Google‘s Pixel phones seem to have a major issue with the Widevine level detection. Several Pixel owners are reporting an issue where their phone is showing Widevine level L3 though it is L1 certified. The result is they cannot play DRM-protected content in HD resolution on their Pixel phones, and Netflix is the best example.
Subscription video streaming services, such as Netflix, use Google-owned Widevine DRM (Digital Rights Management) to protect the content on their platforms from piracy. Devices require Widevine L1 certification to stream content in high resolution (HD).
For instance, all Pixel devices have Widevine L1 certification for HD streaming on Netflix, with Pixel 3 and newer further capable of streaming in HDR. However, as per reports, the service is only detecting Widevine L3 for some users. As such, they can only stream content at a maximum resolution of 540p and hence cannot take full advantage of subscriptions.
Reports of this issue on the Pixel forums date back to as far as September last year. Yes, that’s when Google started rolling out the first stable build of Android 11 to its Pixel phones. The update seems to have broken something related to Widevine DRM. Multiple users have since reported similar issues on official Google forums as well as other online forums such as Reddit.
Google Pixel users report issues with Widevine level detection
While this Widevine issue with Google’s Pixel lineup seemingly existed for months, it particularly gained traction following the April 2021 security update. Affected devices include Pixel 3a, Pixel 4, Pixel 4 XL, Pixel 4a, Pixel 4a 5G, and Pixel 5. The Pixel 3/3 XL and older seemingly aren’t affected.
Of course, not every Pixel 5 user (or users of other affected devices) has encountered the issue. But pretty much every user report suggests that one or the other software update introduced this issue. Software updates can, of course, cause Widevine DRM to drop to lower levels from L1. To that end, a software update can revert it to L1 as well.
However, given how long this issue has been around, it’s really frustrating that Google has yet to fix it. Some affected users did go through the tried and tested troubleshooting method of factory resetting the phone and flashing factory images to no avail.
One user suggested that Google is already aware of the issue and is working on a fix. The Customer Support service reportedly said they have received multiple reports of this issue in recent times. They are asking for bug reports from affected devices to send to their developers and get the issue fixed. This suggests that the company has yet to find the root cause of the issue as they are still seeking examples. Hopefully, they will get it sorted sooner than later.