Regardless of the dozen different ways you may have acquired them, you probably have a few AVI files somewhere on your Mac. The trouble with AVI, though, is the iPhone and most native Mac applications don’t understand what to do with it.


Whether you’ve had them floating around on your hard drive for a while, or you’ve been meddling in the torrent side of life, you probably have a few AVI files somewhere on your Mac. The trouble with AVI is the iPhone and most native mac applications don’t understand what to do with it.

To get an AVI into iTunes and then onto your iPhone, there are two methods you can use, both of which work equally well. However, both require downloading additional software.

Method One: Export from QuickTime

This method is fairly easy as you don’t have to learn to use a new program. On the other hand, I prefer to use method two below as it doesn’t take quite so long to process each file, in my case anyway. To use this method, you will need either QuickTime 7 Pro, which costs $30, or QuickTime X (part of the Snow Leopard package). You will also need to download Perian, which is a free preference pane and enables QuickTime to play AVI files, among other file types.

  1. Once you’ve downloaded and installed Perian, open your AVI file using QuickTime.
  2. QuickTime 7: To convert the file to a format which your iPhone recognizes, choose File > Export… then select a format from the dropdown list; MPEG-4 or iPhone are the best options to choose for this purpose. Choose where to save the new file and hit OK. QuickTime X: QuickTime X can send the file directly into iTunes, which saves a bit of time in the long run. Choose Share > iTunes… and you’ll be presented with three size options. Sometimes only iPhone will be available to select, but this is fine because that’s where we want to watch the AVI. Click Share and QuickTime will export the file directly into iTunes.
  3. You only need to continue with this step if you used QuickTime 7 previously. Once your file has been exported to your hard drive, all that’s left to do is drag it into iTunes, where it will be added to your library and can be synced to your iPhone.

Method Two: Convert Using ffmpegx

As I mentioned before, I prefer this method over the other because I find it faster. Also, using specialist conversion software can get you all the customisation features of QuickTime 7, without the price tag. The application I use is ffmpegx, which is shareware, but can be downloaded for free for our purpose with no limits or expiration dates. It also offers many options for conversion, including a whole host of preset options.

  1. Download and install ffmpegx and the additional files it needs to run.
  2. Drag and drop your AVI file into the From box in the left pane to have ffmpegx locate and open the file.
  3. Click Save As… and choose a file name and location for the converted file.
  4. In the To box in the right pane, click the downward arrow to access a dropdown list of preset file options. Alternatively, use the tabs at the top of the pane to access full customisation options.
  5. Click Encode and the program will do the rest. You can queue up additional files while that one is encoding if you wish.
  6. When the file has been converted, drop it into iTunes to add it to your library and put it onto your iPhone.

So there you have it: two ways of adding AVI files to your iPhone. I encourage you to try out both methods to find the one which works best for your needs. Or, perhaps, if you know of a better way, post it in the comments below for everyone to try out.

You’re subscribed! If you like, you can update your settings

    1. Touché.

    2. Handbrake no longer supports AVI. I tried that the other day.

      1. then try an update? i downloaded and converted an AVI file yesterday

      2. I won’t output to AVI, but that’s not what this article is about. It reads AVI just fine.

  1. No need to convert anything… it is a huge hassle.

    Instead, use an iPhone/iPad streaming application such as Air Video – it can stream any video file from your computer to your handheld device. It even streams on 3G… And no need to convert and sync files.

  2. I’ve noticed an issue when exporting .avi via Quick Time X where the soundtrack goes slightly out of sync with the video, just enough to be noticeable (and annoying). Anyone else encountered this and know a way to deal with it?

  3. Agree with Amitos. I used to convert AVI’s and is such a pain in the arse. Air Video has solved that for me on the iPhone and I hacked my AppleTV with ATV Flash to be able to play AVI’s too. No more converting! ^_^

  4. Or you could just use VLC

  5. You might also try Handbrake, It also exports/imports several types of files or even from other digital media (like CD or DVD) and its all free.. Works perfect over Pc or Mac

  6. If you do not wish to convert or export your videos, have a look at VideoDrive. It puts AVI, MKV, FLV, etc in iTunes without converting them first. It’s very fast and also downloads metadata and artwork (www.aroona.net). It seems it’s only available for mac.

  7. You can select the avi in iTunes; in the advanced menu select create an Ipod or Iphone version. don’t need QT pro or QT X.

  8. well…there are a couple options that I use

    first is the oldie but goodie VisualHub…not in support anymore but is easily found on torrent sites and is AMAZING…does a plethora of conversions and options…just like Handbrake…but it seems to be smoother for me…I use it to convert and then I use…

    iFlicks to add the metadata for movies and tv shows…and it has the option to convert if you want I just package in .mov format and have it drop it in iTunes for me…but if you want to use just one program you can use it to convert, add metadata and drop in iTunes…plus it has the ability to use the Turbo264 from Elgato to amp the process…

    of course iFlicks is a pay program but I love it…works great for me
    and has made things so much easier and makes TV and iPhone videos great

  9. I definitely prefer VideoDrive over QuickTime or ffmpegx. It has a great interface and takes care of everything: adding your movies and tv shows to iTunes, label them with episode and season numbers, download artwork and add descriptions. All in one go.

    It also has some great batch processing features. You can throw your whole TV show collection on it, and it will process all your videos at once. It’s smart enough to only ask you once if it has the right show and will process all episodes accordingly. Very fast too, with lots of updates: http://www.aroona.net/VideoDrive/Home.html

Comments have been disabled for this post