

It’s long been the case that those with Apple devices miss out on the sharpest YouTube videos. Even on a Mac, you can’t watch YouTube videos in 4K unless you download Google Chrome. But that changes this year.

With the release of iOS and iPadOS 14, both iPhone and iPad will get to stream YouTube content in Ultra HD when it’s available. But is it really necessary?

YouTube goes 4K on iPhone and iPad

You might be wondering why it has taken so long for 4K YouTube videos to come to Apple devices. It’s because the codec Google uses for Ultra HD content — its own VP9 codec — wasn’t supported by Apple by default.

Google obviously wasn’t going to change that codec to please Apple, or even its millions of iOS users, so YouTube content on iPhone and iPad has always maxed out at 1080p. But it seems VP9 support is coming.

iOS 14, iPadOS 14, and tvOS 14 all allow YouTube videos to be enjoyed in 4K. Now, this could change before the updates roll out to everyone this fall, but for now, 4K videos are available in Apple’s first beta releases.

It seems unlikely Apple would remove VP9 codec support at this point, especially for Apple TV. But it’s not quite as important on iPhone and iPad, where 4K content can’t really be enjoyed properly anyway.

iPhone and iPad don’t do 4K

iPhone 11 Pro’s display resolution is 2436 x 1125, while the 12.9-inch iPad Pro’s display resolution is 2732 x 2048. Neither of these come close to the resolution of 4K video, which is 3840 x 2160.

Now, iPhone and iPad are sharper than Full HD, which is 1920 x 1080, so you will see some increase in quality when you watch videos in 4K, or even 2K. They just won’t look as spectacular as they do on actual 4K displays.