MOV VS M4V: Comparison between MOV and M4V

Apple has become a major influence in the software industry mainly because of the popularity of their products. One area where they’ve exerted their influence is with new file formats that they’ve introduced; two of these formats are MOV and M4V. These two formats are actually container formats that are actually meant to hold video files for playback. The main difference between the MOV and M4V formats is with what they are associated with. The MOV format is actually intended for use with QuickTime and is the default format for the application. In comparison, the M4V format is the default format for iTunes, and is thus the default format for portable Apple products like the iPhone, iPad, and iPod.

Just to clarify, MOV and M4V are just container formats and not codecs, which are the ones actually responsible for coding the video. So, the differences in quality of the videos are not actually because of whether the file is using the MOV or M4V format but due to the used video codec. For videos of the same length, a quick test would be to look at the size of the file. Although not always, it is often a good indicator of the video’s quality as it may mean a higher bitrate.

Another key difference between MOV and M4V is what codecs they can accommodate. M4V sticks with the MP4 format and uses H.264 for the video and AAC or Dolby Digital for the audio. In contrast, the MOV format supports a number of formats including the aforementioned ones, but also includes other codecs that are not under MP4.

Because of the wide array of codecs supported by MOV, it is not a suitable format for portable devices as some codecs may be more demanding than others. It can lead to issues with some devices not being able to play the MOV files. This is not as much of an issue with M4V as virtually all devices that are meant to play this format should not have any compatibility problems.

If you intend to move files between computers, tablets, and smartphones, it is best to go with the M4V format. Just to avoid problems later on when you move the file from one device to another.

Comparison Table

File Extension MOV M4V
File Type Apple QuickTime Movie iTunes Video File
Description MOV is a common multimedia container file format developed by Apple, containing multiple tracks that store different types of media data. The MOV format is actually intended for use with QuickTime and is the default format for the application. M4V, similar to MP4 format, is an MPEG-4 file extension that uses H.264 for the video and AAC or Dolby Digital for the audio, used for videos downloaded from the Apple iTunes store. The M4V format is the default format for iTunes.
Developed by Apple Apple
Pros Supports a lot more codecs that are not supported by M4V;
Works better and has more widespread support than M4V;
Better supported by portable devices than the MOV format;
The default format for portable Apple products like the iPhone, iPad, and iPod;
Cons May lead to issues with some devices not being able to play the MOV files because of the wide array of codecs supported by MOV; Not as widely-used as MOV format;
May be copy-protected using Apple’s FairPlay DRM copyright protection;
Help You Choose If you aim to play videos with QuickTime, edit with iMovie/FCP, etc, or need more supported codecs, MOV could be your best choice. If you intend to move files between computers, tablets, and smartphones, it is best to go with the M4V format just to avoid the format problems later on.

Summary:

1. MOV is a container format for QuickTime while M4V is the container format for iTunes
2. MOV supports a lot more codecs that are not supported by M4V
3. M4V is better supported by portable devices than the MOV format

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