January 28

Mobile Phone Video Formats


How To Get Online Video To Play On A Mobile Smart Phone

cell phone video. Mobile Phone Video Formats

The number of people using mobile video is skyrocketing and will no doubt continue to do so.  Pyramid Research just released a report predicting an annual compound growth rate for mobile video of 28% over the next five years.   That means that by 2014, more than 500 million users worldwide will subscribe to one of the growing numbers of mobile TV services.

This would place it as the #4 watched medium for video, behind TV, movies and computers screens.

If you want to get in on all that action, here is some info you’ll need on mobile video file formats and different services to help you distribute your video.

With mobile video, tiny is the name of the game.  It’s best to keep this fact in mind during the entire production process since tiny details and small fonts will get lost on a cell phone screen.  There are only a handful of common formats used for mobile video.  They’re all highly compressed in order to create tiny file sizes.

  • 3GPP
  • Flash Lite
  • MPEG-4
  • RTSP

3GPP (.3gp)

3GPP is the single most common mobile format.  It was developed by the 3rd Generation Partnership Project, hence the name 3GPP.  It’s a globally standardized communication system so is ubiquitous worldwide.  If you record video on a cell phone, it will be saved as this format by default.

Most medium to high level video editing systems will convert and export 3GPP files.   Of course as with any video conversion need, there are many format conversion programs and plug-ins on the market available as freeware and shareware to help you make it work.

Flash Lite
Flash Lite is a streamlined version of Flash that was developed specifically for mobile phones and portable devices.  The full version of Flash of course is the single most common online video file format.  It is designated by an .FLV file extension.  Flash Lite is highly compatible with Flash players which makes it fairly universal.

Always versatile, MPEG-4 (named after developers Motion Picture Experts Group) is a good sharing format for mobile video.  It is also commonly used for online video in general but is one of the smaller formats so it works well for mobile video too.  Virtually any mobile video device will play an MPEG-4 video.

smart phone video

Other technical terms you’ll run into using mobile video include RTSP and its cousin, RTP.  RTSP stands for Real Time Streaming Protocol.   RTSP is used to establish and control streaming media sessions.   RTSP is used in combination with RTP, which stands for Real Time Transport Protocol.   RTSP handles the stopping and starting and RTP takes care of the actual transmission of the stream.   If you use any kind of mobile distribution service, they will handle this aspect of it.

Distribution for Mobile Video

With cell phone video, you can shoot it live and distribute it with a video sharing service such as Qik. Qik seems to be one of the most comprehensive and user-friendly mobile video platforms online.

Not only can you post your vid, but you can share it via e-mails and blast it out to various social network sites like Twitter.   Another such service now in beta stage is Umundo. Both of these services are aimed more at the casual user although they can also be used for marketing videos.

For the serious business user, you might want to consider a service along the lines of Multivu and QuickPlay.

Lorraine Grula

Internet Video Gal


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  1. Thanks for such a great article! Could I ask you a quick question? Which video file type should I use? I would like to use a format that will work with the most mobile devices possible. Thanks 🙂

  2. Hi Web Design!
    You ask a great question. Which file format you use is hard to say because things are changing every day. One thing that can make life easier is to have a service like “Send Video To Mobile” which reads things for you and then automatically sends out your video in the best format for that particular situation. Where are your videos hosted? Hosts are scrambling to keep up with this and some do better than others. If you are hosting on Amazon S3, then of course you have to keep up with it yourself.
    I am sorry but I do not know precisely about each of thee devices you asked about specifically.
    Here is a link to a fairly extensive list (Sony, Motorola and Nokia) of cell phones and the formats they use:


    And here is another link from the same website with some software for iphone conversion. (Neither of these are affiliate links)


    I hope this helps.

  3. I’m hosting my videos on my own GoDaddy server so I basically have to worry about converting the videos myself. I can only convert them into two formats (one for the computer and one for the mobile devices). I can’t convert more than two because I will constantly be adding new videos and will not have the time to render them more than twice. For the computer I’m going to use FLV but for the mobile devices I’m not sure. It seems like the best choice would either be MP4 or 3GP. Based on the link you gave me, most of those phones support MP4. The list did NOT have Android, Windows Mobile, or BlackBerry. I finally figured out what the iPhone supports so no worries about that 🙂 Is there any thing else you could point me to that might help? Thanks so much! 🙂

  4. You are more than welcome. I am always happy to help. I think you are right that MP4 or 3GP would be the most common at this point. Can’t please everybody! Check out the send to mobile service. I am not 100% sure it would work for you but it might. That is not an affiliate link.


  5. I wonder one question.
    tmr, I apply for wish company to going interview. so, to prepare RTSP and RTP protocol. But now, I don`t know that how can seek this protocol by packet browser. Now I use to QXDM programs a little. and just to check wireshark packet programs. If you know that how can find RTSP protocol to packet programs. then I so appriciate you.. have a nice day 😀

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