Confused By HEIC Photos on Your iPhone? You’re Not Alone

If you’re an Apple user, you may have noticed your photos suddenly end in HEIC. What on earth is HEIC format, and why are all of your photos spontaneously using it?

HEIC is Apple’s new proprietary image format. It’s the default on iPhones as of iOS 11, and Macs as of macOS High Sierra. So if you’ve noticed that your images are now in HEIC format, it’s probably because you recently upgraded to one of these newer system versions.

The benefit of HEIC is that the files are much smaller even at high resolution, an important factor when considering a device’s available storage. But the abrupt change has caused a lot of understandable confusion among consumers, who wonder why these weird HEIC files are running rampant through their computers.

(I’m going to pause a moment to give Apple a side eye, and remind them that changing longstanding defaults without warning is not a great way to endear themselves to customers.)

HEIC is currently only used by Apple, so these images need to be converted if you want to share them with non-Apple users. Fortunately, Apple does that for you automatically if you share the image using the Share button. But if you’re sharing files manually, you may need to convert HEIC into something your recipient can open, typically JPEG or PNG.

There are any number of HEIC converters out there, but be careful which one you use. Any time you give your data (in this case, photos) to a web site or app, you have no idea what they’re actually doing with it. Malicious sites might convert your files as expected, sure, but they might simultaneously steal them and sell them to advertisers or use them for deepfake porn. (Really. It happens more often than you think.)

With that in mind, here are some recommendations. I particularly like iMazing HEIC Converter because it converts the files on your computer instead of uploading them to the Internet. Even better, it’s available for both Mac and Windows, which is fantastic for Windows users who need to work with HEIC files.

And here’s a handy tip for Dropbox users: You can use Dropbox to convert HEIC files! You’ll find instructions on the Dropbox site.

If you’re not having trouble with the HEIC format, you might as well leave it be. But if you’d prefer that your iPhone save photos in JPEG format instead, you can change it. Go into Settings, then Camera, then Formats, and choose High Efficiency for HEIC or Most Compatible for JPEG.

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