It may be a bit of old news, but last year Apple introduced two new high-efficiency file formats for its operating systems.
They’re called HEIF and HEVC. And for the most part, they’re a wonder for your device’s storage system. Essentially, photos and videos you capture will only take up about half the space that a JPEG or H.264 file would.
And while they’re technically only compatible with Apple devices running newer software, Apple has implemented a conversion solution that mitigates most issues.
That being said, it’s perfectly possible to still run into compatibility problems using HEVC and HEIF.
Normally, whenever you share or export photos from iOS, they will be automatically converted to a more compatible format — such as JPEG.
On the other hand, issues arise when users try to directly edit an original image using a third-party app or pre-iOS 11 version of a native app. That includes a range of photo and video editors, social media platforms, and other apps.
This is, of course, a bit annoying. But it’s not really a tough problem to solve.
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A Couple Ways Around This
Apple’s iOS doesn’t currently have a native way to easily convert HEIF or HEVC files into more compatible formats. There are alternatives, which we’ll get to later.
In lieu of that, here are some things to consider if you’re running into problems with an iOS 11 photo or video.
The easiest way to get by this issue is to simply use the Share sheet.
- Tap on a photo in the Photos app.
- Tap on the Share icon in the lower-right corner.
- Find the app you’d like to share to and tap on it.
Since using the Share sheet automatically converts high-efficiency formats to more compatible ones, this seems like the method Apple envisioned it users leveraging.
And in the vast majority of sharing scenarios, this method will suffice. But it really depends on the platform you’re sharing your photos to.
For example, if you use the Share sheet to post a photo to Instagram, you won’t be able to edit the photo using Instagram’s filters or editing tools. We imagine there are similar issues for other photo editing or social media apps.
Switch to a More Compatible Format
Of course, you can solve the problem entirely by simply disabling the HEVC and HEIF formatting in iOS.
This is certainly a “scorched-earth” method since it means that you’ll forego all the of benefits of Apple’s new high-efficiency.
Either way, you can tweak Apple’s capture format with the following steps.
- Open Settings.
- Navigate to and tap on Camera.
- Tap on Formats.
- Under Camera Capture, set the format to Most Compatible.
It’s worth noting that this only applies to future videos and photos, so disabling high-efficiency capture won’t do anything for the photos you’ve already taken. You’ll need to share or convert them manually.
Which brings us to…
How to Convert on iOS
If you still find yourself with a batch of HEIF or HEVC files on your iOS device that you’d like to use, there are a couple of easy ways to convert them.
Even better, these methods can be done without downloading any third-party software (which we don’t typically recommend unless they’re by a vetted developer).
The easiest is to just use the Share sheet to email them to yourself. When you re-download the image from your email client, it will be in a more compatible format.
Alternatively, you can use the Share sheet to upload a photo to a cloud-based storage platform like Dropbox. Simply re-download the photo and it will be in JPEG or H.264.
Similarly, if you need to convert photos in batches, just transfer them to a Mac or PC with a Lightning cable. They’ll be changed automatically, depending on your settings.
Make sure to go to Settings –> Camera –> Formats. Then, select Automatic under the Transfer to Mac or PC submenu.
We hope that you found these tips helpful. Please let us know if you have any questions in the comments below.
Mike is a freelance journalist from San Diego, California.
While he primarily covers Apple and consumer technology, he has past experience writing about public safety, local government, and education for a variety of publications.
He’s worn quite a few hats in the journalism field, including writer, editor, and news designer.