It took a while, but Android phone owners can now potentially enjoy better Netflix sound quality as well.
The xHE-AAC codec, now also supported under Android, has been around for a while in iOS (the mobile operating system for iPhones). The codec is primarily intended to improve intelligibility in noisy environments. Think of catching a movie on the train home (as far as that is still the case these days) and so on.
For this purpose, among other things, loudness is normalized, while at the same time dynamics are preserved. At least, that’s what we read on the tech blog (see screenshot at top) of Netflix itself. Perhaps more interestingly, xHE-AAC “adapts” to the achievable speed over a given network connection. Which means that sound quality on the go should remain good over variable mobile connections.
From Android 9 onwards
Those same adaptive codecs were already introduced by Netflix in 2019 for the video codec. So together, this now creates a “solid” package that will be significantly less sensitive to fluctuations in available internet speed.
The only requirement to actually get the whole thing running under Android is that a phone runs at least Android 9. The OS then supports the codec at the system level. iOS has been able to handle xHE-AAC since iOS 13, while Fire (Amazon’s mobile OS) has been able to handle the codec since version 7. In short: in most cases you do not need to take any action and it will work automatically, nice and easy.