With every update of iOS, Apple ushers in a bunch of new features to their mobile devices. Some are obvious, others not so much. With the recent release of iOS 11, Apple has made a pretty significant change to the photos and videos you take with your device.
With iOS 11 and High Sierra, photos and videos will no longer be encoded in the familiar and pretty much universal JPG and MP4 formats. Instead, photos will use HEIF, and videos will use HEVC. The more modern HEIF and HEVC formats have certain advantages, but also some limitations that you may not even be aware of.
Fortunately, it is possible to make your iOS device use the more common JPG and MP4 formats. Which is the better option for you? Read on to find out.
What Is HEIF & HEVC?
Before you make your decision, it is important to understand what HEIF and HEVC are and how they differ from JPG and MP4. Since these formats have been adopted by Apple as the new standard for images and videos, many assume that they are proprietary Apple formats. This isn’t true. HEIF and HEVC are codecs developed by the Moving Picture Experts Group. This means that HEIF and HEVC are codecs that can be used by any operating system. But then again, so were JPG and MP4. So why the change?
First, let’s talk about those acronyms. HEIF stands for High Efficiency Image Format and HEVC stands for High Efficiency Video Coding. The words “high efficiency” are key here. Basically HEIF and HEVC use newer compression algorithms. This allows smaller file sizes without compromising the quality of the images or video. This is good news for iOS shutterbugs who lament the lack of expandable storage.
Potential Downsides to HEIF & HEVC
With iPhones now utilizing dual cameras and having the capability of shooting video in 4K, file sizes are increasing. This can be a nightmare for those with limited storage space or who have to deal with mobile data caps. Apple’s decision to switch to HEIF and HEVC formats in order to reduce file sizes seems like a no-brainer. However this doesn’t mean that every device capable of upgrading will benefit. The processing power required to render images and videos in HEIF and HEVC is greater than that of JPG and MP4. This means that HEIF and HEVC are only compatible with the iPhone 7 and above, in addition to the latest generation of iPad Pro.
Note: If you have a compatible device, photos and videos will only be in HEIF and HEVC after you upgrade to iOS 11. All photos and videos taken prior to the upgrade will remain in JPG and MP4 format.
HEIF and HEVC files work seamlessly with all apps within the iOS ecosystem. However if you transfer HEIF or HEVC files to your Mac, you won’t be able to view or edit them straight away. To do so you’ll need to upgrade your OS to High Sierra. Unfortunately, if you’re a Windows user, HEIF and HEVC are not compatible out of the box. However, there are some third-party software options that can convert HEIF and HEVC formats to more compatible formats. Just be aware that some will cost you.
How to Ditch HEIF & HEVC and Use JPG & MP4 Instead
While HEIF and HEVC can drastically cut file size without sacrificing quality, there are compatibility issues. If you think that HEIF and HEVC might cause problems for you in the future, there is a way to force your iOS device to use the older, more compatible JPG and MP4 formats.
To make the switch from HEIF/HEVC back to JPG/MP4, navigate to “Settings -> Camera -> Format.” Here you will see that “High Efficiency” is selected by default. Tap on “Most Compatible” instead to force your iOS device to capture images in JPG and video in MP4. You can always reverse this action if and when it suits you.
Be aware that while JPG and MP4 are more compatible formats, they’ll chew up more storage space. Of course, if you want to ensure maximum compatibility with existing software, JPG and MP4 are probably the way to go, for now at least.
What is your opinion of Apple’s adoption of the HEIF and HEVC formats? Will you be switching back to JPG and MP4? If so, why? Let us know in the comments!