French tech site iPhoneSoft quotes an anonymous Netflix employee who says that Spatial Audio for Netflix has been in testing since December last year, in preparation for a limited Spring launch.
- AirPods Pro vs AirPods Max: What should you buy?
- How to change region on Netflix and access blocked content
- Plus: Apple will replace AirPods Max under warranty — but there’s a catch
This launch would only include a “small catalog” of supporting titles, rather than Netflix’s entire library, though it’s always possible that more movies and shows could be added in the future — if, indeed, the rumor turns out to be true. The word of a single unnamed source is all we have to go on at this point, so take it with a few barrels of salt.
That said, Netflix (or any other streaming service for that matter) would make for a good team-up with the AirPods’ Spatial Audio tech. This is, in a sense, surround sound, and a relatively close approximation of the real thing by headphone standards.
That’s thanks to the use of head tracking, using the AirPods Pro or AirPods Max gyroscopes, to keep the origin point of sounds seemingly consistent as your move around. Just like having satellite speakers in a home cinema setup, in other words.
The benefits of Spatial Audio for Netflix are therefore very clear, even if you’d only be watching on a phone or tablet screen instead of a huge 4K TV. That would be one limitation to these rumored Netflix plans: Spatial Audio only works when the AirPods Pro or AirPods Max are paired to a compatible iPhone or iPad, so it wouldn’t work on living room televisions even if you were using an Apple TV.
Perhaps the best thing to hope for, then, is for Netflix to pursue Spatial Audio support but also to extend to other forms of digital surround sound, like Sony’s 360 Reality Audio and the new 360 Audio feature on the Samsung Galaxy Buds. At least this way users would have a greater range of compatible hardware to choose from.