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iPhone Camera Setting: High Efficiency vs. Most Compatible – Which Format Has Better Image Quality?

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Founder & Editor-in-Chief

Herby has a healthy obsession with all things technology, especially smartphones. He loves to rip things apart to see how they work. He is responsible for the editorial direction, strategy, and growth of Gotechtor.

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Few technological advances have reached the level of iPhone cameras, which people use daily to take casual and timeless pictures.

iPhone users continue to be wowed by the crisp coloration and detail of the photos the camera is capable of capturing, but a lesser-considered issue is not talked about enough: the size of the photo files.

They have likely noted that their device allows them to select a “Most Compatible” option or a “High Efficiency” one. But which option is better for their needs, “most compatible” or “high efficiency”?

First, let’s address those two options and their relevant differences, and then draw practical comparisons to help decide which to set on the iPhone based on the user’s needs.

“Most Compatible” vs “High Efficiency” Capture Settings

Sometimes, a user will take the crispest, most gorgeous, stunning picture and text to another user.

However, what the user receives is not quite the masterpiece the sender sees but rather a lower-quality equivalent.

This type of incompatibility, along with dramatically different file sizes, are some notable differences between the “Most Compatible” and “High Efficiency” capture setting options.

So, which is better in terms of storage and compatibility? And just how does the image quality between the two stack up?

Storage

By default, the iPhone is set to “High Efficiency” for camera captures because of the massive storage savings the option offers.

Those file sizes are half (or more) as small storage-wise as their “Most Compatible” counterparts. Most compatible stores files as significantly larger JPEGs. 

The same holds true for videos as well. As most users know, high-definition videos are extremely large, so those iPhone users struggling with storage concerns are more apt to choose the high-efficiency option.

Those not concerned with storage limitations can use the most compatible mode, but it is important to keep in mind that iPhone and iPad storage is finite and not expandable.

Compatibility

Whereas High-Efficiency photos are a clear winner in efficient storage, things are quite a bit different when it comes to compatibility.

Since most non-Apple devices do not support certain formats by default, images can be corrupted or severely degraded.

Video playback is even worse when shared from an Apple device with a non-Apple counterparts. 

While Androids and Windows phones do not support HEIC files, sharing converts them to older JPEGs, which causes them to be compressed.

This is true even when transferring photos to a Windows PC. Similar compatibility issues plague social media apps and native apps like Notes and Mail.

So, while the file size would certainly increase, non-Apple devices are equipped to handle JPEG formats better.

Your iPhone has a feature that automatically transfers photos in a compatible format or allows you to use “Keep Originals” if you’re transferring them to another Apple device.

Visual Display Quality

When it comes to comparing the two capture settings in terms of display quality, the difference is actually quite nominal to the human eye between a photo taken in the most compatible mode and its high-efficiency counterpart.

To an average observer, a photo in HEIC and a JPEG are at most minimally distinguishable.

Many claim that the most efficient mode is better in conditions with lower lighting due to the compression involved in high-efficiency photos. 

High-efficiency photos might indeed lose a very slight amount of crispness and detail due to compression. However, these differences are so minor that most people wouldn’t notice them.

In terms of overall image quality, there’s practically no difference between High-Efficiency and Most Compatible settings.

Even those who swear that the most compatible setting is the better quality, HEIC formats actually support a larger coloring array, meaning that photos look better across a wider color gamut.

Coupled with depth layering, the High Efficiency photos actually become easier to edit and view in retrospect.

Of course, these are mere technicalities, and the differences between the two, the average user, are seamless. 

Choosing Between Most Compatible and High Efficiency Settings

Choosing between the two capture formats is simple.

iOS High Efficiency format

Since your iPhone defaults to the High Efficiency setting, if you were to change to the most compatible variant, follow the steps below.

  • Navigating to Settings.
  • Choosing the Camera tab.
  • Selecting Formats at the top of the Camera settings.
  • A blue checkmark will likely indicate that the High Efficiency format is selected.
  • If opting to switch, simply tap the Most Compatible option instead, changing the HEIC file variant to JPEG for pictures and HEVC to H.264 for videos.

Wrap Up

So, the matchup between the two capture settings breaks down as follows:

  • High Efficiency takes smaller photos. This is ideal if you want to save space on your phone.
  • Most Compatible uses a format that is more easily opened and viewed on devices other than iPhones, especially non-Apple devices.

In terms of resulting image quality, the differences are so minor they are nearly indistinguishable from anything but the most critical expert eye.

Therefore, these are the main considerations when selecting the quality best for one’s iPhone camera.

Please use the comment section below for any questions.

Founder & Editor-in-Chief

Herby has a healthy obsession with all things technology, especially smartphones. He loves to rip things apart to see how they work. He is responsible for the editorial direction, strategy, and growth of Gotechtor.

Herby Jasmin

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