If you fired up HBO Max hoping to a get a better look at Game of Thrones’ The Long Night episode in 4K HDR, you probably came away disappointed. The new streaming service, which launched earlier this week, currently tops out at 1080p across its lineup of classic shows, original content, and movies. And while the company says it’s working to support higher resolutions in the future, launching without 4K HDR support could cause potential new customers to wait and see before signing up. Of course, no streaming service is perfect, especially not at first, so we thought we’d look back at some other recent launches to see how one of HBO Max’s biggest missing features compares to other glaring omissions.
Disney+ may have racked up more than 50 million users since its November 2019 launch, but the service certainly didn’t have a flawless launch. Users had trouble connecting to the service just hours after the app was made available. There were also reports of hacked accounts in those early days, and the company has since beefed up security features, including the ability to log out of all devices at once. One of the most notable missing features, at least initially, was the inability to easily resume and continue watching content from where you last left off.
Quibi’s launch earlier this year certainly came at an inopportune time. A service focused on “quick bites” of content for those on the go came online right as huge swathes of the country settled in for long-term stay-at-home periods. One of the most notable missing features was the inability to cast content from your mobile devices to your TVs, and we’re just now starting to see casting options like Apple’s AirPlay pop up. It’s true Quibi was betting on a mobile-only audience for its new take on streaming entertainment, but launching without casting options likely hasn’t helped the company grow its user base.
Like Disney+, Apple TV+ launched in November 2019 to plenty of fanfare and, aside from reports of trouble signing in to the app at first, perhaps the service’s biggest “missing feature” at launch was just more content. Apple spent a ton of money to secure top-level talent for exclusive, original shows like See and The Morning Show, but its quality-over-quantity approach has been overshadowed at times by the larger libraries and big-name additions from other services. That’s certainly not to say we should count Apple out of the streaming wars six months after launch, but the landscape is even more crowded now than when Apple TV+ launched, so it’ll be interesting to see how the company grows its content library moving forward.
And that brings us back to HBO Max’s launch this week. The lack of 4K HDR likely disappoints a number of potential customers, especially with spectacle-heavy films from the DC Universe and others on hand. But it’s perhaps not too surprising this limitation exists. HBO Now users have also been limited to 1080p content, despite glimmers of hope like a support page mentioning the company would explore the possibility in the future.
We’ve already seen similar statements regarding 4K’s potential on HBO Max. When we reached out to WarnerMedia regarding the feature and a spokesperson offered the following statement:
“At launch, HBO Max streams up to 1080p for video quality (depending on the user’s internet bandwidth and screen size). We know high quality video is important for our users, and while we work toward building out 4K and HDR later in our roadmap, we have already made significant improvements such as increased bit rates and other under the hood enhancements, which will improve the overall quality of the video.”
Of course, there are other notable omissions from HBO Max’s launch — specifically lack of support for Amazon’s Fire TV line and Roku’s devices. The company is no doubt working to resolve that issue as well, but it only helps to highlight how launching a streaming service is an adventure in setting priorities and executing as well as you can. No streaming service gets everything right from day 1, and we look forward to seeing how HBO Max, and indeed all its competitors, move forward and evolve.
For now, though, how important is 4K HDR support to you? A dealbreaker, or a non-issue? Feel free to let us know in the comments below and let us know what features you’re still hoping for on your favorite services.
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