Apple have enabled the playback of HEVC videos and HEIF images on MacOS High Sierra and iOS 11. Unfortunately not every device is able to support it, and others have limited support. Which ones made the cut?
High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC), otherwise known as H.265, is set to revolutionize how we create and share media. Just as its predecessor, H.264, did before. Now, we’ll be looking at a 40 percent reduction in file sizes. We can expect 4K streaming to get far easier, and sharing videos to take less time. This is good news not just for the users, but for Apple too, who store your iPhone videos on iCloud.
“We needed to find a different file format that we could use for images that would allow us to use HEVC as the codec and that's where HEIF comes in,” explained Athar Shah from Apple’s core media software team. HEIF essentially uses the same thinking as a HEVC, but for still images wrapped in a HEIF file. It will be able to beat JPEGs in file size and quality, but be aware that there’s no point in trying to convert your JPEGs over as it’s not a lossless format.
To put it simply, no iPhone with a headphone jack will be able record HEVC videos or take HEIF photos. The chips that support HEVC encoding are the A10 and new A11. The iPhone 7 was the first to have an A10 chip in it.
- iPhone 7
- iPhone 7 Plus
- iPhone 8
- iPhone 8 Plus
- iPhone X
Unfortunately, the iPhone 6s doesn’t make the cut here. In fact, 10-bit HEIF photos will only be available on the latest lineup, leaving the iPhone 7 behind. Nonetheless, while older devices will not be able to record these formats, they’ll still be able to play them back. Unfortunately, the older phones won’t support 4K resolutions. Here’s the deal with what’s available:
- iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus – max resolution of 1080p/240 fps.
- iPhone 5s – 1080p/60 fps or 720p/240 fps.
Up until now, a beefier Mac computer has been able to encode/decode these files using software solutions. This is a horribly inefficient way of going about it, and that’s obviously why Apple’s getting behind hardware decoding. All of their modern lineup will fully support the HEVC, but older machines will have trouble. The mid-2015 models and older won’t be able to play back anything more than 1080p/240 fps. Again, no 4K being supported by Apple in this case.
It’s worth noting that you might own an iPhone 8 but an older Macbook. Unless you choose otherwise, the iPhone will convert the files to H.264/JPEG files when transferring to your older computer via USB. You can change this in the iPhone’s photo settings under the “Transfer to Mac or PC” menu. As for non-USB sharing, Apple’s solution is to convert the files again.
When you share HEIF or HEVC media using other methods, such as AirDrop, Messages, or email, it's shared in a more compatible format, such as JPEG or H.264.
Others (Apple TV, iPad)
Both of the iPad Pro models will be able to capture and view HEVC and HEIF files without a hitch. However, that seems to be where the line has been drawn.
- iPad Pro (1st and 2nd gen) – full support capturing and recording.
- iPad Air 2 – 1080p/240 fps.
- iPad Air, and iPad mini (Retina models) – 1080p/60 fps or 720p/240 fps.
- Apple TV 4K – Full playback support.
The latest iteration of the Apple TV is a step in the direction that Apple likely should have taken years ago. Finally, with this update in tow, I feel it’s really trying to compete in the market now.
If you’re creating content for the Apple ecosystem, it’ll need to make sure it’s a hvc1 codec type. This will signal to the device that it’s playing a HEVC file. From the likes of Premiere Pro though, this should be pretty fluid (depending on your particular setup). Apple are supporting it within both Quicktime and MPEG-4 file formats so there’s not a lot in the way.