What is mp4? It is one of the more common video file formats used for downloading and streaming videos from the Internet. This post will introduce more information about mp4, such as the methods to open it and the differences between it and mp3.

What Is MP4?

What is mp4? It is created by ISO / IEC and the Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG) according to the ISO / IEC 14496-12: 2001 standard. Therefore, MP4 is an international standard for audiovisual coding. Then, this post from MiniTool will provide more information about it for you.

MPEG-4 Part 12 was originally created in 2001 and was based on the QuickTime file format (.MOV). The current version (MPEG-4 Part 14) was released in 2003.

MP4 is regarded as a digital multimedia container format, which is essentially a file containing a bunch of compressed data. The standard specifies how to store data in the container itself, but not how the data is encoded.

With the high compression used in MP4 videos, this makes the file size much smaller than other video formats. Reducing the file size does not immediately affect the file’s quality. Almost all original quality is preserved. This makes MP4 a portable and network-friendly video format.

How to Open an MP4 File?

Almost all video players support MP4 since MP4 is the standard file format for videos. To open the file, you just need to double-click your video and it will open using your operating system’s default video viewer.

Android and iPhone also support MP4 playback-just click the file and you can watch the video immediately. Windows and macOS users can play MP4 files. Windows uses Windows Media Player by default; in macOS, they’re played using QuickTime.

Tip: Maybe you are interested in this post – How to Edit MP4 – All Useful Tips You Need to Know.


Now you have known “what is an mp4 file”, then this part is about some information on mp3 vs mp4. It mainly focuses on 2 aspects – the origin of the two files and the data type they store.

The Origin of MP3 and MP4

MP3 is an abbreviation for Layer 3 of MPEG-1 Audio. It is one of two formats considered for the MPEG audio standard in the early 1990s. The electronics company Philips, the French institute CCETT and the German Institute of Broadcasting Technology all support this format because it is simple and computationally efficient.

As for mp4, you can find the origin of it in the “what is mp4” part.

Tip: You may be interested in this post – 5 Best Free MP3 Cutters to Split and Trim MP3 Easily.

The Type of Data They Store

The type of data they store is the most fundamental difference between mp3 and mp4.

MP3: Focus on Audio

MP3 files can only be used for audio, while mp3 files can store audio, video, still images, subtitles, and text. In technical terms, mp3 is an “audio coding” format while mp4 is a “digital multimedia container” format.

Since mp3 is very good at storing audio, it has become the de facto standard for music software, digital audio players and music streaming sites. MP3 uses lossy compression, which vastly reduces the size of an audio file while barely affecting its quality.

MP3 also allows you to balance the trade-off between audio quality and file size. Furthermore, it will always be smaller than the equivalent mp4 file. If your audio player or smartphone is getting full, you should convert any audio saved as mp4 into the mp3 format.

MP4: More Uses and More Flexibility

MP4 files are “containers”, not store file code, but store data. Therefore, mp4 files have no way to handle file encoding natively. They rely on specific codecs to determine how to handle encoding and compression.

There are hundreds of codecs today, but not many codecs used with mainstream MP4 players. In order for the player to be able to read and play MP4 files, it must have the same codec itself. The following are the most widely-supported codecs:

Audio — AAC, ALS, SLS, TTSI, MP3, and ALAC.

Video — MPEG-4 Part 10 (H.264) and MPEG-4 Part 2.

Subtitles — MPEG-4 Timed Text.

Besides audio, MP4 files can also contain video, images, and text. You’ll often see various file extensions that give an indication of the type of data within the container. Here are some of the most common:

MP4 — The only official extension.

M4A — Non-protected audio.

M4P — Audio encrypted by FairPlay Digital Rights Management.

M4B — Audiobooks and podcasts.

M4V — MPEG-4 Visual bitstreams.

Final Words

To sum up, you can know “what is mp4” and how to open it from this post. In addition, you can have a deeper understanding of mp3 vs mp4.

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