What music files does Android use?

Android is a popular mobile operating system developed by Google. It powers billions of mobile devices around the world. Android offers robust capabilities for playing music files. Users can play locally stored music as well as stream from various music services.

Android supports all the major music file formats like MP3, FLAC, WAV, AAC, M4A, OGG, WMA, and ALAC. It allows music playback through the native music player as well as third party apps. Android also integrates with music streaming services like Spotify, YouTube Music, Pandora, and others. Users can browse massive music catalogs, create playlists, and enjoy music on the go.

This article provides an overview of the key music file formats used on Android devices and their capabilities.


MP3 is the most common music file format used for digital music consumption. According to data from Statista, 74% of digital music sales worldwide were MP3 files as of 2019 (source). The popularity of the MP3 format is largely due to its ability to compress audio files while retaining high sound quality. This makes MP3 files smaller in size, allowing them to be easily downloaded, stored, and transferred.

MP3s revolutionized the music industry when they emerged in the 1990s, enabling widespread music piracy through peer-to-peer sharing networks like Napster. While this initially disrupted music sales, the MP3 format’s popularity ultimately led the industry to embrace digital music distribution through stores like iTunes. Most digital music services today, including streaming platforms, use the MP3 format due to its universal compatibility across devices and software.


FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec) is an open-source audio coding format designed for lossless compression of digital audio. Unlike lossy compression formats like MP3, which remove data to shrink file sizes, FLAC preserves all of the original audio information. This makes it ideal for anyone who wants CD-quality audio in compressed files.

FLAC offers compression similar to ZIP files, reducing the size of audio files by 40-50% without losing quality. The smaller file size makes FLAC a convenient format for storing and streaming hi-res audio. FLAC is supported on Android devices as well as computers and certain audio players.

The downside is that FLAC files take up much more storage space than lossy formats. However, for audiophiles who want maximum audio fidelity, FLAC is one of the best options on Android. With free encoding/decoding software available, it’s easy to start using FLAC to store music collections.


WAV is an uncompressed audio format developed by Microsoft and IBM. On Android devices, WAV files provide high-quality sound as they contain raw PCM audio data without any compression. However, the downside is that WAV files are large in size. An uncompressed CD-quality WAV audio file takes up around 10MB of storage per minute.

Android natively supports playback of uncompressed WAV files up to 24-bit/192kHz, which is the highest level of quality. When playing WAVs on Android, users can expect to hear the audio exactly as it was originally recorded without any loss of quality from compression. This makes WAV suitable for certain audio applications that require the highest fidelity, such as music production. However, the large file sizes make WAV impractical for everyday listening on mobile devices.

Some popular Android music apps that support WAV playback include Poweramp, Neutron Music Player, and USB Audio Player PRO. However, the default Android music apps may struggle with WAV files, so a specialized audiophile music app is recommended for best results. Overall, while uncompressed WAV files provide the highest audio quality, their large size makes formats like MP3 and AAC more practical for everyday use on Android devices.


AAC (Advanced Audio Coding) is another popular audio format supported natively on Android devices. It was developed as the successor to the MP3 format by the Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG) and several other companies. AAC offers better audio quality than MP3 at similar bitrates. This means you can store AAC audio files that take up less storage space but sound as good or better than MP3s.

AAC is widely supported on modern smartphones, media players, online streaming services, and other platforms. When you purchase music online from stores like iTunes or Google Play Music, the files are typically downloaded in AAC format. The AAC format allows Android devices to efficiently handle compressed high-quality audio for music playback and streaming.


M4A is an audio file format developed by Apple as their version of the Advanced Audio Coding (AAC) format. AAC is an audio compression standard used for lossy digital audio compression. M4A files can contain AAC audio as well as Apple Lossless Audio Codec (ALAC) lossless audio 1.

M4A files are very common on Apple devices and software, such as iTunes. They are fully supported and playable on all Apple devices. On Android, M4A support was added in Android 3.1 Honeycomb in 2011. Most modern Android devices can play M4A files without issue.

Overall, the M4A format provides an efficient way to encode audio while maintaining good quality. Its widespread use across Apple’s ecosystem makes it a popular format for mobile devices and digital audio players.


OGG is a free, open container format maintained by the Xiph.Org Foundation (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vorbis). OGG can contain audio, video, and other multimedia encoded in formats like the Vorbis audio codec and Theora video codec. The Vorbis audio format used in OGG is a lossy audio compression format, offering compressed audio files without sacrificing significant quality. Vorbis gained popularity as a free alternative to other proprietary and patent-encumbered formats like MP3 and AAC.

Android has included native support for decoding OGG audio files since Android version 1.5 Cupcake. The open nature of Android and inclusion of OGG support made the format popular for Android games and apps, especially among indie developers (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11828203). While OGG and Vorbis have not replaced more dominant formats like MP3, they remain in active use and part of Android’s audio ecosystem.


Windows Media Audio (WMA) is an audio coding format developed by Microsoft that offers lossy compression for audio files (Top 6 WMA Music Players for Android Phone and Computer). WMA files are encoded using Windows Media Encoder and decoded with Windows Media Player. The WMA format was created to compete with the popular MP3 and RealAudio formats.

WMA files can provide high audio quality at smaller file sizes compared to MP3s due to more advanced compression techniques. However, the WMA format is proprietary to Microsoft and is not as widely supported on devices and platforms as MP3 (How to Convert and Play WMA on Android Devices).

By default, Android phones do not natively support playback of WMA files. To play WMA files on an Android device, the files need to be converted to a more compatible format like MP3 or the device requires a third party WMA player app (Can Android Play WMA Files & Are There Android Apps to …). Some examples of Android apps that can play WMA files include VLC media player, Poweramp, and JetAudio.


ALAC stands for Apple Lossless Audio Codec. It is an audio coding format developed by Apple to compress audio data without losing quality. ALAC is similar to FLAC in being a lossless compressed format, meaning the original audio can be perfectly reconstructed from the compressed version.

ALAC files use the .m4a file extension. Originally, ALAC was intended for use only on Apple devices. But nowadays most Android devices also support playback of ALAC files. However, ALAC support may depend on factors like Android version, device manufacturer, installed media apps etc. Many modern Android smartphones can play ALAC natively in apps like VLC media player.

According to a discussion on Apple Support forums, ALAC files from Apple Music can also be played on Android devices. But the experience may vary across devices. Overall ALAC is reasonably well supported on Android, but compatibility cannot be guaranteed on all devices.


Android supports a wide variety of audio file formats including MP3, FLAC, WAV, AAC, M4A, OGG, WMA, and ALAC. The most common and compatible format across Android devices is MP3. Though not the highest quality, MP3 provides a good balance of sound quality and file size. For the best sound quality, lossless formats like FLAC and WAV are recommended, but these create much larger file sizes. When choosing an audio format, consider how you value sound quality versus file size and compatibility across devices.

In summary, for everyday listening MP3 is likely the best fit for most. Audiophiles seeking top quality may prefer FLAC or WAV despite larger files. AAC and OGG also offer good quality in smaller files. Whatever your needs, Android supports playing back the most popular audio formats.

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