What are Windows users doing with these new HEIC-format files from iOS 11?

Because I want life to be as miserable as possible, I upgraded my iPhone 7 Plus to iOS 11. It didn’t occur to me to go into the Settings->Camera->Formats menu and change the “Camera Capture” setting to “Most Compatible.” The default of “High Efficiency” results in a directory full of HEIC format files. In keeping with Microsoft’s policy of trying to avoid providing any feature that wasn’t part of Windows XP, my desktop computer, running Windows 10, can’t read these. Neither can Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop.

Recall that Google abandoned its faithful users by dropping support for Picasa and refusing to open-source the product. So it would seem that there is no hope of making HEIC files part of a Picasa-based workflow (but maybe it would still work if Microsoft put support into the OS?).

Readers: If you’re using Microsoft Windows and the iPhone what are you doing to manage HEIC photos on your desktop or laptop?

[Update: Even when the Camera is set to “Most Compatible,” if you inadvertently touch the “live” button on the Camera app it will revert to creating HEIC despite the annotation in settings saying “Most Compatible will always use JPEG/H.264”. So even if you have the phone set up to create JPEGs you are one thumb away from creating HEIC files by mistake. I then de-selected Live and checked to make sure the Camera was still on “Most Compatible,” but it continued to create HEIC still images (though without the short movie .MOV file). I power-cycled the phone and it went back to creating JPEGs (at least until the next inadvertent activation of “Live”)]

[Update 2: I think that the answer is to abandon iCloud as the transport mechanism from the phone up to the cloud and down to the Windows machine. By telling Dropbox to upload the photos to the Camera Uploads directory, everything that is HEIC seems to be converted into JPEG (this is configurable, but conversion to standard JPEG is the default behavior). So… once again, Dropbox to the rescue!]

[Update 3: Maybe Dropbox is not a complete answer. Images taken in the iPhone’s Portrait mode get transferred only as a base image, not the magically processed one. iCloud transfers two versions, one without a blurred background and one with a blurred background (plus some crazy fringe/edge artifacts!).]

[Update 4: Dropbox + Camera Uploads = Denial of Service Suicide Attack. Dropbox tries to upload every photo that is “on the phone.” With iCloud, every photo that you’ve ever taken with an iPhone of any kind is “on the phone.” It just needs to be retrieved from the cloud. So you’re setting yourself up for 50 GB of file transfer. But if the phone has only 32 GB of memory what happens is that the phone is effectively disabled due to being out of storage. Somehow whatever Dropbox does renders the phone unable ever to drop the photo data and rely on being able to re-retrieve the photo from iCloud.]

11 Comments

  1. Alan

    October 15, 2017 @ 7:24 pm

    1

    Yet another advantage of having stuck with an iPhone 5

  2. David Walker

    October 15, 2017 @ 7:53 pm

    2

    A little Googling produces this listing of HEIC format converters:
    https://www.google.com.au/search?q=convert+heic+files

    … including “iMazing HEIC Converter, a tiny and free desktop app for Mac and PC which lets you convert Apple’s new iOS 11 photos from HEIC to JPG or PNG.” It appears to include batch conversion.

  3. George

    October 15, 2017 @ 10:54 pm

    3

    Why do you want to be locked in to some goofy Apple format? The rest of the world uses jpeg.

  4. philg

    October 15, 2017 @ 11:05 pm

    4

    George: I didn’t want to use this format. Apple helpfully switched me over to it without asking me.

  5. philg

    October 15, 2017 @ 11:22 pm

    5

    David: Thanks for the iMazing Converter idea. It can’t handle any file that was edited on the phone. When you feed it a bunch of files it seems to be stuck for a minute or two before doing anything. But it mostly works. Still, given that I am a paid-up subscriber to Adobe Everything I don’t know why I needed to install yet more software on my desktop machine…

  6. Tom

    October 16, 2017 @ 4:03 am

    6

    Isn’t HEIC the ‘next standard’ rather than just some Apple format? I know that HEVC (x265) is a nice improvement on x264, and increasingly found in the wild.

  7. David Anderson

    October 16, 2017 @ 5:13 am

    7

    Apparently OneDrive has automatic HEIC to JPG conversion: https://www.theverge.com/2017/9/19/16332192/apple-ios-11-heic-iphone-image-format

  8. lion

    October 16, 2017 @ 4:13 pm

    8

    It feels like the cycle of the 1990’s repeating. 1st there was a wave a new languages as the generation which graduated around 1990 applied their typical CS education. Then there was a wave of new video formats as that generation graduated to commercial applications of their languages.

  9. Sara

    October 18, 2017 @ 3:59 am

    9

    Honestly speaking, the HEIC format is beneficial in the long run as it will save up space from your device. If the incompatibility issue is concerning, we can just convert it to JPG when we need our image. There’s quite few apps already and here’s one example: https://www.apowersoft.com/heic-to-jpg. The conversion is pretty easy (drag-and-drop function) and fast.

  10. Jim W

    October 22, 2017 @ 11:46 pm

    10

    @philg, how do you normally transfer the files to your Windows computer? If you plug the phone into the PC and copy them over, then there is another option that will be of interest to you. On the iPhone, in ‘Settings -> Photos -> Transfer to Mac or PC’ you can choose either “Automatic” or “Keep Originals”. If I correctly understand what that does, “Automatic” will transfer (convert) the files in a compatible format for your platform. “Keep Originals” will transfer HEIF files regardless of target system compatibility with that format.

    As a current/former Picasa user, I’m gradually migrating to a google photos workflow and that product does work with HEIC/HEIF/HEVC.
    https://vertexreport.com/2017/09/google-photos-now-supports-ios-11s-heif-hevc-camera-formats/

    @George, HEIC (HEIF) is not a “goofy Apple format”. It’s an MPEG standard that other companies have not yet adopted.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_Efficiency_Image_File_Format

  11. philg

    October 23, 2017 @ 12:51 am

    11

    Thanks, Jim. I use iCloud so that the photos automatically appear on the Windows machine.

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