Mobile phones have indeed come a long way from their not so humble beginnings. Far from the days when they were essentially offshoots of laptops and desktop computers, the world is now host to a slew of smartphones with PC-rivalling specs. That should confer them with an almost PC-like compatibility status right? Well, not really. Due to the somewhat varied operating systems across different brands of mobile devices and the relatively small screen sizes of today’s smartphones (at least compared to PCs), the bump in performance hasn’t translated to a commensurate bump in compatibility. Smartphone compatible file types are still relatively few; the silver lining, however, is that these few mobile compatible formats are sufficient enough to cater to all the text-dependent needs you might have.
Microsoft Office files
Virtually all smartphones today (Android and IOS inclusive) ship with native compatibility for all variants of MS office files. That’s everything from the old gen formats (.doc, .ppt., .xls) to the new gen formats (.docx, .pptx, .xlsx). Compatibility with these file formats is usually fulfilled with the inbuilt Microsoft Office suite, and although this mobile version ships with limited functionality, it still retains the ability to create and edit new and existing office documents.
Next to MS Office file types, PDF is arguably the best-known text file type that’s natively compatible with smartphones. Most online documents are created and distributed in this format, and because PDF supports rich formatting, images and even 3D modeled graphics, it’s the preferred option for creating, saving and sharing detailed text-based content. The only downside is that traditional PDF files do not reflow on mobile, forcing users to view them through what is best described as a pinhole view.
Unlike PDF, ePub reflows quite well on most mobile devices allowing for a seamless and fluid viewing/reading experience. This file format is the default web standard for online documents and digital publications, as such it’s no surprise that virtually all eBooks published on the web are ePub documents.
Despite its somewhat complex nature, ePub documents demonstrate a significant bit of compatibility; a handful of word processors come with the native ability to export files as ePub documents. Plus, there are several third-party applications (e.g., Sigil) dedicated to converting traditional DOCX or PDF files into ePub documents.
Image-based text files
Text documents can also be parsed as digital images. While there’s a significant loss of flexibility and compatibility, image-based text files, like PDFs, retain their formatting and document characteristic across different apps and mobile ecosystems. This peculiar trait, in addition to the fact that image-based text files remain relatively small in size even with large graphical content makes them an ideal format for print.
Of the many digital image file types, smartphones primarily support the JPEG (JPG), PNG and GIF formats.
It’s important to note that while these are the traditional file types most smartphones support natively, compatibility with other formats, as is TIFF and SVG for images based text, and HTML/HTM for browser-based text can also be obtained via third-party apps.