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iOS 11 to Support FLAC Playback for iPhone X, iPhone 8, and iPhone 8 Plus

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Apple’s new iPhone X, iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus include hardware codec support for FLAC, a lossless audio format, while iPhone 7 owners will soon be able to enjoy FLAC-encoded audio with an update to iOS 11.

Until now, Apple had purposely decided to ignore supporting FLAC playback support in both iTunes and iOS, although the are several third-party apps that allowed users to circumvent this exclusion.

According to a new report from MacRumors, the functionality was first spotted on an iPhone 6S Plus running iOS 11 Beta 1 and is reportedly available as part of the newly announced file-management app, Files.

Free Lossless Audio Codec (FLAC) brings the full quality of the original recording via lossless compression of digital audio at the expense of storage and bandwidth. The format cuts the file size to circa 50-60 percent of the original without degrading audio quality.

While iPhone 7 users will be able to take advantage of the new audio file support, it seems as if iPhone 6S users are out of luck.

“Apple’s support for the FLAC codec doesn’t officially extend to the iPhone 6S or iPhone SE, which may be because an A10 processor is a minimum requirement for hardware decoding and Apple is not satisfied with the power consumption tradeoffs of FLAC software decoding,” reads the report.

Apple is likely continuing to test FLAC support across the range of its mobile devices, and could possible even offer FLAC as a download option in iTunes and as a playback option in the Music app at some point in the future.

Interestingly, iPhone users will only receive the full benefits of the lossless compression standard by using Lightning-connected headphones, as a Bluetooth audio connection simply doesn’t offer enough bandwidth to properly play the files.

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  • BeaveVillage

    It was always annoying ‘acquiring’ a good album only to have it FLAC’d up. Thank goodness for the change, and yes, it will work on iPhone 7.

  • Decodering

    I did a little bit of sleuth work and testing yesterday :

    According to Apple’s website, iPhones 7, 8, and X offer FLAC playback. No iPads do (not even the Pros). The new Apple TV 4K will play FLAC. I couldn’t get the newest version of iTunes to load any FLAC files into the library, although I suspect that Apple will add FLAC support shortly as the new Apple TV will play them.

    The idea that Apple could be working on a CD-quality service that relies on FLAC is intriguing, although it wouldn’t need to abandon AIFF/ALAC files to do so. As for the upcoming HomePod, if playing FLAC files is dependent on the A10X or better (I don’t know why that would be, as I don’t think that requires more power than playing AIFF files), then the HomePod won’t play them (but why omit this from a new product as Apple is already rolling out compatibility in other products including the Apple TV 4K?).

    It could be that Apple is, at this point, just be responding to user requests to support FLAC, and it’ll just end there. But that doesn’t sound right – I bet the company is quietly putting some pieces in place for some future development that involves playing FLAC files.

  • I don’t see why Apple would ever sell downloads in FLAC when they already have their own lossless audio format that’s built in to iTunes: ALAC.

    I think the addition of FLAC support is great, and I would love to have iTunes finally be able to playback the FLAC files that can be downloaded from many higher quality online music stores. But would they ever sell FLAC? I think they’d push ALAC as much as possible, both because it’s proprietary and because the support for it has already been built in to iTunes for over a decade I think.

  • Playing FLAC files would definitely require more processing power than AIFF. AIFF is uncompressed PCM audio. It’s essentially the format that the compressed files have to be decompressed into. Playing AIFF requires zero decompression, so it would require by far the least processing power out of any of the formats (including MP3 and AAC).

  • FragilityG4

    I’m old, I can’t hear the difference Hahaha

  • youreallyhavenoclue

    but at what bitrate?!?! up to 24/192???

  • Tim

    It’s hilarious (but not really) that they’re crippling playback on phones older than the 7. Playing a large flac file is well within the processing capabilities of any iphone made in at least the last five years.

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