What Video Formats are Best for Mobile Devices


Before you watch video files or distribute them to be watched on mobile devices, it is always a good idea to check the format that they’re in. It is a simple step, yet it can help to ensure that the videos can be viewed and are displayed without any issues.

In general there are a few formats that are ‘best’ for mobile devices. Knowing what they are and the advantages that they bring to the table can definitely help you to ensure your videos are in the right format.

MP4 with H.264 (AVC)

The most popular format for mobile devices (by far) is MP4 with H.264 – which is also known as MPEG-4 AVC or MPEG-4 Part 10.

That may seem odd considering the H.264 codec is over one and a half decades old at this point, but it is actually due to the advantages the format brings to the tables.

Some of the key advantages of MP4 with H.264 are:

  • Compatible on practically any mobile device and can be viewed without any issues.
  • Supported by most major browsers including Internet Explorer, Chrome, Firefox, Microsoft Edge, Safari, and Opera.
  • Hardware support present on most mobile devices allowing videos to be viewed without using significant processing power and battery life.
  • Provides relatively good compression allowing for smaller file sizes for high quality videos, with only more recent codecs surpassing it.

In short, MP4 with H.264 is definitely the best format for you to ensure videos can be viewed without issue on any mobile device.

MP4 with H.265 (HEVC)

Although it has been over 5 years since it was released, MP4 with H.265 is not nearly as widely used as MP4 with H.264.

Several significant obstacles have stood in its way, including its complex licensing and royalty structure. Because of that it has not really gained the foothold that was expected as the successor to H.264, and is now facing a very real challenge from other new formats.

That being said the popularity of MP4 with H.265 has grown due to the advantages that it can provide:

  • Better compression ratio than H.264 and other older codecs, and it can reduce the file size of H.264 videos by up to 50%.
  • Compatible on most new mobile devices but some older devices may require specialized media players to be downloaded.
  • Hardware support present on new mobile devices and has steadily grown over the years.

Overall if you know the video file is going to be watched only on new mobile devices that support H.265 (preferably with hardware) – it is a better choice than MP4 with H.264, due to its improved compression. It will allow you to conserve a significant amount of storage space on your device.

Final Words

In most situations the two formats listed above are the ones that you will want to use for mobile devices. If your video files are in any other format, using a video converter to switch them to the format that you need can definitely prove to be beneficial.

Just remember that other formats may eventually replace MP4 with H.264 or H.265 as the ‘best’ video format for mobile devices. That is why it is always a good idea to stay current, and keep tabs on new formats that show potential – such as AV1.



Chris Price