Apple has quietly included support for playback of FLAC audio files on the 4K Apple TV, iPhone 8, and iPhone X, with compatibility also added retroactively to the iPhone 7 when iOS 11 gets its public release.
Support for the lossless compression codec now appears in the technical specifications on Apple's website for all of the above devices. However, as it stands, Apple's Music app does not currently support the format, so device owners who want to listen to the higher quality audio files will have to use the native Files app or a third-party app specifically made for FLAC playback, such as VLC or Plex.
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.
That said, Apple's latest iPad Pro range should also be capable of FLAC playback thanks to their high performance A10X Fusion chips, yet Apple hasn't updated its iPad Pro tech specs to indicate they will also support the standard.
It's possible that Apple is still testing FLAC support for its range of mobile devices, and may even have plans to offer the lossless compression standard as a download option in iTunes and playback in the Music app further down the line. However, it's worth noting that mobile users would only get the full benefits of FLAC by listening using Lightning-connected wired headphones, since a Bluetooth audio connection doesn't offer enough bandwidth to make the experience worthwhile.
Top Rated Comments
The only solution I've found to use my Spotify subscription over Bluetooth in a decent quality is to use a cheap Android phone with Apt-X...
By the way, all those Bluetooth 5 bells and whistles will change nothing.
Any FLAC content I acquire gets transcoded to ALAC and I delete the FLAC files. Should I want FLAC in the future I can just transcode it back. That's what's great about lossless formats.
Just convert FLAC to ALAC, folks. It works natively on iTunes, plays back on hardware ranging all the way back to the first iPods, and the compression ratio is very similar. There's also plenty of free tools to do it, including ones that'll parallelize the conversion of many files to do it quickly on multi-core CPUs.
I also wonder when Apple will bother to include higher than AAC formats into the HLS specification (apart from the antiquated AC3 pass-thru that's reserved for the Apple TV) - Apple's format for streaming over HTTP. It's a headache for streaming services who want to offer ALAC/FLAC streaming that HLS doesn't have any kind of lossless /HD audio support. They have to cobble together proprietary implementations loosely based on MPEG-DASH or even worse, HDS/RTMP (Flash!).
[doublepost=1505473688][/doublepost] I know! But to me, Apple Music in AAC sent straight to my Bluetooth headphones on an iPhone sounds about the same as Spotify in OGG re-compressed to Apt-X and sent to my Bluetooth headphones on my Xperia XA.
The worst is, the iPhone doesn't even recompress Spotify's OGG into AAC, it uses the inferior and older SBC codec, which frankly stinks. It does the same with Tidal Hi-fi or Qobuz Hi-Fi.