MOV files and MP4 files are both video file types—computer files that store the data allowing you to play back a video. With that said, they’re not quite the same thing. The most notable difference? MOVs are generally larger than MP4s. Allow us to elaborate.
MOV is a video format pioneered by Apple. As such, it’s the default format for videos taken on iPhones, iPads, and other Apple devices. MOV files work with the QuickTime file format (QTFF—a file format that contains the “rules” that make MOV files work) since Apple first developed the MOV format for use with its QuickTime Player application. MOV files tend to be bigger, especially when filmed in high quality.
On the other hand, the MP4 file is more of a universal format. It was developed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) as a generalized version of the MOV. That’s right—the MP4 was based on Apple’s MOV file. However, due to the method of compression, MP4s are typically smaller than MOV files of the same length.
Although MOV and MP4 files have their differences, they share a common purpose. Both file formats act as “digital containers” that hold all the data that makes up your finished project. In practice, that means that MP4 and MOV files contain:
- The video assets
- The audio assets
- The associated metadata (the file name, cover photo, language, description, director, and so on)
Both MOV and MP4 files are also encoded with the MPEG-4 codec. A codec (short for coder-decoder) is the compression technology that prevents video files from taking up terabytes of space. Essentially, codecs compress files on one end (whether videos or otherwise) and decompress them on the other end.