What Is a 3GP File?

Most devices can play a 3GP file automatically, but here's what to do if not

What to Know

  • A 3GP file is a 3GPP multimedia file.
  • Open one with VLC, MPlayer, and other multimedia players.
  • Convert to MP3, MP4, MOV, WAV, AVI, etc., with Zamzar.

This article explains what a 3GP file is and how to open one on your computer or mobile device. It also describes how to convert a 3GP file to a different audio or video format.

What Is a 3GP File?

Created by the 3GPP (3rd Generation Partnership Project), a file with the 3GP file extension is a 3GPP multimedia file.

This video container format was developed with the intention to save on disk space, bandwidth, and data usage, which is why they're often seen created from, and transferred between, mobile devices.

It's the required, standard format for media files sent using Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS) and Multimedia Broadcast Multicast Services (MBMS).

Files in this format might sometimes use the .3GPP file extension, but they're no different from ones that use the .3GP suffix.

3GP vs. 3G2

Lifewire / Tim Liedtke

3G2 is a very similar format that includes some advancements, but also some limitations, compared to the 3GP format.

While 3GP is the standard video format for GSM-based phones, CDMA phones use the 3G2 format as specified by the 3rd Generation Partnership Project Group 2 (3GPP2).

Both file formats can store the same video streams, but the 3GP format is considered superior because it's able to store ACC+ and AMR-WB+ audio streams. However, compared to 3G2, it cannot contain EVRC, 13K, and SMV/VMR audio streams.

All that said, when it comes down to practical use of either, programs that can open and convert 3GP files are almost always the same that can work with 3G2 files.

How to Open a 3GP or 3G2 File

Although there may be some limitations, most mobile devices are almost always able to natively play 3GP/3G2 files.

If you do want a separate mobile app for playing 3GP files, OPlayer is one option for iOS, and Android users can try MX Player or Simple MP4 Video Player (it works despite its name).

You can open either multimedia file on a computer as well. Commercial programs will work, of course, but there are also plenty of freeware 3GP/3G2 players. For example, you can use software like Apple's free QuickTime media player, the free VLC media player, or MPlayer.

You can also open 3G2 and 3GP files with Microsoft's Windows Media Player, which is included in Windows. However, you might need to install a codec for them to display properly, like the free FFDShow MPEG-4 Video Decoder.

How to Convert a 3GP or 3G2 File

If the file doesn't play on your computer or mobile device, converting it to a more usable format, like MP4, AVI, or MKV, can be done with one of these free video converter programs. One of our favorite free video converters that supports both formats is Any Video Converter.

Zamzar is one example of a free file converter that convert these types of files on a web server, meaning no need to download any software yourself. Just upload your file to that site, and you'll have the option to convert the file to the other format (3GP-to-3G2 or 3G2-to-3GP) as well as convert either to MP3, FLV, WEBM, WAV, FLAC, MPG, WMV, MOV, or to any other popular audio or video format.

You cannot usually change a file extension (like the 3GP/3G2 file extension) to one that your computer recognizes and expect the newly renamed file to be usable (renaming doesn't actually convert the file). In most cases, an actual file format conversion using one of the methods described above must take place (a different file converter can be used for other file types like documents and images).

However, since they both use the same codec, you might have luck renaming the file to one with the .MP4 extension if the device you want to play the file on is a little picky in that regard. The same is true for .3GPP files.

Still Can't Open It?

If your file doesn't open at this point, there's a good chance you're misreading the file extension, confusing another format for this one. Some file extensions look really similar, which can lead one to believe that the formats are similar, too.

Unfortunately, that's not always the case. 3PE files, for example, might at first glance appear to have something to do with the formats described on this page, but they're really forms used by TurboTax.

G3, which is used for fax images, could also be misread as 3GP. One that looks a lot like 3G2 is 323, which are H.323 Internet Telephony files used by some video conferencing applications.

If your file doesn't actually end in the file extensions explained here, research the letters/numbers that you do see to learn more about the format and what program you need to open or convert it.

  • How do I convert a 3GP file to MP3?

    Use a video program converter such as MiniTool Video Converter or Zamzar, which requires no software installation. With Zamzar, go to Choose Files > mp3 > Convert Now.

  • Which Windows programs play 3GP files?

    Windows Media Player 12 comes preinstalled on Windows 7 and newer, and plays 3GP files, among many other formats. If you have trouble playing a 3GP file, or you're interested in other free programs with Windows support for 3GP, consider VLC and GOM Player.

  • How do I convert a 3GP file to MPEG?

    MiniTool Video Converter and Clone2Go Free Video Converter are free programs that support 3GP-to-MPEG file conversions. Another option is Online Converter, which is installation-free and works with Windows, macOS, and Linux.

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