Explained: Widevine DRM Certification
In the present day scenario, it is pretty evident that streaming services are the new-age televisions for a lot of people. This is mainly because a lot of the content that was only available on the television in the early days is now accessible across various streaming services. As a result, people are gravitating more towards buying subscriptions for services like Amazon Prime and Netflix to stream content on their devices — be it a computer, a tablet, or even a smartphone. Although, very recently, some smartphone users have started experiencing that they cannot stream high-definition content on their device since it does not come with a Widevine certification.
To help you better understand what the certification is and how does its presence affects your streaming quality, here’s everything you need to know about the Widevine certification.
What is Widevine and how does it work?
Widevine is one of the most widely used Digital Rights Management (DRM) solutions out there. It was developed by Widevine Technologies in the 90s and later purchased by Google in the year 2010. Widevine supports multiple formats and platforms and is available across most of the smartphones (Android and iOS) in the market. In addition to smartphones, it also supports desktops, Blu-Ray players, gaming consoles, and set-top boxes.
A lot of the content you see across various platforms on the Internet is protected with DRM and other encryption standards to prevent piracy and its free distribution on the internet. Here, the DRM solution is most commonly Google’s Widevine, and the other encrypted solutions include different encryptions and licensing key exchanges that manage and send the video content to users in a secure manner.
Widevine is free to use by the content providers and does not require any fee for license generation and device registration. Instead, all that smartphone manufacturers need to do is clear a certification process, which includes different legal agreements, software implementation, and a few other measures. Since this process can take a lot of time, a lot of the chipsets for Android smartphones come equipped with the necessary technologies that make the process streamlined. Additionally, if the certification is not done before the release of a device, the same can be implemented at a later time using software updates.
What are the different Widevine certifications?
In general, a lot of the Android smartphones come with some or the other kind of Widevine certification level, but they all might not necessarily possess the same certifications. Essentially, there are two types of Widevine certifications on Android, L1 and L3.
With Widevine L3 certification, an Android smartphone is only capable of streaming content in standard definition (SD), ie. 480p and below.
On the other hand, with Widevine L1 certification, the range of quality of content increases from high definition (HD), ie 720p up to 4K. Which is why, for an Android smartphone to be able to able to stream content in at least high-definition (720p), it must have a Widevine L1 certification since an L3 certification would only allow for content streaming in standard definition.
How to check your device for Widevine support?
As you go through the article, one of the rhetorical questions that might cross your head is whether your smartphone supports Widevine and if it does, is there a way to find out if it’s L1 or L3. Well, one of the obvious ways to tell is by trying to stream content on the device across different platforms like Amazon Prime and Netflix in high-definition. In which case, if you are able to stream content in high-definition, it goes to indicate that your device has Widevine L1 certification. However, if that’s something that you don’t want to do, there is another way, which works on Android smartphones and requires you to download an app, called ‘DRM Info’. The app can be downloaded for free from the Play Store and gives information on various DRM modules, including CENC ClearKey, Adobe Primetime, Google Widevine Modular DRM, Marlin, Microsoft Playready, and Verimatrix.
It’s 2019, and we still come across smartphones that lack the Widevine certification. In our opinion, this could be either because the smartphone manufacturers do not want to add the ability to stream high-definition content on their smartphones, which seems highly unlikely, as the licensing is free, or it could be because there isn’t enough time with the manufacturers to go through the licensing and registration process, as the deadline for device release could be closing down.