Before we get into the details, it’s worth explaining why and how this problem occurs. It’s all about the codecs and containers.
What is a codec?
What is a container?
Why won’t my video play?
How to fix unsupported video format error?
Codec is actually the abbreviation of coder-decoder. The name actually says it all: it’s a method for encoding and decoding data, specifically compressed data. As you might have guessed by now, like.mp4 which is a popular video format for Android, there are video codecs for Android and audio codecs for Android. Usually, the job of a codec is to compress a set of data (video or audio) for storage and later decompress for playback or viewing.
Codecs are different from containers and file formats. AVI, for example, is often mistaken for one, when it’s simply the video file type and one of the more popular Android video formats.
HEIF and HEVC: the future of multimedia files explained
Usually, a container is also referred to as a file format. It takes care of packaging, transport, and presentation (while the codec prepares the file for these actions). Containers take care of synchronizing the audio and video. A container is part of the file that determines the file type. In simple terms – if you have an androidpit.mp4 file, MP4 is the container.
In most cases, the reason why you’re getting an error message when you try to play a video file on your Android device is that the codec of your media file is not supported by your media player. Another possible reason is that the audio codec is unsupported. You might think that your media player arbitrarily decides to play and not play the same file type, but a container can contain multiple codecs that your phone might not support.
How to open and play all file types on Android
As mentioned above, one of the most likely reasons you’re getting the “can’t open file”, “unsupported audio codec” or “unsupported video format” error is because your current media player doesn’t support the codec of your video file. The easiest solution is to switch from the default video player and download a new one. Here are two of the most versatile Android media players we recommend:
If you’ve ever used VLC on your PC, you’d know that it’s one of the most convenient and reliable media players out there. The same applies to the VLC for Android app. It includes all codecs without the need for additional downloads. It provides support for DivX and XviD compressed videos, as well as a variety of formats – MKV, MP4, AVI, MOV, Ogg, FLAC, TS, M2TS, Wav, and AAC. For those who love to watch foreign movies or anime, you’d be happy to know that VLC also supports multi-track audio and subtitles. Not only that – the app is light, free, and does not have obnoxious ads. It’s one of the best, if not the best, Android media players. Installing VLC for Android is usually the one stop solution for one of the most asked questions related to this topic. – ‘How to play mp4 on Android’.
VLC is our Android media player of choice / ? NextPit
VLC for Android
This is another light and easy to use Android media player. Just like VLC, MX Player supports multiple files (.avi, mpeg, mp4, wmv, divx, xvid and more) but also a variety of subtitle formats, including .txt, .sub, .srt, .idx and others. It also offers gesture controls, like swiping down to reduce brightness, scrolling backward and forwards to move subtitle text, and more. Unfortunately, the interface of the app is quite basic, but that might be appealing to some. The free MX Player version also has ads, but if you can live with that, it’s a great player that supports most of the video file formats and codec for Android. If not, there’s also an ad-free version available for $5.99.
MX Player has a minimalist interface and support for multiple subtitles / ? NextPit
If you want to check out even more Android media players, you can do so here:
Best video players for Android
What is your favorite video player? Let us know in the comments.
This article was last modified on December 8, 2020. The comments have been carried over from an earlier version of this article.