What is a HEIC file on Apple devices?

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Have you just transferred a photo from your iPhone to another device and noticed that the file extension is .HEIC and not .JPEG? Well, that’s one change that Apple has made to help you save space on your phone. We’ll explain what the HEIC format is, which iPhone and iPad models support it, and whether you should use it.

RELATED: What is the HEIF (or HEIC) image format?

What is a HEIC file?

HEIC stands for High Efficiency Image Container, and it’s a container format that Apple uses in its modern iPhone and iPad models. It is part of the HEIF standard and this format allows you to capture high-quality photos and videos on your devices while saving storage space.

HEIC uses modern compression methods to keep your photo file size smaller. If you compare HEIC to JPEG, the former produces files that are half the size of the latter. The good thing is that it does that while ensuring the quality of your image.

An HEIC file works like any other image file. You can view and edit HEIC files in compatible apps on your various devices. Here are some highlights of the HEIC file format:

  • Like JPEG, HEIC is a lossy file format, but it still manages to retain the original quality of your photo.
  • HEIC files consume less storage space, allowing you to store more photos on your phone.
  • Unlike JPEG, HEIC supports transparent images.
  • HEIC files can store metadata like other image formats.
  • HEIC images do not support animation. For that, you can use GIF.
  • The HEIC file format can be viewed on most devices including Windows, Mac, and Android.

Apple devices that support HEIC

Not all iPhone or iPad models support the HEIC format. You can only capture and save your images in this file format if you have one of the following devices:

  • iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus or later
  • iPad (6th generation) or later
  • iPad Air (3rd generation) or later
  • iPad mini (fifth generation)
  • iPad Pro (10.5-inch), iPad Pro (11-inch), and iPad Pro (12.9-inch, 2nd generation) or later

On the software front, you need to be running iOS 11 and macOS High Sierra. These OS versions allow you to view and edit your HEIC files, so make sure your iPhone and Mac are up to date.

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Can you make your iPhone or iPad use JPEG?

Apple offers HEIC as an optional file format, and you can switch back to JPEG if you prefer. This way all your future photo captures will be saved in the old JPEG format instead of HEIC. It will also cause the videos you record to be saved as MP4 instead of HEVC.

To make that change, on your iPhone or iPad, go to Settings > Camera > Formats and choose “Most Compatible.” To switch back to HEIC, select “High Efficiency”.

Choose the option "More Compatible".

Remember that the above change only applies to your future image captures; your existing content will remain the same. Also note that each future photo will take up more storage space than if you were still using HEIC, so make sure you have enough storage space.

RELATED: How much storage space do you need on your iPhone?

Convert HEIC to JPEG only when you transfer your photos

You can have your iPhone or iPad convert your HEIC photos to JPEG when you transfer your photos to a computer. In this way, the photos saved on your device will remain in HEIC format and will only be converted to HEIC when you copy them to your computer.

For that to work, on your iPhone or iPad, go to Settings > Photos and turn on “Auto”.

Select

Should you use HEIC or JPEG on your Apple device?

Whether you should use JPEG or HEIC on your iPhone or iPad mostly depends on where you use your captured photos.

If you often share your photos with people whose devices don’t support HEIC, or if you use an image editor that doesn’t yet support Apple’s new file format, you’re better off sticking with the JPEG format. The JPEG format is compatible with almost every device out there and you can edit it in just about any photo editor.

On the other hand, if you’re looking to save storage space on your iPhone or iPad, and your friends and family have HEIC-enabled devices, you probably want to use the HEIC format on your phone. This format will ensure that you can store more photos on your device. And if you set transfers to “Auto” as explained above, you can still use the JPEG format you’re used to if you move your photos to a PC.

RELATED: How to open HEIC files in Windows (or convert them to JPEG)