With pretty much all the talk from Apple’s current WWDC event so far focusing on the brand’s new oddly colour Macbook Airs, latest CarPlay features and M2 processor expansion, another unexpected but significant new Apple feature seems to have largely slipped under the radar: Support in the Apple TV app for the HDR10+ HDR format,
If you’re not familiar with it, HDR10+ is a ‘premium’ version of the high dynamic range picture technology that greatly expands the range of light used in a video signal. It differs from the standard ‘HDR10’ HDR format supported by all HDR devices by adding extra scene by scene picture information to the video stream that compatible displays can use to deliver a better HDR picture performance.
In this respect HDR10+ is similar to the Dolby Vision HDR format that Apple has supported for years now. In fact, HDR10+ was essentially created, largely by Samsung, as a more open source alternative to Dolby Vision. Crucially, though, just as Dolby Vision content has to be mastered with the extra scene by scene data in it, so HDR10+’s extra image content has to be mastered into content.
Also, frustratingly, some content creators prefer to use HDR10+ as their premium HDR format, while others prefer Dolby Vision. So often content is only available (if it supports either of the premium HDR formats at all) in one format or the other, not both.
While I’m not aware yet of any HDR10+ content available through the Apple TV app, the addition of HDR10+ support to Apple TV for the new iOS 16, iPadOS 16 and mac OS Ventura platforms means that owners of compatible devices can now feel confident that they’re always getting the best picture quality possible from any HDR source, regardless of which mastering format its creator/studio has used.
It’s worth adding here, too, that most TV manufacturers only support either HDR10+ or Dolby Vision rather than both. So Samsung – the world’s biggest selling TV brand, let’s not forget – only supports HDR10+ on its TVs, not Dolby Vision, while rival TV giants LG and Sony only support Dolby Vision. With this in mind, you’ve got to think that Apple’s surprise (given how long Apple has been in the Dolby Vision only camp) HDR10+ support will also be coming to the Apple TV app for tvOS sooner rather than later, as well as to the Apple TV apps deployed on third party smart platforms – including Samsung TVs.
Debates can, have and will be had over whether HDR10+ was a helpful addition to the AV landscape or an unnecessary complication when it launched back in 2017 – and over whether HDR10+ or Dolby Vision delivers better results. That’s all kind of besides the point, though, with regard to Apple’s quiet announcement of HDR10+ support within the Apple TV app. What I like about this move is that it shows a consumer-facing willingness on Apple’s part to simply support all the different HDR formats out there so that everyone can always get the best picture quality, rather than taking a stance on one format or the other.
If Apple does indeed announce HDR10+ support for the Apple TV app on tvOS or other third party smart platforms in the next day or two, I’ll update this story accordingly.