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iOS 11’s new image formats will prevent photos from eating up all your storage

June 10th, 2017 at 3:00 PM
iOS 11 Features

Even though Apple mercifully killed the 16GB storage tier on the iPhone last year, running out of storage still remains a frustrating issue for many iPhone users. Thanks to the iPhone’s ability to shoot 4K videos and take high-resolution photos — not to mention storage-hungry apps and the proliferation of podcasts — even users with 128GB of storage can quickly find themselves running low on storage space.

In an effort to lighten the load, Apple with iOS 11 will incorporate new brand new camera formats that should go a long ways towards freeing up precious iPhone space. Originally introduced at WWDC earlier this week, the two new formats — HEVC (High Efficiency Video Codec) and HEIF (High Efficiency Image Format) — will offer iOS users much better compression without sacrificing photo quality at all. During the WWDC keynote this week, Apple’s Craig Federeghi boasted that compression with the new photo formats is 2x better than what currently exists on iOS. In other words, iOS 11 may go a long ways towards ensuring that storage space remains in plentiful supply.

With developers and enthusiasts already busy exploring every hidden crevice of iOS 11, Greg Barbosa of 9to5Mac recently decided to put Apple’s bold photo storage claims to the test. When comparing two photos — one taken normally and the other taken with Apple’s newly adopted format — Barbosa found that the the former checked in at 2MB while the latter weighed in at a much lighter 1.2MB. With many iPhone owners taking hundreds of photos, those storage savings can add up incredibly quickly.

If you’re currently running iOS 11 beta 1, you can verify this by switching between the High Efficiency and Most Compatible formats under iOS Settings → Camera → Formats. Under the High Efficiency format, images will be saved as HEIC and movies as an HEVC .mov file. Under Most Compatible, images will be saved as JPGs and movies as an h.264 .mov file.

In testing I went out at night and took a photo and video of the New York City skyline. The outputted JPG image weighed in at 2 MB, while the HEIC image came in at 1.2 MB. Similarly, the h.264 encoded video was 61.2 MB, while the h.265 (HEVC) video was 33 MB.

Notably, the new camera formats will reportedly only work on devices with Apple’s A9 processor, which is to say the iPhone 6s, 6s Plus, the iPhone SE, and both iPhone 7 models.

The new photo formats aside, Apple has implemented a few other features in iOS 11 to help users save on storage space. As we detailed earlier in the week, iOS 11 has a feature that will automatically “offload” unused apps while retaining said app’s documents and data should a user want to download it at a later date.

Additionally, iOS 11 makes it easier for users to search out and delete conversations, photos, and attachments that happen to be taking up a lot of space.

A life long Mac user and Apple enthusiast, Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large for over 6 years. His writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and most recently, TUAW. When not writing about and analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions, the most recent examples being The Walking Dead and Broad City.

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