HEIC Format Explained - Why Apple Uses HEIC Images

The Heic (High-Efficiency Image Container) format is a file format for high-quality images that matches Apple's Retina Display. This article will attempt to make sense of why the Heic format is used and how it works.

Heic was developed by Microsoft in 2009, but then it was released as open-source in 2011 after being acquired by Adobe. The latest version of this format has the ability to store a photo with a resolution up to 3840 x 2160 pixels: eight times better than previous versions.

The Heic format is supported by digital cameras by Nikon, Olympus, Sony, and Pentax. It can also be viewed with a wide range of computer graphics applications and web browsers.

The Benefits of Using HEIC

HEIC is an image container format that matches Apple's retina display and it can store a photo with a resolution up to 3840 x 2160 pixels. This means that HEIC files are 8 times better than previous versions. The file size is also reduced, which makes it perfect for viewing on the iPhone X screen and other mobile devices.

The main benefits of using HEIC are:
- A smaller file size
- Improved quality
- Reduced disk space required to store these images
- Can be viewed on mobile devices
- Can be viewed with a wide range of applications and web browsers

The Development of HEIC

HEIC began as a project for Microsoft Silverlight, which was developed by Qiming Software in 2009. The idea to develop the HEIC format was simple: provide a new container format, which could store images with superior quality at reduced file size. Although HEIC was supposed to be open-source, Microsoft did not release it because it wanted to use it for its own purposes.

Adobe Open Source HEIC

Ultimately, Microsoft sold the technology to Adobe in 2011. Then in 2012, the format was released as open source under a BSD (Berkeley Software Distribution) license, and it is now managed by the MRAI (Microsoft Research Asia) group of Adobe.
"This project is on GitHub: https://github.com/adobe-mrai/heic and you can contribute."

HEIC vs. Exif

There are two formats to consider when it comes to storing a photo: JPEG and HEIC. JPEG is the file format that Apple uses to store photos, and they also use EXIF (Exchangeable Image File Format). Both systems have their benefits and drawbacks, so it can be easy for you to get confused as to which one is the best.

The Exif format was developed by an organization called JEIDA (Japan Electronics and Information Technology Industries Association), and it is used in many different cameras. It also creates metadata, which can enhance the quality of the image when it is saved. One of the best features of the Exif is that it stores information about the camera used, as well as when it was taken.

However, the Exif system is not compatible with HEIC. Therefore, there are some times when you would like to shoot and use a HEIC file in order to get a smaller file size for viewing on your mobile device or web surfing. Also, the format is supported by Windows 10 and macOS Sierra as well as Microsoft Edge and Chrome.


The HEIF file format is the successor of the HEIC format. It was developed by the JEIDA as well, and it was updated in 2017 during the third version of the standard.

There are certain files that can only be opened with a web browser, like Safari or Google Chrome, which supports both formats. However, there are still some browsers that do not support these formats yet.

Most importantly, HEIC files cannot be sent via email or messaging platforms like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, which support the standard file format. Instead, they have to be converted into a JPEG file before it can be sent over these platforms.

Also, there are devices like GoPro that do not support HEIC files yet. The only way to send them is by converting them into JPEG files that can be shared via social media platforms.

The main difference between the two formats is that HEIF and HEVC are designed to offer better quality images, especially in low light conditions. When you are taking a photo at night, there is a chance that the camera might not be able to focus on the details of the object in order to capture it clearly.

This is why most cameras offer both formats for different pictures they take. So, if a picture has multiple objects that need to be in focus, then the camera would use HEIF. If it has only one object that needs to be in focus, then the camera will use the standard JPG format

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