Google has officially launched 4K Ultra HD on its movie streaming service ‘Google Play Movies & TV’. More than 125 movies are available in 4K for customers in the US and Canada.
4K movies on Google Play
At launch, only users in the US and Canada can join the fun but if you want you can just create a US Google account and add a valid payment method, for example gift cards, to get started.
Google quietly started adding 4K movies to the catalog in mid-November but this is the official launch. Google says that it will expand the 4K option to other countries in the near future. The streaming service is available in 117 countries.
The catalog currently consists of ”more than 125 movies” in 4K, including ’Star Trek Beyond’, ’Captain Phillips’ and ’Ghostbusters. More will be added continually. It will typically cost you $25-30 dollars to own and $8 dollars to rent.
For comparison a HD quality movies cost $13-15 dollars to own and $4 dollars to rent.
Google does not offer HDR (High Dynamic Range).
Requires VP9 decoding
Google was quick to emphasize that it is using its in-house VP9 video compression format. VP9 is a royalty-free alternative to the HEVC format used by Netflix, Amazon, and others to stream 4K.
VP9 must be supported in hardware so at the moment only the following devices support 4K streaming from Google Play Movies:
Sony Android TV
Xiaomi Mi Box 3
As you can see, this excludes both LG Smart TVs and Samsung Smart TVs, both of which offer the app and have VP9 hardware support. The limitation is the app and Google controls app updates.
You can purchase or rent movies from the device, via the webpage or in the Android mobile app.
With today’s launch, Google overtakes Apple who has yet to add 4K movies on iTunes. Apple is expected to follow suit when it launches an upgraded Apple TV box. The current version of Apple TV supports up to 1080p HD.