There have been an awful lot of image formats over the years. Most people know about JPGs and GIFs (oh, GIFs—they’re everywhere, now even taking over Facebook comment sections). People also often use PNGs and vectors for their images. All of these different image formats do slightly different things; for instance, JPGs are typically best at displaying photographs, GIFs are most commonly used for animations, PNG photos are best for images with lots of color, and vectors (which use the filename SVG) are currently better for things like logos or any other designs that are not as complicated as, say, photographs.
Now Apple is helping spread the use of an image format you probably haven’t heard of: HEIC. HEIC is an image extension that means High Efficiency Image File Format (called HEIF elsewhere). This format is now used by default on Apple devices that have macOS High Sierra (on Macs) or iOS 11 (on other devices) installed. The new image format is able to keep images looking great while making the file size smaller than with most other image formats, according to Macworld. Many are excited for this change, and for good reason. Being able to take beautiful photos without taking up a load of space is a great improvement, and though it hasn’t really happened yet, it’s possible HEIC could eventually overshadow JPGs completely if the format catches on.
Some had been previously worried about how it would work when they shared their HEIC images. There were concerns that people without iOS 11 or High Sierra would not be able to see these new files. However, when sharing these photos through an app, your photo will be uploaded as a JPG, and when transferring photos to your computer, you’ll have the option to switch your HEIC photos to a different format. The only real issues at the moment might be with cloud storage and transferring files from one device to another. The Verge points out that your HEIC files might be uploaded to the cloud, and in some of those cloud services, you might find it difficult to view your images on devices that don’t yet support HEIC. And when it comes to transferring between devices, if you save your images as HEIC on, say, a flash drive, then try to open those images on a non-compatible device, you might end up having to go to the trouble to use an image converter.
Aside from these very minor concerns, HEIC does seem like a contender when it comes to quality image formats. If you’re using iOS 11 on your device, you’re likely taking photos in the HEIC format, and it’s possible you’ll save a lot of space because of it. If you still want JPGs instead, you can turn it off, of course, but give HEIC a try and see what you think.