The HEIC Image Format: A Comprehensive Guide

The HEIC Image Format: A Comprehensive Guide

In 2017 Apple made a bold move and decided to change the default image format on iPhone and iPad. The company opted to let go of the popular JPEG and adopt the HEIC format. No matter if you’re an iOS user or not, you’ve probably heard by now of this file type. But what exactly is it, which are its pros and cons? Let’s take a closer look.

What Is a HEIC File

HEIC stands for High Efficiency Image Container. This is in fact an improved version of the HEIF standard (High Efficiency Image Format). As the name indicates it, HEIC represents a photo format developed to increase efficiency. Based on complex compression methods, this format has the ability to store photographs in smaller file sizes and offer at the same time a higher picture quality in comparison to the industry standard JPEG.

HEIC was adopted by Apple in 2017, along with the launch of iOS 11, and has remained ever since the default image format for iPhone and iPad devices. On Mac, this file type was introduced in the same year along with the launch of High Sierra (macOS 10.13). Apple definitely made this format more and more popular, but it did not create it. HEIC was originally developed by the Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG) as part of the High-Efficiency Image Coding (HEVC) standard.

The Advantages of the HEIC Format

If you opt for this photo format, it’s important to know that it comes with a series of benefits:

  • HEIC files are generally 50% smaller than JPEG’s and have the capacity to retain more pictures in a single file. This makes them ideal for saving store space on your mobile device or in the cloud.
  • Despite having a significantly smaller file size, HEIC maintains an impressive image quality. In comparison to other formats, this one supports 16-bit color depth, enabling it to display a broader range of colors and gradients.
  • It supports animations in full 16-bit color. In comparison, GIF’s can support only 8-bit images.
  • HEIC is a truly versatile format. It supports transparency just like PNG and can be used to create diverse forms of visual content, including Live photos and animations.
  • HEIC’s have the ability to store not only EXIF data, but also editing information. This means that you have the possibility to reverse the changes made to the picture.

The Disadvantages of the HEIC Format

As we’ve just seen, this file type offers some unique features. Of course, it is not perfect. The main disadvantage of HEIC’s revolves around compatibility.

As opposed to JPEG’s for instance, which enjoy universal support, HEIC files are not compatible with diverse systems, devices and platforms. The majority of Windows computers, certain Mac’s, internet browsers and Android phones and tablets can not open and display these files. This means that, if you wish to visualize or edit your HEIC files, you’ll have to first convert them to a popular format like JPEG or PNG.

How to Convert HEIC Photos

If you’re dealing with HEIC images that require conversion, you can easily accomplish this task with various software. You can opt for diverse online converters, a complex tool like Photoshop or resort to a lightweight editor like our own PhotoMarks for instance.

PhotoMarks gives you the possibility to convert your images in three-simple steps. Load your pictures in the first step, apply the desired edits in the second and select your destination and output format in the third. The tool will then automatically process all your photos, no matter if there are 10 or 100 files.


HEIC represents an optimal solution for iOS users who are looking to obtain a higher picture quality at a lower file size. Its efficient algorithms and versatility make it a great choice for both photographers and everyday users. At the moment the format is mostly used inside the Apple ecosystem, but its unique set of features could make it compatible with more and more devices and platforms in the future.