Google has started adding movies in 4K quality on Google Play Movies ahead of the official launch. There is currently a handful of titles that sell for $25 dollars each.
Preparing for official launch
When Google introduced the new Chromecast Ultra, the company also confirmed that Google Play Movies - the company's movie rental streaming service - would begin offering movies in 4K Ultra HD quality.
The company has now begun adding titles in 4K Ultra HD to the catalog to prepare for an official launch, it seems. One of the titles is the classic 'The Fifth Element', which is available to purchase for $25 dollars and to rent for $8 dollars in 4K quality.
This makes it considerably more expensive than the HD version, which sells for $13 dollars and is available to rent for $4 dollars. There is currently no option to upgrade movies to 4K if you already own them in HD.
In addition, users on Reddit have discovered titles such as 'Star Trek', 'Star Trek Beyond', 'Zoolander', and 'This Is the End'.
On Chromecast and Android TV
The 4K versions can be purchased only via the app, not yet the website. It is not uncommon for companies to restrict web browsers to HD quality, mostly due to piracy concerns.
To enjoy the higher quality streams you currently need either the Chromecast Ultra or an Ultra HD Android TV.
On YouTube, Google is using the VP9 format instead of the HEVC format, which is utilized by Netflix, Amazon, and others. VP9 is Google’s in-house video compression format. Although it remains unconfirmed at this point, it is very likely that Google is using VP9 for 4K movies on Google Play Movies, too. Not all Smart TVs and media streamer boxes can decode VP9 and most lack devices the “Google Play Movies” app.
It is not clear if Google will offer movies in HDR (High Dynamic Range).
Google has nothing to add at this point but as soon as we have the official word we will report more details.