Videos can autoplay on desktop but why can you not get them to autoplay on mobile websites when the page loads? The answer is that the different OS developers intentionally disabled autoplay on mobile devices in order to protect user’s bandwidth. Many data providers charge based on the amount of data consumed, so the OS developers decided it was in the best interest of the user to not have a video automatically begin playing when the page loaded so it would not start racking up data charges. Instead mobile web videos require the user to click them to start.
Auto-Play Video on iOS Devices
Here are a couple of excerpts from the iOS Developer Library in regards to autoplay on mobile devices:
- In Safari on iOS (for all devices, including iPad), where the user may be on a cellular network and be charged per data unit, preload and autoplay are disabled. No data is loaded until the user initiates it.
- Autoplay is disabled to prevent unsolicited cellular download.
- iOS not only prevents autoplay but also preloading the video until the user initiates it.
Auto-Play Video on Android Video
Android has disabled autoplay in versions 4.1+.
Developers have created various hacks that allow a video to autoplay on mobile websites and these work for some devices, but there is no way to make them autoplay without some custom coding/hack or without the user clicking the play button or some other type of user interaction.
More About Auto-Play Video
As mentioned above, a video can autoplay on a user interaction which does not have to be clicking on the play button. Other user initiated actions such as clicking on any link on a page can be used to make the video start playing. These different user actions may not create the best user experience though, since the result of the user action is not what they expected (clicking a link to go to another page and a video starts), but it is an alternate way to make the video autoplay.
What does this all mean for publishers and advertisers?
Limiting autoplay on mobile devices has an obvious benefit for users, but advertisers also like it due to the fact that since the user initates the starting of the video they are most likely choosing to view it or paying attention to it. Publishers on the other hand, though they want to create a good user experience also want to make as much money possible, and since video impressions are paid when the video starts, they undoubtedly lose out on some revenue by requiring a user action to start it rather than it starting automatically.