Play FLAC Audio Files on the iPhone in iOS 10 and Earlier

It's your choice: Helper app or conversion

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Image © Mike Wren

Beginning with iOS 11, iPhones can play FLAC format files. In older versions of the iOS, you used a FLAC player app or converted your music to Apple's ALAC format.

If you prefer the quality of your digital music to be bit-perfect while still using compression to save storage space, you probably have music files in the Free Lossless Audio Format (FLAC) that you ripped from a CD or downloaded from a high-definition music service such as HDtracks.

You can play FLAC files on your computer by installing a software media player that can handle this format, but your iOS device can't handle FLAC files out of the box unless you are running iOS 11 or later. Beginning with iOS 11, though, iPhones and iPads can play FLAC files.

How to Play FLAC Music Files in iOS 10 and Earlier

Prior to iOS 11, Apple supported only its own Apple Lossless Audio Codec (ALAC) format for encoding audio in a lossless way. ALAC does the same job as FLAC, but if you have music in the FLAC format and want to play it on the iPhone in iOS 10 and earlier, you have only a couple of options: Use a FLAC player app or convert the files to the ALAC format.

Use a FLAC Player

The most straightforward solution is to use a music player app, such as Vox Music Player, that supports FLAC. Doing it this way means that you don't have to worry about the formats that iOS understands. If most of your music library is FLAC-based, then it makes sense to use a compatible player rather than having to convert everything.

You can download any of several tools at the App Store to get your iPhone to play FLAC files. One of the best free ones is called FLAC Player+. As you might expect for an app that's free, it doesn't have the depth of features of comparable paid apps. However, it's a capable player that handles FLAC files with ease.

Convert to the ALAC Format

If you don't have a lot of music files in the FLAC format, then converting to ALAC format might be a better choice. For starters, iTunes is compatible with ALAC, so it syncs these straight to your iPhone — not something it does with FLAC. Going the conversion route takes a lot longer than keeping the files as they are. There's nothing wrong with converting from one lossless format to another, however. You won't lose audio quality as you do when you convert to a lossy format.

If you think that you won't need to play these lossless files on any mobile operating system other than iOS, then converting all your FLAC files to ALAC negates the need to use any third-party app on your iPhone.