HEIC/HEVC Compatibility

How widespread is adoption of HEIC and HEVC now? Is it likely that people I share them with, including Windows and Android users will be able to open them?

What about compatibility with popular platforms and services? Presumably the College Board has made the transition by now, but curiously Apple’s own iCloud Photos doesn’t support uploading HEIC image files:

Is it finally time to use these high-compression formats on my iPhone?

I continue to use the compatible formats myself, mostly because I really don’t need the slight space savings from them. I was just helping somebody a few weeks ago share some photos with a Windows user who couldn’t open the HEIC files, so I had to help her convert them all to jpeg and then share. (That was easier than trying to walk the other person through installing a HEIC file driver on her Windows computer remotely.)

My iPhone’s continually running on the edge of being full, so I use the HEIC/HEVC formats on the device itself. I use PhotoSync to transfer images and videos between devices, and I have it set to automatically convert these to the more compatible formats when transferring them to my Mac. So I get the best of both worlds: saving space on my phone, but having more compatible files on my Mac (where I’m most likely to share them from) without having to think about it.

I’ve been using them since day 1 and with very few exceptions, Photos converts them to JPEG when sharing or exporting such that it’s not an issue.

What’s the workflow that results in the error you shared?

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This relates to the nominal topic, if not the current direction of discussion. Can the AMD Radeon Vega Pro II accelerate processing of HEIC or HEVC files? VideoProc Converter tells me it cannot. If not, I think it is due to Apple programming not supporting Apple’s newest file formats and technologies. Such is not unheard of. Is this correct, or have I missed something?

In addition to accelerating processing of HEIC or HEVC files, will Apple use GPUs such as the Radeon Vega Pro II to accelerate IA functions as are largely done in silicon on Apple Silicon? I am concerned that Apple realizes its effort to keep systems relying on Intel processors (cpu or gpu) up to date with its hardware could be ported to competitors, and is thus opposed to its interest.

I think the Radeon Pro II is a very good gpu. I am concerned that its value only shines when programming uses it well, and Apple is disincentivized to use it. Inability to accelerate use of HEIC or HEVC files is one troubling example.

I hope someone will present a convincing argument that my assumptions and conclusions are wrong.


  1. Log into iCloud Photos
  2. Upload HEIC photo (from Mac)

The file can be selected and appears to upload and then the error message is displayed.

There are many posts about this on Apple Discussions.

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I’m confused by this. You have an iPhone or iPad, since you’re getting HEIC photos. And you’re using iCloud Photos, so all photos you take end up in iCloud Photos automatically.

So why would you ever want to upload some other HEIC photo manually to the Web version of iCloud Photos? I mean, it’s not an impossible thing to imagine, but I can’t see how it would be a standard workflow.

As far as all the complaints in the Apple discussion forum—they all seem to be answered by some variant on “Export the files in a way that gets you a JPEG, such as by dragging to the Finder, before uploading elsewhere.”

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I have Camera.app on my iPhone set to create JPEG, not HEIC, files (Settings → Camera → Formats → Most Compatible) so I’ve never dealt with HEIC files before. That craziness with the College Board scared me off from using HEIC when Apple started supporting it in iOS 11(?).

I posted my question to find out whether incompatibilities with other platforms remain.

I received these HEIC images in an email while I was at my Mac and I wanted to add them to my Photos library. I could have just dropped them into Photos.app for macOS but, in my experience, syncing between it and Photos for iCloud is very erratic thereby delaying photos from appearing on my iPhone for several days sometimes. So, I tried to upload the files directly to Photos for iCloud via its web interface, thereby sidestepping any sync delay in getting them to my iPhone.

No, I suppose it is NOT a “common workflow” and I apologize if I implied otherwise.

Nevertheless, I think that it is surprising and disappointing that Apple doesn’t support uploading HEIC images to iCloud Photos via its web interface.

Yes, converting HEIC → JPEG is the only answer Apple provides for uploading HEIC image files to Photos for iCloud via their web interface.

However, downloading a HEIC image file attachment from Gmail’s web interface, which was my situation, did NOT convert the format. Perhaps that’s what happens from Mail.app → Finder; I don’t know since I don’t use Mail.app or any other native mail client.

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Sounds like you’ve come up with a serious edge case, in that someone would have to work to send you an HEIC file in email, and then you chose to avoid the Apple-bundled Mac-native app in favor of a Web app. So it’s perhaps surprising that the iCloud Photos website doesn’t accept HEIC uploads given that it’s an Apple product, but it’s hard to see it being a common request.

All I can say is that in normal use, I’ve never found HEIC to be awkward enough to remember any issues. Most normal methods of getting an HEIC out of Photos will convert to JPEG. To avoid that conversion, you would need to use the Export Unmodified Original from Photos or insert into Mail and change the default from Actual Size to Unmodified Original.

Yes, it is an edge case.

And yet, there are there are a lot of posts about being unable to upload HEIC image files from macOS as well as Windows to iCloud Photos via the iCloud web interface.