What you’ll learn.
What is a HEIC file?
When you take a photo on your iPhone or iPad, the image – or images, in the case of dual cameras and live photos – saves as an HEIC file.
HEIC stands for High Efficiency Image Container. The format is an updated variant of the High Efficiency Image Format (HEIF), traditionally used by Apple across its mobile devices.
Apple uses HEIC for HEIF images. HEIF essentially saves images in higher quality than JPEG while also using less space thanks to advanced compressive technology. This space-saving file format uses High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) to compress and store images on device drives — taking up half the space of other image file formats, like JPEGs.
Each HEIC file uses the .heic or .heics extension, depending on the number of images inside. The file also contains the relevant metadata describing each image’s size, resolution, location, and more.
History of the HEIC file.
While HEIC has grown in popularity due to being Apple’s standard file format, the Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG) developed the original HEVC and HEIF technologies.
Apple previously adopted MPEG’s Advanced Audio Coding (AAC) standard for iTunes, and newer iPhones started using the HEVC/H.265 video format in the mid-2010s. So it was the natural next step for Apple operating systems to move to HEIC files in 2017 as part of the iOS11 and macOS High Sierra updates.
In switching from JPEG to HEIC, Apple improved their space-saving capabilities and kept up with the increasing quality of their smartphone cameras. This later led to other manufacturers, such as Microsoft and Canon, embracing the HEIF format.