How can I convert an AVI file so I can watch it on my iPhone?

I recently got myself an iPhone and would like to convert an AVI file into a suitable format to watch on it. How do I do that?


This was an interesting question I got from Aaron, someone I met online. Well, Aaron, file formats are a bit like wine racks. There are lots to choose from, but only one will fit perfectly into that corner you have in mind. In this case you need to know that the iPhone uses a format called MPEG-4 (H264) which is still a development standard. There are a number of products that can do the conversion for you, but I’ll be using a free online tool called ZamZar today (which Ms. Kat had recommended to me some time back).

Zamzar is a website that will convert a myriad of file format from one type to another. The great thing about it is that as it’s online, you don’t need to install anything on your machine and you can access your file from anywhere you like. When you go to ZamZar, you’ll immediately see a 4 step wizard that enables you to perform the conversion. Here’s what you do:

  • Step 1: Specify the file or URL you would like to convert – You can either click Browse here and look in your computer to find the file you’d like to convert, or specify a URL where this can be obtained online.
  • Step 2: Choose the format you want to convert to – Once you specify a file, this dropdown will change to show the possible formats you can convert to. This will depend on whether you’ve specified a video, document, image etc.
  • Step 3: Specify the email address where you’d like to be notified when the conversion is complete – Some files take longer to convert than others. For example, converting a video will take some time. ZamZar will send you an email to let you know when the conversion is done.
  • Step 4: Click Convert – This starts the process.

Here’s what the screen looks like as you’re going through the process:

ZamZar will convert a number of file formats and you can see a complete list here. It’s simple and quick to try so go ahead and give it a try.

6 thoughts on “How can I convert an AVI file so I can watch it on my iPhone?

  1. On a Mac, the quickest and easiest way I’ve found is to use Quicktime itself. You’ll need to buy the Pro version and install the Perian codec pack, but then it’s simply a case of opening the movie in Quicktime Player and choosing File, Export, then choosing the target (iPod, iPhone, Apple TV, etc.).

    On Windows, MediaCoder is well worth a look:
    http://mediacoder.sourceforge.net/

    (Though last time I tried it I think they’d started embedding ads into it, so it may not be so great these days.)

  2. @Stef: Thanks for that, I’ll look into MedaCoder. Was pretty impressed with ZamZar though .. pretty comprehensive set of conversions

  3. Ever since I found Zamzar, I’ve been hooked on it.
    One of the most impressive to me things that it can do is to take the url to a music video on youtube, and convert it to mp3 format.
    I needed to find an mp3 of a song from an old tv show, and no matter where I searched, Amazon’s digital downloads, iTunes, just googling it, I came up empty every single time.
    I found the video for it on youtibe and said what the hell, why not try?
    I gave Zamzar the url, selected to change it to mp3 format, and within 5 minutes (even though they say it can take as long as 24-48 hours) I had the download link from them in my email.
    I downloaded the file and was impressed.
    The conversion was perfect, the song was flawless.
    I’m sure that’s a big no-no legal wise, but the RIAA can’t ge blood from a turnip. 😉 LOL

  4. @Kat: Thanks for your comment and for recommending the site. Don’t thnk I’d have managed to find it on my own ;)3

  5. tried that process but the file did not finish… tried it 4 times. I have a partial movie file now in avi still. what gives?

    Intersting concept… tried another link in the previous comment on it.

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