How to Play FLAC Files on the iPhone

If your iPhone can't play FLAC files, you have two options

FLAC Logo

Lifewire / Mike Wren

iPhone FLAC file support was introduced in iOS 11. Prior to iOS 11, Apple only supported the Apple Lossless Audio Codec (ALAC) format. It does the same job as FLAC but the operating system doesn't recognize the format. If your iPhone runs iOS 10 or older, play FLAC files on your iPhone by converting the files to a supported format or by using a FLAC player app.

These iPhone FLAC playback directions apply to iOS 10 and earlier iOS versions. However, you can use these instructions for newer iOS editions, too.

Use a FLAC Player

One solution to playing a FLAC file on an iPhone is to use a music player app that supports the playback of the format. Using a FLAC player means that you don't have to know which formats iOS understands. As long as the app understands the format, then it doesn't matter what the iOS music playback limitations are.

The only downfall to this is getting the music collection into the media player. This is why a FLAC player is only useful if your songs are FLAC-based. For example, there are several tools to get an iPhone to play FLAC files — such as VOX or FLAC Player+ — but you must provide the FLAC files to those apps. This is usually done by uploading the FLAC files to a cloud storage service you use on your phone and then importing those audio files into the media player.

Here's an example of this process involving Google Drive and VOX. Find the FLAC file in Google Drive, tap Open in, then Copy to VOX. The file opens in the VOX app and starts to play.

Three iOS screens showing Open in, Copy to VOX and VOX player

Convert the FLAC File to the ALAC Format

The other option is to convert FLAC to ALAC which saves the FLAC file to a file with the M4A file extension.

If you have a lot of music that needs to be in the ALAC format, convert the files in bulk. Plus, iTunes is compatible with ALAC, so it syncs these files straight to your iPhone.

When converting files from one lossless format to another, the files don't lose audio quality as they do when converting to a lossy format.

To convert FLAC to ALAC, use an audio file converter. Load the FLAC files into the program or web service, then choose ALAC as the output format. MediaHuman Audio Converter is one example of a program for Windows, Mac, and Linux that supports the FLAC to ALAC conversion.

ALAC option in MediaHuman Audio Converter

An online audio converter tool is handy but inconvenient if you plan to convert more than a few files. An offline tool like MediaHuman's software is better suited for converting a large collection of files.

You can also convert FLAC to M4A with iTunes, which is ideal if the audio files are on your computer:

  1. Open iTunes and go to Edit > Preferences (Windows) or iTunes > Preferences (Mac).

    iTunes Preferences menu item
  2. In the General Preferences dialog box, go to the General tab and select Import Settings.

    Import Settings in iTunes Preferences
  3. In the Import Settings dialog box, select the Import Using dropdown arrow and choose Apple Lossless Encoder.

    Apple Lossless Encoder option in Import Settings for iTunes
  4. Select OK.

  5. In the General Preferences dialog box, select OK to return to iTunes.

    OK button in iTunes' General Preferences window
  6. To open your music library, select Music, go to the Library tab, then select Songs.

    Songs in iTunes
  7. Select the files to convert to ALAC.

    If you can't find the files, you may need to import the music into iTunes so that the songs appear in your music library.

  8. Select File > Convert > Create Apple Lossless Version.

    Create Apple Lossless Version menu item in iTunes
  9. After a few seconds or longer, depending on the number of files being converted, the ALAC-formatted M4A files appear next to the originals in your iTunes library.

    iTunes music conversion process in Windows 8
  10. Now that the FLAC files exist in a compatible format with your device, sync your iPhone with iTunes to copy the ALAC songs to your phone.