Apple is not one known for playing ball with others if it can get away with it. This is true for its proprietary connections prior to USB-C and Thunderbolt 3, but is still and especially true for its media formats. So when you hear Apple suddenly supporting the competing, not to mention open, FLAC lossless audio format in iOS 11, you’d be forgiven for raising an eyebrow and wondering if something is amiss.
Granted, iOS 11 is still in beta and Apple made no acknowledgment of the feature, and probably for good reason. It is still testing the capabilities of its new Files app on iOS 11 and could very well yank this hidden feature out from the final version. Why? Because it’s all about business.
The hi-res and Hi-Fi audio market is on the rise these days. Apple even made its own move with the Siri-enabled HomePod Hi-Fi speaker. Being a household name in this market, Apple naturally wants a part of that pie, which means supporting the high quality, but also large, lossless audio that audiophiles swear by.
Unsurprisingly, Apple has its own proprietary lossless audio format, the Apple Lossless Audio Codec or ALAC. But even before ALAC came to be, the open Free Lossless Auudio Codec or FLAC was already the de facto standard among music lovers. So far, Apple has refused to support the format on iOS or even on iTunes, though that might be changing soon.
Reddit users report that they can play FLAC files on iOS 11 beta but only through one very specific process. They have to upload the FLAC file to iCloud Drive and sync with iOS. Then they have to play the file via the Files app. iTunes support is still non-existent and it isn’t clear if it will ever come. The ability to play FLAC files might very well just be a side effect of the Files app acting as a file manager. A side effect that could still be removed by the time iOS 11 fully launches later this year.