Understanding HEIC FILE: Apple’s Proprietary Version of the HEIF


It is the era of digital media. Memories are digitized in the form of pictures and videos. Since the world of digital media is always evolving, image formats play an essential role in balancing file size and quality. This is where Apple’s proprietary version of HEIF, HEIC File comes into the picture.

HEIC is the answer to the need for high-quality pictures with efficient storage. The format offers superior compression without compromising image quality. This guide explores the nuances of the HEIC format, shedding light on its capability and benefits and why it isn’t the format choice for devices except Apple devices.

What are HEIC image Files?

HEIC (high-efficiency image file) is Apple’s image container format. This image format compresses pictures to save space and is available on iPhone 7 and later models.

Most people don’t even notice the format of the images. They are content clicking pictures, and as long as they can easily share them with friends or upload them on their Gram, they don’t concern themselves with finding out the photo’s format.

But you may run into technical difficulties. Although this is rare, it is not uncommon. Difficulties may present themselves when you are trying to transfer pictures from your iPhone to cloud storage or your computer. If this happens, you may have to consider converting HEIC into another image file format that is more compatible (more on this below).

Is HEIC and HEIF the Same?

HEIF and HEIC are related, but they are not the same. HEIF is a broader format, and HEIC is a specific file format falling under the HEIF umbrella.

The difference is:

  • HEIF (high-efficient image file format) is a container format for pictures and image sequences. It is similar to how a ZIP file contains several files. The format can store different data types, including image sequences, still images, audio, and so on. In terms of flexibility and compression, the format is designed to be highly efficient.
  • HEIC is a specific image file format based on the HEIF standard. The format is primarily used for storing compressed still pictures with an emphasis on high-quality compression. The format is associated with pictures captured on Apple devices and is the format adopted by Apple since the release of iOS 11.

How is HEIC Different from JPEG?

Image qualitySupports lossless and lossy compression, allowing for top-notch quality pictures with minimal loss of detail.Uses lossy compression, resulting in some loss of image quality.
CompressionAdvanced compression algorithms, results in smaller file sizes.Lossy compression, which reduces the image quality at high compression levels.
EfficiencySmaller file sizes, making it easier to store images.Larger file sizes, which consume more storage space.
Multiple imagesMultiple images are stored within a single fileStores one image per file, which leads to a large number of files and creates organizational problems.
CompatibilityCompatibility with non-Apple software and devices is limited.Widely supported and compatible with all devices, web browsers and software.

The table offers a concise comparison between HEIC and JPEG. The key differences between the two image file formats clearly show that HEIC is better than JPEG in terms of compression, efficiency, image quality, and storing multiple images in a single file. However, JPEG beats HEIC when it comes to compatibility.

So, you may have to change a HEIC file to JPG to avoid incompatibility. Some of the ways to do so are:

  • Set your iPhone to capture pictures in JPG instead of HEIC. Go to the Settings app on your phone > select Photos > choose Automatic under Transfer to Mac or PC. Then, whenever you are transferring photos to your Mac, the pictures will be automatically converted to a Mac-compatible format.
  • Convert HEIC files to JPEG on your Mac by opening the HEIC image file in Preview > click File > select Export > choose the file type under format > click Save.

What is HEIC’s File Extensions?

Several extensions are associated with HEIF and HEIC files. It is not only the .heic extension.

Apple uses the .heic extension, while Sony and Canon prefer .hif. Other extensions are .heifs, .heif, .avci, .heics, .avif, .avcs and .avifs.

If there are files whose extensions end with an ‘s’, it indicates an image sequence. This is similar to animated GIF files. You may see HEICS files when sharing files via AirDrop to a computer. But it is Apple’s default settings that you can send an HEIC file containing a single picture and not the entire animation.

The HEIF and HEIC image sequences are generally used by applications. It is not meant for regular sharing purposes by the end-user.

Can you Open HEIC Photos on Windows?

HEIC is Apple’s proprietary format introduced in 2017. Hence, you may wonder whether you can open HEIC image files on your Windows computer. And although the format is incompatible with Windows, there are some workarounds.

To open HEIC image files on Windows, follow these steps:

  • Open File Explorer and locate the.heic file. Right-click on the file and choose Photos.
  • Install the HEIF Image Extension from the Microsoft Store.
  • Go back to where the HEIC image file was saved and open it again. With the extension installed, the image should readily open in the PC Photos application.

Please note that this method only applies to Windows 10 & 11.

If you are using an older Windows device or running into trouble with the mentioned above, the best solution is to convert the HEIC image files to JPEG or other compatible format. You will find several online converter tools for the job. For example, you can use the HEIC to JPG tool to convert up to fifty HEIC image files to JPGs at a time. But this tool only converts to JPEG and not any other format.

What are the Benefits & Drawbacks of the HEIC Format?

Benefits of the HEIC format:

  • Superior compression algorithms – Advanced compression algorithms are used by HEIC, which offers smaller file sizes while maintaining high-quality images. The format supports lossless compression, which means that the image quality is retained after compression.
  • High-quality pictures – HEIC supports an array of resolutions and color depths, making it perfect for high-definition and standard images. The format can display more colors than the JPG format. Hence, the pictures appear more vibrant and rich.
  • Ability to store multiple images – The format stores multiple images in a single file. This is useful when creating animations or image galleries without the need for separate files.
  • Transparency support – The image file format supports transparency, which is important for pictures with different levels of opacity, such as overlays, icons, and logos.
  • Efficient storage – The storage space needed for pictures is reduced due to the smaller file sizes, which is particularly useful on devices with limited storage capacity.

Drawbacks of the HEIC format:

  • Limited compatibility – One of the biggest drawbacks of the HEIC image file format is its limited compatibility with non-Apple devices and software. Also, some software applications and older devices don’t support this format. This leads to incompatibility issues, and you have to encounter such technical difficulties when trying to transfer your photos or upload them online. Also, there is limited compatibility with cloud services. 
  • Conversion problems – Since HEIC images are not supported on all platforms and devices, converting the image file to JPEG is necessary before sharing the images. This is considered an extra step in the sharing process and, thus, a hassle.
  • Licensing and patent issues – The format is encumbered by licensing fees and patents. This has limited the adoption of this format by some open-source applications and projects.
  • Loss of metadata – During conversion, metadata might not be retained. This leads to the potential loss of metadata.
  • Processing overhead – HEIC uses advanced compression algorithms, which means decoding the images requires more processing power. This potentially affects the overall performance of older devices.

What are the Uses of HEIC image Files?

HEIC image files are primarily used for:

  • Storing high-quality pictures on modern devices with limited storage capacity. Thanks to efficient compression, more pictures can be stored without compromising image quality.
  • Sharing quality pictures between Apple devices while maintaining the picture quality during transfers.
  • Downloading and uploading images on email clients and websites supporting the HEIC image file format. This results in faster transfers due to smaller file sizes.
  • Editing HEIC pictures in different photo editing software, including professional tools like Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop.
  • The HEIC file format stores image sequences and animations. This makes them versatile for multimedia purposes.
  • The format is used for storing Live Photos on Apple devices, combining still images with a few seconds of video. This makes for dynamic viewing.
  • The format is used for preserving highly-quality professional photography. This helps them optimize storage space while displaying images with various details and colors.

Wrapping Up

The HEIC is a significant leap in image quality and compression. Thanks to its advanced algorithms, it strikes the perfect balance between super image fidelity and smaller file sizes. It is the format of choice for Apple devices.

However, despite its efficiency, the compatibility issues must be addressed. The format’s adoption rate is increasing, but consider converting to JPEG or other compatible formats if you encounter compatibility issues.



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