Why Disney+ Might Not Work On All Devices

disney+ which devices widevineImage: Walt Disney Studios

It recently came to light that some devices might not be able to stream Disney+ content due to security software. Obviously this is going to be a big factor for some in deciding whether to sign up for the service so we delved into which devices will be fine and how it works.

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Wait, what?

It was first reported by Linux developer, hansdegoede, on Live Journal who explained he was having trouble using Disney+ on his Linux device in the Netherlands, where the pilot program has already launched.

The developer spoke with Disney's helpdesk, which admitted it was aware of error, Error Code 83, and advised him to stream through an phone or tablet instead.

After someone on Dutch tech site Tweakers did a little digging, the problem was found to be occurring due to a little something called Widevine and it's not limited to just Linux devices.


What is Widevine?

It's a content decryption module (CDM) created by Google for digital rights management (DRM).

It's what helps devices decide how you watch content on streaming services, like Netflix or Stan, to ensure the content can't be ripped and illegally distributed. Many popular smartphones and internet browsers have this feature built-in and according to its own website, that figure sits around five billion devices across the world.

To ensure your phone is compliant, Widevine uses three security levels for devices and browsers to comply to, which determine the quality of playback.

L1 is the most stringent of these security levels, allowing for HD playback. L2 and L3 are a bit more relaxed, but won't allow for higher quality playback. Budget-range phone models often have L3, while mid-to-high range devices are expected to have L1.

An example of this was OnePlus devices being unable to play Netflix content in HD due to them only having L3, as reported by Android Police back in May 2019. Some of Some OnePlus' devices, like the OnePlus 7 Pro, have since been upgraded to support HD content on Netflix.


How do I check which level of Widevine my device has?

For Android devices, you can download an app called DRM Info, which will provide you with the specific level. For example, I downloaded the app with a Google Pixel 4 XL and it showed I had L1 on the device.

But this only applies to Android devices. Apple use a different DRM technology called FairPlay, which is used on items bought in the iTunes Store while Microsoft has PlayReady. Streaming sites, like Netflix and Disney+, recognise there are many types of DRM technologies being used and are often compatible with all of them.


Which devices will work?

According to Disney's own press release, the following devices will work with Disney+:

  • Apple (iPhone, iPad, iPod touch and Apple TV, and fully integrated with the Apple TV app; customers can subscribe to Disney+ via in-app purchase);
  • Google (Android phones, Android TV devices, Google Chromecast and Chromecast built-in devices);
  • Microsoft (Xbox One);
  • Sony / Sony Interactive Entertainment (all Android based Sony TVs and PlayStation 4);

That seems to tick off most people's devices but its been suggested by Tom's Guide some Android laptops, like the Chromebook, won't be able to stream the content due to only being Widevine L3. Disney has since refuted this.

Gizmodo Australia has reached out to Disney to confirm which devices will be able to stream Disney+. It declined to comment.

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