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Video Formats 101: Download Movies On Your Phone, Tablet, Or PC

by John Moore on May 1, 2013

Navigating the world of video file formats can get confusing, even more so when it comes to playing video on different types of devices. Not all videos can play on all types of devices. In fact, there are plenty of smartphones that can’t play FLV videos. Before you even start downloading videos, it’s best to know what types of video formats can be played on your device. Not to worry, we can help. Whether you’re looking for movies to watch on your computer, smartphone, or tablet, here’s what you need to know if you’re searching for videos by file format.


When looking online you’ll likely see a lot of options to download MP4 videos. That’s because MP4 is the jack-of-all-trades among video formats. It’s widely used for computers and mobile devices, and it’s appropriate for both downloading and streaming video. Since it’s the default choice for smartphones and tablets, we’ll discuss downloading MP4 movies in-depth later. Besides, another format is gaining in popularity for watching movies on your computer.

MKV has the capability of handling virtually unlimited streams of digital media. In addition to multiple tracks of audio and video, an MKV file player can read subtitles, chapter points, menus, stereoscopic 3D content, and it supports the AC3 surround sound codec. MKV also supports dual audio tracks and fansubs — subtitles in different languages created by individual fans — which is why it’s become a popular format for anime videos. As more and more movies have additional features available there will be increasingly more MKV movie downloads available online.

Do video formats confuse you? Leave the guess work to us. Download the free version of RealPlayer and use it to convert and transfer movies to play on your device. All you need to know is the name of your phone.

Not all video players can play downloaded MKV movies, so it’s important to look at the video file formats supported by a video player before getting it. RealPlayer Plus can play MKV videos as well as read the encoded subtitles found in MKV files.


While MKV is quickly gaining favor, an old standby format is still widely used. Just about every media player supports AVI movies, and you’ll often find AVI videos on sites that offer free movie downloads. Developed in the early 1990s, AVI has become somewhat antiquated since there have been several technologies introduced that offer better compression schemes for optimizing space requirements. That’s why AVI files are typically larger than MP4 files, making them less suitable for use on mobile devices or for streaming movies on a computer.

If you have a library of AVI files on your computer that you’d like to be able to play on your mobile device, there are plenty of video format converters available that will do the trick. In fact, the free version of RealPlayer converts a wide range of formats including AVI and can transfer videos directly to your Android device. The best part about RealPlayer is that you don’t actually need to know which video file format will work with your mobile device. Instead, you simply select the model of your phone from the list of supported handsets and RealPlayer does the rest.


When looking for files that will play on your smartphone, the format you’ll come across most often is MP4. It’s widely compatible with Android and Apple mobile devices. From a technical standpoint, MP4‘s main attraction is that it supports the H.264/AVC (Advanced Video Coding) codec, which processes the original large media file into a small package that can yield high-quality video at very low bit rates if necessary. The H.264 codec is optimal both for streaming Internet video (which requires lower bit rates) and Blu-ray discs (which handle extremely high bit rates). For smartphones, your best bet is to download MP4 movies. These videos will save space without sacrificing quality.

As with smartphones, MP4 is the standard video format on tablets. But what about all those anime MVK movies downloaded and saved on your computer that you’d like to play on your tablet? It’s unlikely that your tablet’s video player will play MKV files by default, so you’ll need to download a media player that supports the format. Otherwise, you’ll have to find a video converter app that will convert MKV files to MP4, such as RealPlayer Plus.

Do you have a format preference when it comes to watching video? Let us know in the comments section.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

1 annasmaliki June 17, 2013 at 5:50 pm

Please format my tablet dellstreak5″ for video format

2 Edward Saltzman July 14, 2013 at 10:53 am

Have downloaded several MP4 videos to my PC. Realplayer did fine downloading them – but no I can’t get them to play???
I suspect I am missing a driver?
OS = Microsoft Vista – what do I need to do?

3 RealPlayer Team July 14, 2013 at 11:48 am

Hi Edward,

Some sites have introduced a new streaming standard and we are working on an update to RealPlayer that will allow for this new format.

In the meantime, you can try the temporary solution provided in this link (if you are using Internet Explorer 9 & Above):

4 John Mills September 3, 2013 at 6:41 am


I used Realplayer on my old Dell PC running Vista, I have a shinny new state of the art MAC, however nowhere on your website do you say Realplayer is fully compatible with the latest Apple MAC OS, so (a) is it?; (b) if I download Realplayer will I have any issues or problems? (c) I would prefer to pay you for a ‘pro’ version of Realplayer but again I need to know it is fully Apple MAc compatible and I will not have any problems or issues.

If Realplayer does not work, properly, with me new MAC, can you recommend or suggest the next best capture / converter alternative?

Thanks and kind regards, John

5 RealPlayer Team September 3, 2013 at 1:24 pm

Let me inform you that, RealPlayer versions 14 and higher are not available for Macintosh computers. You can download the RealPlayer SP for Mac OSX at For more information visit the below link:

If you still have any issues, Please send an email to, include a brief description of the issue, copy and paste the link to this thread within the email for further assistance.

6 Jon October 24, 2013 at 12:58 am

Heres my question, i have a dvd player in my car, pioneer avh-p3100dvd, i have burnt quite a few dvds, bug bang theory, (all seasons in avi) and a couple music video dvds, also avi, problem im having is sum dvds i burn (music vids, and movies,) wont work eventho they are also avi. I dont know how to determine which format to convert to. Sum have started out mp4, sum mkv, sum mpeg-2, sum vob…not really sure what all formats my player plays, i know it plays divX, there a format that i should just ALWAYS format to and will work no matter what video it is? (And no i dont watch while driving, more for passengers, and just something different for a change besides just music). And can i take a mkv and convert to divx or dvd ?

7 RealPlayer Team October 24, 2013 at 4:21 pm

You can convert the videos to WMV format and then burn it to a DVD. If you are able to play the .MKV files on RealPlayer, you will be able to burn them on a DVD. If you get an “Unsupported media type” error while burning a DVD, this means either that the file type isn’t supported by RealPlayer, or that the clip is DRM (Digital Rights Management) protected and can’t be copied. Unsupported file types include .webm and .mkv. Additionally, .mov files created with an iPhone or camcorder cannot be burned at this time.

If this doesn’t work, please send an email to, include a brief description of the issue, copy and paste the link to this thread within the email for further assistance.

8 Gilbert February 17, 2014 at 4:29 pm

I have the purchased version of RealPlayer. I t has worked fine converting to Mpeg4. I want know if it can convert to Mpeg2. I have looked for that format and do not see it.

Thank You’Gilbert

9 RealPlayer Team February 17, 2014 at 7:24 pm

MPEG2 is the standard that was created to encode high quality videos, meant to be used for the DVD media.

You still can convert this format using RealPlayer Converter.

Please read this help link for more information about converting:

If you have further questions, please send an email to

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