Do HEIC Live Photos from sync to your iPhone using iTunes?


I have an interesting problem, but it’s probably easier if I show you.

As you can see from the images above, JPG-format Live Photos sync (with Live Photo effect intact) to my iPhone just fine. Live Photo-less, HEIC-containered, HEIF-formatted photos sync just fine. Live Photo-less, JPG-containered, HEIF-formatted photos (not sure how this works, TBH) sync just fine. And of course, Live Photo-less JPG/JPEGs sync just fine.

But Live Photos using the HEIC container and HEIF format, do not sync.

Twice a year, I’ll do an import of my iPhone’s camera roll into, both to keep my camera roll manageable, and to do a backup of sorts. I’ll create a new album, dump all the photos in there, and then sync that album to my iPhone. A couple of months ago, I went looking for a photo I knew I had taken, but couldn’t find it on my device. I went back to my Photos library on my Mac, and there it was.

Digging a little deeper, I discovered that while there were plenty of photos that did sync from back to my iPhone, they were mostly screenshots. There were some photos, but nothing with a Live Photo effect, only stills.

As you can see from the screenshots above, I’ve played with every possible setting, but no matter what combination of High Efficiency, Most Compatible camera capture formats, or Automatic or Keep Originals photos transfer settings, I cannot get HEIC Live Photos to sync to my device after they’re imported to

Judging by Apple’s support forums, it’s possible that there’s a similar issue affecting HEVC videos syncing to devices, or some kind of conversion that means Live Photos lose their Live Photo effect after being imported and synced back (which I’ve also run into, but only with JPG Live Photos).

I’ve tried a bunch of stuff, to no avail:

  • un-ticking the “Sync Photos” button in iTunes, deleting all the photos off my iPhone, then re-syncing
  • re-installing the latest macOS 10.13.4 combo update, and trying the above again
  • repairing my Photos library (as per this support article) and trying the first thing in the list again
  • setting up an entirely new device (my old iPhone 7) and syncing just the photos to that

Here’s what I’m using:

  • iTunes — I only mention this because it’s the version that allows App Store access on the Mac, and not the latest version available, iTunes 12.8
  • macOS High Sierra 10.13.4
  • 3.0
  • iPhone X running iOS 12 (but this was also an issue on iOS 11)

Consider this screenshot:

To me, the differences in the photo count numbers above (iTunes reports 126 photos in the Jul-Dec 2017 album, while Photos says there’s 335 items), would suggest that it’s iTunes that isn’t correctly picking up the HEIC-containered Live Photos, and not some problem with the photos themselves. Alternatively, it’s also possible that Photos isn’t exposing the photos to iTunes properly so they can be synced.

Of course, it’s also entirely possible that syncing HEIC Live Photos to an iPhone isn’t an issue with the latest version of iTunes, and that all my investigative work has been for naught, which brings me to my original question. (I don’t think doing an upgrade/downgrade of iTunes to test is as straightforward as I would like, which is why I’m asking.)

If you import your Live Photos to on Mac and are using the High Efficiency Camera Capture setting, do they sync to your iPhone? If so, I’d love to know a) what version of iTunes you have and b) what you’re doing differently.

As a workaround, I could switch back to the Most Compatible Camera Capture setting. But that doesn’t really do anything for the images I’ve already captured. And if it turns out that the latest version of iTunes works, I really don’t want to have to choose between accessing the App Store from my Mac or syncing my HEIC Live Photos.